Saturday, January 31, 2009

Jim Bouton Is Exactly Right

The Fan has long thought the "sanctity" of the game of baseball was a bunch of hooey. And "hooey" is exactly the euphemism that leads to Jim Bouton. Being a lifelong and passionate Fan of the major leagues has never led to some kind of deification of its players. Bouton, who entertained millions of us with his book, "Ball Four," added to that level of pragmatism.

"Hooey" after all is the polite form of the expression: "Horse Sh__." Bouton made a huge impression on this young mind when he introduced that curse combination in his book (it was Ralph Houk's favorite expression apparently). The Fan was so excited about the word combination at the time that he couldn't wait to use it. The opportunity came at a local basketball game in Bergenfield, New Jersey. A ref made a bad call and out it came in full-throated flower. Everything stopped in the auditorium and all eyes turned to the Fan in horror.

Despite that unique and somewhat embarrassing memory, the Fan has never believed Bouton violated his fellow players, and in particular, Mickey Mantle. Mantle has maintained his heroic status through the years despite Bouton painting the obvious that the Mick wasn't a perfect human being. Since none of us are, that's the point.

That is why, despite all the drivel being written about Joe Torre's new book, Bouton is correct...perfectly correct in his analysis of the outcry. If ball players wanted "sanctity," they should have been grocery clerks.

Part of the deal of being one of the highest paid, luckiest individuals on the planet who get to make a living doing something they love for work, is knowing that every part of that baseball career will be scrutinized, analyzed and written about. Joe Torre did not violate anything. He wrote (along with his co-author) what he saw and what he felt. Good for him. If it wasn't him making a little coin with this information, it would have been somebody else. That's life in the public eye.

The Yankees 1996-2007 run was high drama and the biggest story in sports. Torre will not be alone in painting the times the way it was seen by those who lived through it. Get over it sportswriters and fans. The Fan sees nothing amiss here.

Punning Through the Transaction Wire

Uh oh. More groans and smiles are on the way as we pun our way through the transaction wire for another week:

- The Cubs couldn't find a bulldozer to get rid of the goat curse, so they will try again with a Bako.

- The Mets will confuse us for another year as they once again bring Maine to New York.

- Pirates pitcher, Paul, will consider Pittsburgh Maholm for another three years.

- Texas gave the Byrd to arbitration and signed Marlon for another year. Too bad the player wasn't Sal Bando's kid. Then he would be Marlon Bando.

- Is there enough water in Arizona to keep a Garland from wilting too soon? Garland signed after seeing the lei of the land of this year's free agency.

- Joe Camel has been banned from baseball, so the Brewers brought in Mat Gamel instead.

- In other Brewers transaction news, isn't the name Angel Salome an oxymoron?

- Oakland pitcher, Russ, has more Springer in his step after signing a one year contract.

- The Bloom is off the rose as Detroit signed Kyle to a one year contract.

- In other Detroit transaction news, Alfredo thought arbitration was a Figaro speech, so he signed a one year contract.

- Astros' fans got all Geary eyed when Houston waved its magic Wandy and signed two important team members to one year contracts.

- In a good move for the Hair Club for Men, the Rockies signed Ubaldo Jiminez to a four year contract.

- When Mike Scioscia was asked if signing Maicer to a contract was a good deal for the Angels, he exclaimed: "Izturis!"

- The Reds apparently didn't have stormy Weathers in negotiations with David as the pitcher signed his new contract.

And that, fair friends, is a pun-through of transactions for the week.

Friday, January 30, 2009

Cubs/Cards/Brewers/Astros Starting Pitching

Josh had a good comment taking exception to the pitching conclusions. They were a good call as the post took a long time to compile and the Fan got lazy and hazy toward the end when pitching came up. Taking a bit more of a scientific look, the ratings change, especially when looking at the top four in each team's rotation. One more look:

Cubs: Zambrano, Lilly, Harden, Dempster - Projected total Win Shares based on their averages: 50. They came in at 55 in 2009. Dempster repeating 2008 is a long shot. Lilly and Zambrano look to remain constant. Harden can do more and if he does, will keep the total at 50 or more.

Cards: Wellemeyer, Lohse, Wainwright, Pineiro - Projected Win Shares = 45. They came in at 41 last year. Pineiro could be better as could Wellemeyer. Carpenter is the wild card if he can come back.

Brewers: Parra, Bush, Suppon, Gallardo - 40 Win Shares among this staff would be a reach. They lost 32 Win Shares just in Sabathia and Sheets. The remaining top four came in at 35 last year. Capuano is the wild card. Gallardo and Parra have a lot of upside and could have dramatic upticks in their careers.

Astros: Moehler, Rodriguez, Backe, Oswalt - Came in at 38 Win Shares. Rodriguez is on the upswing, Backe was awful last year. Oswalt is as consistent as they come. Moehler will be league average at best. Hampton is the wild card and if he is right, can add 6 to 8 Win Shares to their total.

So, after further analysis (based on thought and not emotions this time), the Cubs are clearly Number 1 here followed by the Cardinals, then a dead heat with the Brewers and Astros.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Cubs/Cards/Brewers/Astros NL Central Comparison

The Cubs are considered the frontrunners of the NL Central for 2009. The Cards always seem to be in the mix. The Astros seem better than last year and the Brewers took a hit with their pitching, but still seem formidable. The Reds are left out of this discussion, though they could be a year away from being in this discussion. Let's do a position by position comparison. Stats are from THT and

First Base
Cubs: Derrek Lee - Age 34: .282 Batting Average (career), .864 OPS (career), 9 Range Factor (or there about for an average), 25 Win Shares (average).
Cards: Albert Pujols - Age 28: .334 Batting Average (career), 1.049 OPS (career), 10.5 Range Factor, 36.9 Win Shares (average).
Brewers: Prince Fielder - Age 24: .278 Batting Average (career), .903 OPS (career), 9 Range Factor, 23.3 Win Shares (average).
Astros: Lance Berkman - Age 32: .302 Batting Average (career), .973 OPS (career), 9.5 Range Factor, 29.8 Win Shares (average).

Ratings: 1. Cards (duh), 2. Astros, 3. Cubs, 4. Brewers

Second Base

Cubs: Mike Fontenot (we think) - Age 28: 290 Batting Average (small career sample size), .826 OPS, 4.4 Range Factor, Win Shares (not enough data).
Cards: Adam Kennedy? - Age 32: .276 Batting Average (career), .717 OPS (career), 5.2 Range Factor, 15 Win Shares (when he was a starter previously, last two years not counted).
Brewers: Rickie Weeks - Age 26: .245 Batting Average (career), .758 OPS (career), 4.77 Range Factor (career, but was significantly better last year), 12.75 Win Shares (average, but 15 last two years).
Astros: Kazuo Matsui (we assume) - Age 33: .277 Batting Average (career), .781 OPS, 5 Range Factor, Win Shares (not enough data - never has played more than 114 games in a season).

Rating: Slim pickings here: 1. Cubs, 2. Brewers, 3. Cards, 4. Astros.

Cubs: Ryan Theriot - Age 29: .290 Batting Average (career), .731 OPS (career, high OBP, low SP), 3.95 Range Factor, 13 Win Shares (the last two years as a starter).
Cards: Khalil Greene (we presume) - Age 29: .248 Batting Average (career), .731 OPS (terrible OBP), 4.2 Range Factor, 14.8 Win Shares (career but way down last year).
Brewers: J. J. Hardy - Age 26: .270 Batting Average (career), .775 OPS (all offensive numbers have improved in last four years), 4.2 Range Factor, 19.5 Win Shares (two years as a starter).
Astros: Miguel Tejada - Age 34: .286 Batting Average, .812 OPS (career, .729 last year), 4.2 Range Factor, 21 Win Shares (average, 14 last two years).

Rating: 1. Brewers, 2. Astros, 3. Cubs, 4. Cards.

Third Base
Cubs: Aramis Ramirez - Age 30: .284 Batting Average (career), .843 OPS (career, .920 last five years), 2.4 Range Factor (last five years), 22 Win Shares.
Cards: Troy Glaus - Age 32: .256 Batting Average (career), .858 OPS (career), 2.7 Range Factor, 16.8 Win Shares. Injured, will miss three months.
Brewers: Bill Hall - Age 29: .258 Batting Average (career), .771 OPS (career), 2.6 Range Factor, 13.4 Win Shares.
Astros: Unknown. Either Geoff Blum or Aaron Boone.

Rank: 1. Cubs, 2. Brewers, 3. Cards (because of Glaus injury), 3. Astros.

Left Field
Cubs: Alfonso Soriano - Age 32: .282 Batting Average (career), .847 OPS (.894 last three years), 2 Range Factor, 20.2 Win Shares.
Cards: Brian Barton/Chris Duncan - Hard to evaluate a platoon. Though neither player is much to get excited about.
Brewers: Ryan Braun - Age 25: .301 Batting Average (lifetime), .938 OPS, 1. 95 Range Factor, 23.5 Win Shares.
Astros: Carlos Lee - Age 32: .290 Batting Average (lifetime), .849 OPS, 1.88 Range Factor, 23.8 Win Shares.

Rank: 1. Brewers, 2. Astros, 3. Cubs, 4. Cards.

Center Field
Cubs: Milton Bradley? - Age 30: .280 Batting Average (lifetime), .827 OPS (lifetime), 2.54 Range Factor (though he hasn't played in the field since 2007), 14.6 Win Shares (affected by injuries).
Cards: Rick Ankiel - Age 28: .264 Batting Average (lifetime, but skewed), .853 OPS (last two years), 2.4 Range Factor, 14 Win Shares (last year, only year as starter).
Brewers: Mike Cameron - Age 35: .250 Batting Average (career), .808 OPS, 2.52 Range Factor, 20 Win Shares (average).
Astros: Michael Bourn? - Age 26: .237 Batting Average (career), .612 OPS, 2.68 Range Factor, 7 Win Shares

Rank: Tough one because Bradley is an unknown as to what to expect. Let's go with: 1. Brewers, 2. Cards, 3. Cubs, 4 Astros.

Right Field
Cubs: Kosuke Fukodome - Age 32: .257 Batting Average (only one year to go by), .738 OPS, 2 Range Factor, Not enough data.
Cards: Ryan Ludwick - Age 30: .273 Batting Average (career, .299 last year), .857 OPS (career, .966 last year), 2.3 Range Factor, 26 Win Shares (last year is all that can be counted).
Brewers: Corey Hart - Age 25: .277 Batting Average (career), .808 OPS (career), 2.2 Range Factor, 20.5 Win Shares (two years as a starter).
Astros: Hunter Pence - Age 25: .292 Batting Average (career), .834 OPS (career), 2.5 Range Factor, 20 Win Shares (two years as a starter).

Rank: 1. Cards, 2. Astros, 3, Brewers, 4. Cubs.

Cubs: Geovany Soto - Age 25: .291 Batting Average (career), .872 OPS (career), 8.5 Range Factor, 24 Win Shares (only one year counted as starter).
Cards: Yadier Molina - Age 26: . 262 Batting Average (career, .300 last year), .676 OPS (career, .741 last year), 6.9 Range Factor, 13 Win Shares.
Brewers: Jason Kendall - Age 35: .292 Batting Average (career, significantly lower last three years), .759 OPS (career, much lower last three years), 7.8 Range Factor, 19 Win Shares.
Astros: Up for grabs. Who knows.

Rank: 1. Cubs, 2. Cards (because of age and Kendall slipping), 3. Brewers, 4. Astros.

Starting Pitching:
Cubs: Rotation: Carlos Zambrano, Ted Lilly, Rich Harden, Ryan Dempster, ? Heilman?
Cards: Rotation: Kyle Lohse, Todd Wellemeyer, Adam Wainwright, Joel Pineiro, ? Mitchell Boggs?
Brewers: Jeff Suppon, Dave Bush, Manny Parra, Yovani Gallardo, ? Capuano?
Astros: Roy Oswalt, Wandy Rodriguez, Brandon Backe, Mike Hampton, Brian Moehler.

Rank: (subjective): 1. Astros, 2. Cards, 3. Cubs, 4. Brewers.

Cubs: Kevin Gregg - Age 30: 62 Save in 74 opportunities last two years. 10 Win Shares. Or Carlos Marmol - Age 26: 8 saves in 11 career opportunities. 10 Win Shares. 269 strikeouts in 232+ career innings.
Cards: Will try out five different pitchers in Spring Training including Ryan Franklin who had 16 saves last year and 7 Win Shares.
Brewers: Trevor Hoffman - Age 41: All time Save Leader, 30 saves last year in 34 opportunities, ERA rose to 3.77 last year.
Astros: Jose Valverde - Age 29: 91 saves in 105 opportunities last two years, 414 career strikeouts in 332 innings. 11.5 Win Shares.

Rank: 1. Astros, 2. Cubs, 3. Brewers, 4. Cards.

Total bullpen
Cubs: 38 Win Shares last year.
Cards: 29 Win Shares last year.
Brewers: 35 Win Shares last year.
Astros: 42 Win Shares last year.

Rank: 1. Astros, 2. Cubs, 3. Brewers, 4. Cards.

If you assign four points for each first place ranking, three for second, two for third and one for fourth, the final tally is:

  • 1. Cubs - 29 points
  • 2. Brewers - 27 points
  • 3. Astros - 26 points
  • 4. Cards - 25 points

All of which seems to conclude that the Cubs are indeed the favorite in the division, but perhaps by not as much as is suspected. All these teams are close in overall talent and are only a few injuries and a few career years away from changing the standings.

Cool Post by Josh

The Fan's new buddy, Josh, has a cool post about all time walk leaders among Jewish ball players. Maybe the Fan should do a post or two about Italian ball players over the years. Could be interesting. Whoops! A quick search shows it's already been done. Hmm...the list is kind of obvious. The Fan will have to dig deeper.

Big Brothers Are Watching

One never knows who is going to ping a blog. Looking at sitemeter (the counter that the Fan uses) shows quite a few quick hits from various organizations. For example, some Connecticut media think tank pings every time the Fan mentions Or some company like Broadwing will ping if something is mentioned out in California.

There is a company right up here in northern Maine called Burrelles that watches the media for several companies. Supposedly, these types of activities are to give the paying companies an idea of how their brands are being perceived in the marketplace.

It all seems kind of nefarious to know that all this energy and resources are being expended to watch the likes of some small blog like this one. Orwell would be smiling...

Random Thoughts After Shoveling a Foot of Snow

The Fan is completely incoherent after shoveling a long driveway after a foot of snow. Since it would seem to be impossible to put two lucid thoughts together, the Fan might as well free-style it and simply write what comes to mind.

First, the Fan is reminded how far he has fallen from his athletic days. Once a young man, full of vigor, the Fan used to laugh at the old men with their giddyup steps when they attempted to quickly cross the road. Now the Fan has the giddyup step and it's not a pretty thing. If ballplayers want to get in shape, come up to northern Maine and shovel. That will do it.

It must be tiring to be a Yankee and to get the inevitable questions all the time. Jeter said it himself in an interview reported by "I knew you were going to ask that question." And: "Every year it's the same questions about the same things." You have to know the "same question" has to be A-Rod right? The Fan wonders what Torre had to say about Gary Sheffield.

The Mariners should bring Junior Griffey back for one last season. How is it going to hurt them? Let him play fifty games and have one last hurrah in his old home. It's not like they are going to contend this year and it would be a nice gift for their fans. Bring the guy home, Seattle.

Similarly, the Mets should bring back Pedro Martinez. Let him make ten starts and see what happens. He'll never be what he used to be, but he's a better pitcher on guile than a lot of others with great stuff.

The Braves should also do the same for Glavine. Why not? The Braves simply aren't good enough to compete this year so what would it hurt to let the fans see the old guy for one more season?

As the Fan's back throbs from the unexpected activity, there must by some sympathy going on for old guys after scatting the last three paragraphs.

Supposedly the Feds have a positive urine test from Barry Bonds. Great. How would you like to be the lowly Fed on the totem pole that gets to carry that little prize around. March. Maybe it will all be over in March. Oh the bliss it will be to have that pass by us.

The Cubs got Aaron Heilman from the Mariners. What is it about contending teams that want to buy gasoline to put out fires? Heilman was atrocious for the Mets last year and almost single-handedly cost them a pennant. The pitcher must lead a charmed life. He racks up a 5.21 ERA last year, his salary goes up and everyone wants him, including a contender.o

Every year the Fan wonders if it's the year the great Mariano Rivera loses his mojo and falls to age. A year ago today, the Fan wondered the same thing and Rivera goes out and posts the best year of all relievers in baseball! Wonder what this year will bring. At least if he falters, the Yanks can push Chamberlain out there and he'll get the job done.

Dear Lord, will January ever end?

There's been no news on the Manny Ramirez front for quite a while. Is the guy going to get signed? Does the quiet mean the posturing is done and some serious negotiations are taking place? The Dodgers really need the guy and fans need to see this guy hit for a few more years.

The Red Sox seems to have a lot of "ifs" this year. If Lowell can come back. If Smoltz has anything left. If Big Papi's wrist is better. If Pedroia is really this good. If J. D. Drew can put together a full season. Seems to be a lot of question marks down there. And two of their best pitchers are playing in the Fan-hated WBC for Japan, which has to be a concern too.

If the Texas Rangers can ever get some pitching, will the team finally break out of their .500 mold? They sure can smash the baseball, but can never seem to get over the pitching bump. With their fans' luck, they will some day lead the league in pitching and the lineup will falter. And so it goes.

Why has the story about the soaking of prospects from the Dominican Republic disappeared? It was a guy from Cleveland that got caught and fired last year right? Was he the only guilty party? Was it an isolated incident? Why are so many of the supposed steroid users from that country? Is it part of a sinister way those players were treated and led to believe it would help them? Why has this story disappeared?

Jim Leyland is a fans kind of guy. He is a no nonsense kind of person that seems to go someplace and turn a team around. But his teams do not seem to stay turned around. Does his magic only work for one or two years? Does he get tired after that? Or is it just circumstances that make it appear that way?

Jon Garland has found a home in Arizona. Now what about Randy Wolf and Ben Sheets? Will Dunn and Abreu ever get a job? This crazy off season continues to astound.

The Fan's well has run dry and the coffee cup is drained. Guess it's time to take a shower and let the old back feel the spray of some much needed warm water. Hope your day is bright and keep your chin up folks. We still live in a wonderful country and it can't be winter...or a recession forever.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Comeback (they used to be) Kids?

Spring Training diamonds will have their usual amount of young players trying to win jobs at the Major League level. Along with the youngsters will be a bunch of players trying to do what Troy Percival did last year: Come back from the, "Oh yeah, I remember him," list.

First, there is Mike Hampton at the Astros camp, trying to reclaim a little piece of the magic of ten years ago when he was 22-4 for the 1999 Astros. Hampton has won 141 games in his career, but only 8 in the last four.

Next, we have a two-fer in Toronto where Mike Maroth and Matt Clement attempt to reclaim their careers after being lost for most of the last two years. Matt Clement in particular, was once a pretty good pitcher. He kind of cracked with Boston as he did not seem to handle the pressure there. That problem combined with a sickening line drive to the face and extensive shoulder surgery bring a lot of stuff to overcome.

Then we have Carl Pavano, whose well chronicled fiasco with the Yankees counted to nine wins in four years after a career year in Florida for their 2004 team. The Indians took a flier on him and hope he can make it all the way back.

In Detroit, there is Dontrelle Willis, who couldn't find home plate last year and didn't win any games at all for the Tigers in 2008. There has been little news on the former fun player from the Marlins, which can't be a good sign.

At the Rockies camp, Danny Graves will try to come back to the majors after missing all of the last two seasons. Graves has 182 saves in his career, but was lost in the mists for a couple of years. He wants to be a closer again.

In the long shot category, Jay Gibbons, he of former Orioles fame (and infamy), is hoping to revive his career in Florida after missing all of 2008. He once drove in 100 runs for the Orioles, which seems like a long, long time ago.

This blog has already mentioned Mark Prior, who will give it another go for the Padres this year.

The Brewers went into their own time machine and brought back Chris Capuano, only four years removed from winning 18 games. But he missed all of last year after a disastrous year in 2007.

And finally, we'll go back to Cleveland where Tomo Ohka, who did not pitch in the majors last year, will try to come back and pitch at the top level. Ohka had one excellent year for the Expos back in 2002 and then a whole lot of moving around and mediocrity ever since.

To all of these players, a tip of the Fan's cap and here's hoping at least one of them has some success and becomes an interesting story in 2009.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Rays/Yanks/Red Sox Position by Position

Rob Neyer called the Yankees the World Series favorites with the signing of Andy Pettitte. While the New York ball club had the most successful off season, it would be fun to look at all three teams by position:

Red Sox: Let's be charitable and assume that Varitek will be back - Age 37: .263 Batting Average (lifetime), .775 OPS (lifetime), 8.17 Range Factor (last year), 22% base stealers caught per attempt, 14 Win Shares (Average year). Last year's numbers all well below lifetime marks. Trend? Done?
Yankees: Jorge Posada - Age 37: .277 Batting Average (lifetime), .867 OPS (lifetime), 7.83 Range Factor (about his averages over the years, early figures not kept), 22% base stealers caught per attempt, 22 Win Shares (average year). Injured last year. Can he come back? Anything left?
Bay Rays: Dioner Navarro - Age 25: .295 Batting Average, .756 OPS, 7.81 Range Factor (career), 38% base stealers caught per attempt. 30 Win Shares. Doesn't strike out much, but doesn't walk much either. Little power.

Edge: Rays. Younger catcher. Yankees and Red Sox could be in trouble at this position.

First Base:
Red Sox: Kevin Youkilis - Age 30: .312 Batting Average (.289 career), .959 OPS (.857 career), 9.23 Range Factor over his career at 1B, 23 Win Shares (career average as starter).
Yankees: Mark Teixeira - Age 29: .283 Batting Average (.290 career), .902 OPS (.919 career), 9.56 Range Factor (career), 26.4 Win Shares (career average).
Bay Rays: Carlos Pena - Age 31: .247 Batting Average (.251 career), .871 OPS (.851 career), 9.31 Range Factor (career), 26 Win Shares on average last two years.

Edge: Yankees by a nose. Really a wash here.

Second Base:
Red Sox: Dustin Pedroia - Age 25: .313 Batting Average (career), .828 OPS (career), 4.81 Range Factor, 22.5 Win Shares (two full years of data).
Yankees: Robinson Cano - Age 27: .303 Batting Average (career), .803 OPS (career), 5.13 Range Factor, 15.75 Win Shares (career average).
Bay Ray: Akinori Iwamura - Age 28: .279 (career), .747 OPS (career), 4.58 Range Factor, 16.5 Win Shares (average for two years in America).

Edge: Red Sox

Red Sox: Jed Lowrie - Age 25: Not enough data to rate. 3.61 Range Factor in 49 games at short and did not make an error there.
Yankees: Derek Jeter - Age 34: .316 Batting Average (career), .845 OPS (career), 4.05 Range Factor, 18 Win Shares. Batting statistics down sharply in 2008.
Bay Rays: Jason Bartlett - Age 28: .276 Batting Average (career), .699 OPS (career), 4.53 Range Factor, 14 Win Shares (average last three years).

Edge: Yankees

Third Base:
Red Sox: Mike Lowell - Age 35: .279 Batting Average (career), .810 OPS (career), 2.60 Range Factor (on average), 20 Win Shares (average healthy years).
Yankees: Alex Rodriguez - Age 33: .306 Batting Average (career), .987 OPS (career), 2.59 Range Factor, 31.2 Win Shares (average last five years)
Bay Rays: Evan Longoria - Age 24: Only one year of stats: .272 Batting Average, .874 OPS, 2.72 Range Factor, 20 Win Shares (in three quarters of a season.

Edge: Yankees for this season

Left Field:
Red Sox: Jason Bay - Age 30: .282 Batting Average (career), .894 OPS (career), 1.77 Range Factor, 22.8 Win Shares (average season).
Yankees: Johnny Damon - Age 35: .289 (career), .789 OPS (career), 2.24 (at this point in his career), 23 Win Shares (average season, 25 last year).
Bay Rays: Carl Crawford - Age 27: .293 (career), .765 OPS (career), 2.42 Range Factor, 22 Win Shares (on average).

Edge: Even at this point. Crawford doesn't walk enough but is the better fielder. Bay is a lousy fielder and Damon seems to get by with what he does. Win Shares all but a draw.

Center Field:
Red Sox: Jacoby Ellsbury - Age 25: Only one year of experience: .280 Batting Average, .730 OPS, 2.58 Range Factor, 15 Win Shares.
Yankees: Melky Cabrera - Age 24: .268 Batting Average (career), .704 OPS (career, much less last year), 2.53 Range Factor, 10 Win Shares (average year).
Bay Rays: B. J. Upton - Age 24: .277 Batting Average (career), .793 OPS (career), 2.84 Range Factor, 23 Win Shares (average last two years).

Edge: Rays unless Ellsbury can improve in his second year.

Right Field:
Red Sox: J. D. Drew - Age 33: .280 Batting Average (career), .894 OPS (career), 1.92 Range Factor, 17.2 Win Shares (average).
Yankees: Xavier Nady - Age 30: .280 Batting Average (career), .792 OPS (career), 2.5 Range Factor (average), 11 Win Shares (average).
Bay Rays: Matt Joyce ? - Age 25: Not enough data to quantify. Had an .831 OPS with some action in 2008 with a 2.18 Range Factor.

Edge: Red Sox

Designated Hitter:
Red Sox: David Ortiz - .287 Batting Average (career), .936 OPS (career), 26 Win Shares (on average. All stats were down last year.
Yankees: Hideki Matsui - Age 35: .295 Batting Average (career), .849 OPS (career), 18.75 Win Shares (Batting only counted).
Bay Rays: Pat Burrell - Age 32: .257 Batting Average (career), .852 OPS (career), 17.3 Win Shares (average batting only).

Edge: Red Sox if Ortiz has a career average year.

Starting Rotation:
Red Sox: Josh Beckett, Jon Lester, Dice K, Brad Penny, Tim Wakefield, Jon Smoltz
Yankees: C. C. Sabathia, A. J. Burnett, Chien-Ming Wang, Andy Pettitte, Joba Chamberlain
Bay Rays: Shields, Garza, Sonnastin, Kazmir, Niemann?

Edge: Looks like a Yankees/Red Sox draw

Red Sox: Jonathan Papelbon: 13 Win Shares last year.
Yankees: Mariano Rivera: 17 Win Shares last year.
Bay Rays: Dan Wheeler 13 Saves last year.

Edge: Looks like a Yankees/Red Sox draw

Rest of the relief:
Red Sox: Very good if all play to experience.
Yankees: Decent if all play to experience.
Bay Rays: Depends on role Price plays. Were very good last year.

Edge: Looks like a Red Sox/Bay Rays draw.

Final Tally: Bay Rays have the edge in two categories and tie in two others. Red Sox have the edge in three categories and tie in three others. Yankees have the edge in three categories and tie in three others.

Final Call: Too close to call. It's still up for grabs. But the Rays look like a third place club after analysis.

Blogger, the Fan Loves Ya, but...

For a non-geek, Blogger is the best thing for a writer wannabe than anything out there. It's easy, it's fast and it's reliable. Plus, you get Google's searchability. But there is a weird problem perhaps some of you readers who are fellow bloggers can help the Fan out with.

The Fan figures he might as well make a few cents from this thing and tried to add AdSense to the blog. Well, when you go to set that up, there is a choice if you already have an account or if you don't have an account. Since the Fan has an account and uses other Google products for business, there is no sense in having two accounts.

But if you select that you have an account and then type in your username and password, the screen tells you that someone with that e-mail address already has an account and does not let you continue. Well, duh!

So now the Fan is stuck with this big, honking message on his dashboard that says Adsense has not been verified and the blog will continue without AdSense. Probably a win for readers who get annoyed with sites that have AdSense, but also annoying for this blogger. Oh. And the Fan's picture suddenly doesn't work for no good reason.

This rant is now complete and we can continue with our regularly scheduled sports activities.

Yankees Sign Pettitte on Their Terms

The Yankees signed Andy Pettitte for one more season at a much more realistic contract than last year's $16 million. That was a lot of money for a league average pitcher who might be past his prime. The new contract gives him a base of $5 million with a chance to achieve $11 million by meeting incentives. This is a win/win for the Yankees who keep their fans happy by bringing back a popular player but at a cost that is more in line with what Pettitte is worth.

The Pettitte signing is not a win/win for either Joba Chamberlain or Phil Hughes. Rather than there being two rotations slots open, there is only one. Chamberlain will probably be given every opportunity to win the last slot making Hughes the odd man out. Hughes had made big strides in off-season pitching leagues and seemed poised to reaffirm his potential. For Chamberlain, the signing also gives the Yankees one more knee-jerk opportunity to shove Chamberlain back into the bullpen if the Yankees' relief core struggles.

The Pettitte signing is a loss/loss for Ian Kennedy and Alfredo Aceves. Both have no shot now, barring major injuries, for any starts for the Yankees and it wouldn't be surprising to see either pitcher traded for a centerfielder or catcher if both of those positions falter this year. Aceves showed some pitching savvy for his few starts last year and could be a serviceable big league pitcher. Kennedy, on the other hand, hurt his chances with not only his performances, but also with how he handled them in the eyes of management and his teammates. It is doubtful he will ever pitch for them again unless he rebuilds his career in the minors.

Pettitte is reliable and does give the Yankees a known quantity. He is a good fourth starter for any team. As for Hughes and Chamberlain, the Yankees have probably figured that like the Red Sox, you can never have too many starters available to you.

A Nice Story for Kansas City

Yesterday was a good day for Kansas City fans as Zack Greinke signed a four year contract. Long suffering Royals fans have to note that in a reversal of previous years, the Royals are serious about keeping their best young players and aren't afraid of paying them to stay. It's also a nice story for the loyalty of the Royals to Greinke and Greinke to the Royals.

First of all, most teams would not have stuck with Greinke through the dark years when he wanted to walk away from baseball. Most teams would have considered a man with emotional problems as a "head case" and would have given up on him. But the Royals did everything right by getting Greinke the help he needed to overcome his mental instability and bring what was a troubled mind into a situation where he could succeed.

The cynics among us would say that the team was just protecting its assets. Well, there is little wrong with that, but when you read what Greinke says about management's efforts on his behalf, it shows too much of a personal side for it to be just business. They cared about the guy and he knows it and is grateful. Greinke's gratitude is also refreshing.

For most Royal fans, little of that matters except that they have themselves a pitcher to root for for four more years that held teams to a .303 On Base Percentage and a .406 Slugging Percentage. Greinke averaged a little over six innings a start. His stats are very good, but he is not the shut down kind of starter. His WHIP of 1.27 is a little high and he gives up a lot of hits. Even so, he is reliable and a known quantity for the Royals and a good player who should continue to improve.

For Royal fans, who are used to good young players like Johnny Damon and Carlos Beltran playing their best years for other teams, the move has to seem like fresh air and gives them hope for moving into contention in what is a wide open division. Good for them and good for the Royals.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Can't Wait to Read Joe Torre's New Book

The Fan is foaming at the mouth waiting for Joe Torre's new book to hit the shelves. For one, Torre is a hero for the Fan and that alone would be enough reason for anticipation. But recent leaks concerning the book state that the saintly manager has some unflattering things to say about former boss, Brian Cashman and about Alex Rodriguez.

Juicy inside tidbits about the inner workings of a major league club are worthy alone of interest. If those tidbits include juicy information about well-known players, then interest goes into overdrive.

Joe Torre is a class act and got a bum steer by the Yankees. It was good that he got as far as he did with the Dodgers last year. This Fan can't imagine his book being salacious in bitter rebukes concerning people Torre has dealt with. Rather, the comments will probably be told in a matter of fact tone that is fitting for who Torre is.

The book comes out February 3. The Fan will be standing in line at the local book store.

Twins Should Stick With Delmon Young

This space contained a post concerning Robinson Cano yesterday as a young player who has seemingly figured out some things about baseball life. A nice article on concerning Delmon Young of the Twins seems to paint the same picture about Delmon Young. The Twins should stick with this guy.

It's hard to remember just how young Delmon Young is. Entering his third full major league season at the age of 23 is amazing in these days of college players. Most information about Young seemed to indicate that he was immature. Well, duh! The player was just a kid! And yet, even at such a young age, Young has put up some pretty good years in the majors.

The three flaws one can see from Young's statistics are his plate discipline, his slugging percentage and his range in left field. All three can be rectified as Young matures into a player. Most players are still in the minors at his age and work on such things, but Young has been learning on the big stage. As his body matures and he adds muscle, the extra base hits will increase. He did walk nine more times last year than the year before (in less at bats due to some injuries). And his Jason Bay-like range factor can at least be explained in part by a bum ankle for most of last season.

The Twins got Young as the centerpiece of the major trade last year when Matt Garza, among others, went to Tampa Bay. The six player trade would not have taken place without Delmon Young going to the Twins. So why give up on that guy so soon? Tom Gardenshire caused quite a flap when the manager of the Twins mentioned three guys in the outfield and did not include Young in his crystal ball. The article linked to this post indicates that Gardenshire has backed off of those comments and smoothed things over with Young.

If anything, the competition for the three starting spots in the Twins outfield is a good problem for the Twins and just the sort of challenge Delmon Young needs to advance to the next level in his career. The Fan says: Put in in left field on opening day and leave him there as this could be the year Young becomes a superstar.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

A Kent Rant But Really a Dilbeck Mourn

In an outstanding article for the L.A. Times, T. J. Simers paints a contrast between Jeff Kent, who Simers has little use for apparently, and Steve Dilbeck, the outstanding sports columnist, formerly of the Los Angeles Daily News. While this writer never knew or has much experience with players like Kent, Dilbeck's story is one the Fan can relate to.

The Fan knows what it's like to have the world turn upside down after fifteen years of hard work at the company store. Being downsized is a humbling and difficult thing. We're never really prepared for it. The Fan has been tough on sports writers over the years, but this is a frightening time for them, especially in the world of newspapers. The Fan's mom works for a newspaper in Florida that recently laid off half of its staff, most of its writers and is now being written and delivered by a previous competitor.

The glory days of newspapers are dead and if many are still in business, they are see the writing on the wall. The world of news has moved on-line on thousands of sites, blogs and RSS feeds. People who do not go on-line, watch endless hours of cable news, broadcast 24 hours a day, seven days a week. What are newspapers supposed to do?

Many have a web presence themselves, but they haven't figured out how to replace the revenue from newspaper sales to getting paid by the click. A newspaper sports writer for 30 years has little idea how this all works and how to get paid for it. A few have been favored and work for giants like or Yahoo Sports, but where will the rest of them go? Their employers relied on the local population to buy the papers to read their writers. Young people don't buy newspapers any more. They go on-line.

Clearly, the giants of the Web have to figure out how to save the talent that they helped put out of business. There are far too many very talented writers who will be muted if there isn't some thought into how to get them heard and pay them a living wage. As silly as it seems, all these professionals will be competing with a lot of amateurs who write for free and have a jump step on them all.

Dilbeck's story is agonizing. He is one of many in such a fate. Life is cruel at times and the old story we read as kids about the ant and the grasshopper didn't stay with us. 2009 has a lot of grasshoppers rubbing their legs nervously and wishing things were different. Just ask the grasshopper on the other side of this keyboard. Good luck to you Mr. Dilbeck. The Fan is feeling ya.

Robinson Cano Is Saying All the Right Things

Sometimes it takes a young person a little while to get it. It must be hard for a natural talent to suddenly realize that success at the highest level means hard work, perhaps work that never had to be done before. Robinson Cano seems to fall into that category and according to this story, seems to finally get that to be his best, he has to work hard.

To be sure, every drafted player must face the same dilemma. They were the best players on their high school teams. Perhaps had great college careers based on talent alone. Suddenly, they are in a minor league camp and all the players are just as good. Those that work hard and catch the right break, just may make it.

But there are a selected few who stand out, even among minor league peers. These players have so much talent that they breeze through the levels on superior talent alone. The sudden realization doesn't strike this type of ballplayer until the major leagues come calling. Even then, for the first month, or first season, things go pretty well. Cano, for example, hit .297 his first year and was over .300 the two years after that.

The world caught up to Cano last year. His underbelly was exposed and major league pitchers shot all the arrows they could into it. He was awful the first half, came back a little and then tailed off again. He failed to run out ground balls. He looked lazy in the field. Trade rumors surfaced and many wrote him off.

It seems, though, that the young man has figured it out. He hired a personal trainer in the off-season, asked for permission to play winter ball and is playing in the Fan-hated WBC. All this is good news for the Yankees who could regain the star player they thought they had.

Now we'll see if his good buddy, Melky Cabrera got the same message. At times in 2007, it looked like Cabrera was going to be a really good player in the bigs. But he regressed badly last year and looked so lost at the plate that he was shipped out to the minors. Then in December, it looked like he was headed to Milwaukee for Mike Cameran. But that deal died and Cabrera just signed a new contract to avoid arbitration.

So it looks good that Cabrera will get a chance to win his center field job back as he competes with Brett Gardner for that job. It seems likely that the Yankees will tab one of those two to patrol center. Both players have upside potential and it may be fun for Yankee fans to see one of them develop into a good player. The Yankees would probably be happy if one of them hits .270 and plays good defense.

As for Cano, if he can give them a year at .320 with 20 to 25 homers, the team will be ecstatic.