Saturday, October 30, 2010

Are Jonathan Sanchez's Stats Misleading?

There is this queasy feeling in the pit of the Fan's stomach because every day it becomes more clear that this writer often doesn't know what the heck he is talking about. This old guy has attempted to become conversant with the amazing number of statistics now bandied about. As a result, this Fan has little confidence that he can truly figure out a player's worth with any degree of accuracy. To be sure, people out there must be able to come close to figuring out that kind of thing. But the Fan would hazard a guess that there are more people in this writer's boat than are in the accurate elite ("elite" is not used here as a derogatory, just so you know). Most people would probably be in this writer's boat by stating that Jonathan Sanchez is a great pitcher who had a great year. But every time this observer watches Sanchez pitch, the feeling is always, "Is this all there is?"

No doubt the feeling comes from watching Sanchez pitch game after game where he has 80+ pitches notched by the fourth inning. Sanchez averaged 5.818 innings per start (yes, the Fan did throw out his one relief appearance). Or perhaps it is the fact that only 46.8% of his pitches are actually in the strike zone. He is often fortunate that anyone ever swings at one of his pitches. The figure, by the way, was the lowest of his career. His first pitch strike percentage was also the lowest of his career. There is no doubt that some of his success was due to the fact that more batters facing Sanchez swung at more pitches out of the strike zone than ever before. That's called O-Swing Percentage for those who need to know. So he threw less pitches in the strike zone, he threw less first pitch strikes and yet more batters swung at pitches outside the strike zone.

But what about the quality of his opponents? Giving you a full rundown of his game log for 2010 would stretch your patience. Besides, you can do that yourself at Let's just do a summary:

Great games: April (2) Pittsburgh, San Diego. Not very good offenses. May (1) San Diego ibid. June (1) Orioles before they became the fighting Showalters. July (1) Mets. August (3) Colorado at Colorado. Okay, that's impressive; Phillies. Impressive again but the Phillies were struggling at the time. Colorado at home. September (2) Dodgers twice. Torre's team was dead in the water by September.

Good games: April (1) Phillies. But that is a stretch as he gave up 9 base runners in five innings covering 106 pitches. May (3) Mets, Oakland, Arizona. 19 innings, 4 homers, 329 pitches, 9 walks, but only 7 earned runs. June (1) Pittsburgh. July (1) Brewers. 6 innings, 11 base runners but only one run. August (0). September (1) Arizona.

So-So games: April (1) Phillies. Five innings, nine base runners, 107 pitches. May (1) San Diego. 4 runs on 7 hits, no walks. June (1) Cincinnati. Five innings, ten base runners, 3 runs. July (1) Arizona. Five innings, one run, 109 pitches, 10 base runners. August (1) Padres in a loss. Five plus innings. September (2) Cubs, Padres.

Bad games: April (1) Braves. May (1) Rockies. June (3) Red Sox, Dodgers, Blue Jays. July (2) Nationals, Marlins. August (2) Braves, Reds. September (0).

If the Fan is looking at all that right, then the only quality offenses Sanchez had either a great or good outing against was the Rockies twice and the Phillies twice. So, in conclusion, Sanchez's statistics are somewhat misleading. He doesn't fare well against good offenses as the post season is clearly showing us. A conclusion which many of you will probably confirm that the opening statement of this post is true in that the Fan probably doesn't know what he is talking about.

Will David Ortiz Get an Extension?

Let's start this post with the obvious: We were all wrong about David Ortiz last year. And the chief, top of the list writer wrong about Ortiz was this writer. The Fan buried him early last year, but at least the Fan wasn't the only one. According to this article, David Ortiz wants an extension and would not be happy with the Red Sox simply picking up his $12 million option for 2011. His reasoning is all the negativity he received last year and the year before (guilty!) and in Ortiz's mind, a multi-year deal would allow Ortiz to just play and have fun and not worry about it. There is no doubt of Ortiz's sincerity. But Mr. Ortiz is simply not dealing in reality.

First of all, David Ortiz DID have a great year last year. His 899 OPS+ and all those homers and RBIs added up to a 137 OPS+. But even saying that, his WAR or Wins Above Replacement came in at 3.3 which is just about perfectly dead on for the $13 million he was earning. That's the good news. The bad news is that it was the first time in the last three years that he came close to earning his salary. The Red Sox could use his bat and if he can come close to his production of a year ago, he would be worth the $12 million option. But, why in the world would the Red Sox do anything other than pick up the option?

Ortiz is going to be 35 next year. He is not an athletic 35. He is a big-bodied, tall son-of-a-gun that needs a lot to go right to catch up to a major league pitch. With each year that passes, he will be less and less able to do that. His peak years physically and statistically are behind him (not going down the PED conversation here). The Red Sox are taking a gamble by simply picking up his option. They would be playing Russian Roulette with five bullets in their gun if they signed him to a multi-year deal.

And what about Ortiz's contention about the extension taking care of the negativity? What exactly does he mean by that? Does he mean that by signing a multi-year contract that he will be all set for the rest of his baseball life and can point to his posterior if someone complains about his production? The Fan can buy that. Does he mean that by signing a multi-year deal, the negativity will go away? Preposterous. It would get worse. The "Red Sox Nation" (shiver) is a pretty smart fan base. If Papi is known to have been given the silver platter and doesn't produce, he will get roasted. And it won't be just the fans. It will be the same talk radio, newspapers, blogs and sports networks that filled him with all that negativity in the first place.

The Red Sox have only two choices here. Either pick up Ortiz's option and tell him to earn more time or don't pick up the option at all. They can't worry about how Ortiz will react to the former choice because if they do, then they should just choose the latter. If they don't pick up the option, they can sign John Buck and let Victor Martinez handle the DH. If they pick up the option, then they have to hope Ortiz hits like 2010 and not like 2008 and 2009. But those are the only sane options. The third option of giving Ortiz a multi-year deal is just not rational and not in the Red Sox best interest. And it is hard to imagine where this writer sits that the Red Sox would not do what's in their best interest.

Apologies, Mr. Ortiz about last year. But no apologies for feeling your current sentiments are all wet.

Game Picks - Saturday: October 30, 2010

The World Series heads to Texas with the Rangers down two games to zip. The game is a rare early one for the post season which means it won't get over until after 10:00 P.M. Eastern Time (thanks Bud for everything <--said with an eyeroll). The Fan has been perfect so far in the World Series and hasn't gotten a pick wrong since the last game of the Rangers - Yankees series. So there is a lot of pressure in this one. For the first time, the Giants will have to contend with being the away team. But they get Sandoval as the DH, which is kind of nifty for them. They get another bat, and a good one at that. But also, for the first time, the Giants won't get a left-hander as the starting pitcher either. So what's the Fan's pick?

- The Rangers over the Giants: The Rangers are too good a team to get swept. Colby Lewis has been the Rangers' best pitcher in the post season not named Lee. Lewis gets the ball to Oliver in the eighth and then, amazingly, Feliz will actually pitch in this World Series.

Month: 42-33
Season: 1369-1048

Friday, October 29, 2010

Cardinals Stay the Course

The St. Louis Cardinals seemed like a pile of goo at the end of the 2010 season. Their long-time manager, Tony LaRussa was given 50/50 odds of taking his shtick elsewhere. There was the Colby Rasmus flap and the Pujols/Right-wing rally flap and the entire thing seemed to be muddled up into a mess. Of course, none of that would have mattered if the Cardinals had played better. But they went 28-30 down the stretch while Carpenter and Wainwright suddenly looked human. They swept the Reds to obtain first place and then tanked to allow the Reds to take the division. After all that, LaRussa seemed fed up. Conditions seemed ripe to have an event like the Denver Broncos did after a similar season under Mike Shanahan, the LaRussa of football. But here we are in October and guess what? Nothing has changed.

Tony LaRussa will be back in the dugout. Dave Duncan signed on for another two years as pitching coach. Mark McGwire signed back on for two years as batting coach. The core of Pujols, Holliday, Carpenter and Wainwright are still in place and life as we know it will roll along under the big arch. The Fan doesn't know about you, but this writer is very surprised.

There is always a couple of ways to look at things. One way to view things is that LaRussa and the gang still feel like they have the horses to compete and 2010 was just an anomaly. They very well could be right. They could feel that they are in a competitive division that doesn't have any team that looks dominant, and again they would be right. With 2011 being Pujols last year before free agency, perhaps they want one last chance as a group to see how they can do. That would make sense too. And if very well could be possible that the Cardinals brain trust didn't see anything better on the horizon than the management team they already had in place. You can't argue with that either.

But this team does need to be tweaked a bit. The Skip Schumaker experiment at second should end. Schumaker is a fun little player and should be a sort of super sub like Valverde or something. But his defense hurts and his offense didn't offset it in 2010. The Colby Rasmus thing doesn't seem tenable, does it? How about trading him to the Diamondbacks for Stephen Drew? The Cardinals could use a top notch shortstop and it always seems like Drew needs a fresh perspective. Brendan Ryan is a great fielder, but his 57 OPS+ is unacceptable. Perhaps he would get better, but Drew is as good a fielder and a much better offensive player.

The Cardinals seem set with the rest of their line up. Freese will be back to play third. Pujols, Holliday and Molina are locks. The Cardinals will have to decide who is their third outfielder (if Rasmus stays). They could use a better back up catcher too, but there are a lot of those out there. For the Cardinals, much will come down to pitching.

The rotation seems rock solid again on paper at least 1-3. The Carpenter/Wainwright struggles down the stretch are troubling, Carpenter the more so as he is no spring chicken. But Wainwright is one of the best pitchers in baseball and you have to assume that he will be fine. Garcia had a wonderful debut season and should continue to get better. The Cardinals will have to rebuild the four and five holes in the rotation again.

The bullpen was decent, but not spectacular. McClellen had a great year, but nobody else helps you sleep better at night. One more quality arm in the bullpen would help.

This Fan is truly surprised that the core management team of the Cardinals is intact. The Fan really believed that the sour taste of last season would either cause LaRussa to walk or for the Cardinals to go in a different direction. But the team decided to stay the course. And that doesn't feel like a bad decision. This management team is among the top five in baseball, has a history of success and there is no reason to believe they can't turn a down season around in 2011. Sometimes change is good and sometimes continuity is good. Only time will tell us which one this situation should have been.

Chapman and Feliz - What's Their Future?

Aroldis Chapman and Neftali Feliz seem so similar in promise. Both are 22 years old. Both throw rockets, both were signed with the expectation that they would be top of the rotation starters. But now, Feliz is the closer for the Rangers and Chapman was lightning out of the bullpen down the homestretch for the Reds. Dusty Baker, when asked about his plans for Chapman next year, hemmed and hawed and finally mumbled something about the Cuban Missle Crisis being a back end of the bullpen guy. For both pitchers. the bullpen seems like a waste of their talent.

A large part of the Rangers' success this season was handing the ball off to Feliz in the ninth iinning. The Fan gets that. But closers can be had in baseball and as Feliz proves himself, they can be created. Feliz started in 53 of his 79 minor league appearances and his 3.03 ERA with 0.2 HR/9 and 10.6 K/9 seem to show a guy that can handled that kind of thing. It isn't like he is Joba Chamberlain or something. Chapman has even more electric stuff than Feliz (if that is possible) and the Reds started him in the minors as a starter and then moved him to the bullpen to get him ready for his call up.

C. J. Wilson knows a thing or two about converting from a reliever to a starter. There is no reason he couldn't help Feliz transition back as a starter. Even if the Rangers don't have Lee next year, consider a rotation of Wilson, Hunter, Lewis and Feliz? That's good stuff right there. Dusty Baker made it sound like he already had enough starters? He does? Can you count on Leake? Homer Bailey? Volquez and Cueto are always wild cards. It seems doubtful that Harang and Arroyo will back. So...the Reds have enough starters?

Feliz and Chapman are phenomenal talents. Don't you owe it to that talent, your team and your fans to at least give them a shot at becoming ace starters they both seem capable of being? Heck, if it doesn't work out, they can always go back out to the bullpen. But in this observer's mind, talent like that deserves a shot at becoming the true studs they both appear to be.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

The Case Against Signing Cliff Lee

It is easy to pick on Cliff Lee after he was toasted by the San Francisco Giants yesterday. That hardly seems fair. But regardless of how the rest of the post season goes, Cliff Lee is going to be a big time free agent once the World Series is over. Lee seems to have nice leverage after three dominant seasons and (besides yesterday), great post season heroics. But will it be a good idea for any team to give Cliff Lee what he will be asking for in his free agent negotiations? This observer thinks not.

First of all, Cliff Lee is going to want a Sabathia-like deal and who could blame him. This is Lee's first real crack at free agency and he's going to shoot for the moon. Why else would Lee and his agent react so swiftly to the story that Lee's wife was abused by Yankee fans? Lee and his agent need the Yankees to drive up the price to ensure that Lee gets the best deal possible. The Rangers want to resign him and if their "lifestyle points" don't equal the money he can make elsewhere, it won't cut it. The Rangers will have to come close to matching Lee's market value to keep him.

Let's say that Cliff Lee will command $20 million a year for four years. That seems conservative in light of the Santana and Sabathia deals. But let's use $20 million. Lee would probably earn that in the first two years of his contract. Or at least he would come close to that kind of performance. But if you place any value in PECOTA projections, here is their projections for Lee for the next four years:

  • 2011 - $15.3 million
  • 2012 - $13.1 million
  • 2013 - $12.2 million
  • 2014 - $11.6 million

That does not look like a good value projection based on a contract that pays Lee $20 million a year for the next four years. Cliff Lee will be 33 next year. A four year contract will take him to age 37. When considering signing such a pitcher, the Fan's mind drifts back to Pedro Martinez. Martinez was dominant right up to his 35th year. At age 33, he posted a WAR of 4.8. The following year, he was even better and his WAR went up to 5.4. But Martinez never topped 1.0 again in his career after that. That is the real problem with signing Lee long term at this point in his career. Lee relies on pinpoint control of his fastball and cutter. His curve is great at times, but really, he relies on the accuracy of his fastballs. He has been throwing 91-92 most of the year. Will he be as effective when that drops in the next couple of years to 87-88?

The Fan has already built a case on why Lee would probably not be worth his salary for the next few years, even at face value. But then add to that the loss of draft picks in compensation for signing him as a Type A free agent and the whole thing sours in this Fan's mouth. The Yankees and other bidders should think long and hard about signing Lee (who has a history of back troubles by the way) to a four year, big bucks contract. The Rangers would be better served letting the Yankees or others overbid for Lee's services.

Cliff Lee has been a stud for the last three years. But let Pedro Martinez stick in your memory bank as just one example of why giving big bucks to an aging pitcher isn't a good matter how many times he's beaten you in the post season.

Game Picks - Thursday: October 28, 2010

At first blush, this picker can feel like a genius picking the Giants to win yesterday. But never in this Fan's wildest dreams did the Fan ever expect the Giants to win the way they did. So...the pick was right, but the way it was won wasn't predictable. Now we go to Game Two and little has changed for the Giants. But the Rangers are still going to stick Vlad out in right field. They are putting another lefty starter out on the mound and dare the Fan say that lightning could strike twice?

- The Giants over the Rangers: Yeah, let's say lightning will strike twice. The Giants will win behind Matt Cain and that bullpen.

Yesterday: 1-0
Month: 41-33
Season: 1368-1048

Giants Strike First

The light-hitting Giants did something that the Yankees and the Bay Rays this year and the Dodgers and the Yankees last year couldn't do. They took it to Cliff Lee and built an 8-2 lead before holding on to win the game 11-7. The hitting stars were Freddie Sanchez, Aubrey Huff, Cody Ross and Juan Uribe, who hit another amazing homer, this time a three-run job.

The Fan remembers thinking after Cliff Lee hit a double to help the Rangers mount a 2-0 lead that those Rangers, including Lee at second base, were feeling their oats a bit too strongly. With Lee on the mound and getting extra base hits, the Rangers thought that everything was going according to plan. But these Giants weren't buying it. They uncharacteristically got Lee into a high pitch count early (78 pitches by the fourth inning) and then pounced on him. By the time that Ron Washington came out and got Lee, the Rangers had scored three times and would get three more by the first batter that Darren O'Day faced in relief. That was the Uribe blast.

Gone is Lee's amazing run. Gone is his lofty post season ERA. Gone was the Rangers' swagger. But the Rangers showed their resolve and kept fighting. They knocked Lincecum out in the sixth and then scored three more times on the Giants' relievers. But here is where the Fan is puzzled.

The Rangers have a great offense right? They were down 8-4 and then Washington brings in two completely untested relievers. Mark Lowe wasn't even on the ALCS roster and who the heck is Michael Kirkman? Those-less-than-the-Rangers'-best relievers gave up three more runs to allow the Giants a gigantic amount of breathing room. Puzzling.

The Rangers defense also didn't help. Both players on the left side of the infield made errors and later in the game, Ian Kinsler again had a base running adventure and got himself thrown out at second after getting an infield single. And there was a lot of speculation about Vlad playing the outfield and sure enough, his presence out there was felt as he made two errors again helping the Giants' cause.

And so the Giants strike first. But then again, so did the Yankees in their series. But it wasn't against Cliff Lee. The Rangers are in a hole and these Giants that very few people believe in, are in the driver's seat...for now.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Finally! The Mets Have a GM

According to reports (including this one), the Mets have finally settled on Sandy Alderson as their new general manager. Alderson was interviewed at least three times and was a finalist along with Josh Byrnes, late of the Diamondbacks. The Mets couldn't begin seeking a new manager until the GM question was solved so now that managers are starting to fall into place, the Mets will have to scramble to get a decent hire. The move seems to be in contrast with the industry trend of hiring young hot shots. Teams like the Blue Jays and others have followed the former lead of teams like the Yankees, Red Sox, Indians and others in hiring young talent at the GM position. Alderson is 62 and the label you hear is, "old school."

Alderson has a proven record though. He was with Oakland in the late 80s when that team won a World Series and were a strong presence in the league. Of course, those teams have been denigrated because of the steroid accusations that have plagued that era and that team. Alderson worked for Bud Selig and MLB for a while and was in charge of umpires and other things like growing baseball internationally. Alderson is a CEO type of GM, his Dartmouth pedigree personifies that type of feeling here. But what will Alderson mean for the Mets?

The Fan's first thoughts are that he can't do worse than the last regime, right?  The second is that Alderson, by his experience, age and presence, will help keep Wilpon from trying to stir the pot. This is much like the McPhail hiring in Baltimore that has finally gotten that owner to settle down and let baseball men run the show. If that is one of the results for the Mets, great. That needed to happen. Plus, for Alderson to have friends in high places in the MLB hierarchy can't be that bad a deal for the Mets either.

Now the question becomes who will Alderson get for his manager? There is good news there as well. It was Alderson who brought Tony LaRussa to the Oakland A's during his tenure there. That was a brilliant choice. And before he left the Padres with the Moorad purchase, Alderson was part of the decision making team that brought Bud Black to the Padres as that team's manager. That's a pretty darned good track record.

After thinking about all these things, Alderson seems perfect for where the Mets are right now. Frankly, they have become a mess. They have become the butts of jokes from Letterman to their own fans. Alderson gives the team proven leadership and a winning track record. Plus he brings the Mets enough presence to keep Wilpon away from the pot. All that's left is to make the official announcement. That won't come until Friday during the World Series off day (the Mets don't want to pull an A-Rod). This is good news, Mets' fans.

Game Picks - Wednesday: October 27, 2010

The fascinating World Series between the Texas Rangers and the San Franciso Giants begins today with the marque match up of Lincecum versus Lee. The series starts in San Francisco since the National League won the All Star Game. Any logical way of looking at this series favors the Rangers. They have the better offense, they have just as good a starting staff as the Giants, a slightly better defense (except for Vlad having to play the field) and are just short in the bullpen compared to the Giants. But those things are meaningless in a seven game series where anything can happen.

Tim Lincecum was actually better on the road this year than he was at home. Cliff Lee over his entire career has fared better at home than on the road. The Rangers won 90 games this season and the Giants 92. Since the series began back in the dawn of the 20th Century, the team with the worse record in the World Series has won the series 52 out of 101 attempts (three times both teams had the same record). In three games pitched against the Giants in his career, Cliff Lee has given up a slash line of: 159/.193/.256. But in the end, none of that will matter. It will all come down to who gets the hit in the right spot or who gets the break they need when they need it. Let's all hope that the games won't hinge on a bad umpire call.

But the Fan has to pick a winner for Game One...

- The Giants over the Rangers: Lincecum cancels out Lee and the Giants' bullpen wins the game. Josh Hamilton is hampered by the incredible dimensions in San Francisco.

Month: 40-33
Season: 1367-1048

Nationals Miss Managerial Boat

Jim Riggleman is probably a heck of a guy. But the Nationals decision to retain him as their manager feels like settling for a Wal-mart brand cola instead of grabbing a Coca-cola. Yes, the Nationals improved ten games from the previous season in 2010. They won 69 games instead of 59 the two seasons before. But from this observer's mind, those ten victories came in the beginning of the year when the Nationals got off to a good start. On Memorial Day, the team was 23-23. They went 43-67 the rest of the way. The Nationals' record starting the first of June led to a .390 winning percentage over that span. That doesn't sound like progress in that light.

According to the Nationals' run differential, they should have won three more games than they did (called the Pythagorean win-loss percentage as developed by Bill James). The team's defense did not improve. Nyger Morgan was not corralled and got too many at bats besides based on his abysmal offensive performance. The Fan hates to be a bummer, but there just wasn't anything positive about Riggleman's results.

The Nationals were 5-13 in interleague play. They were 3-10 in extra inning games and 20-28 in one-run games. Surely a manager should be able to figure out how to win a few more of those games. There is a fine line between blaming the talent and at least getting the most out of your limited talent and this Fan doesn't see that line in balance for this equation.

Let's talk about one other situation that seemed to put a burr in this writer's saddle. If your team really isn't going anywhere, is there any reason to burn up a pitcher? It's one thing for Joe Torre to burn up his horses when he was fighting for a pennant--and the Fan isn't even sure that it's justifiable in that situation--but it's another to burn out a pitcher when there is really nothing on the line. Tyler Clippard is a fine young talent. Riggleman threw Clippard out there 78 times to the tune of 91 innings, a 50% increase in Clippard's innings from the year before. Clippard's stats don't indicate that he wore down as his peripherals were actually better in the second half than in the first. But time will tell if Clippard was overused and how his body responds to it.

In this writer's mind, a manager in Riggleman's position needs to be protecting his young talent. He is supposed to be a nurturer and a care taker for the talent of the future. But Riggleman doesn't seem to fit that mold somehow. The Nationals had the chance to make a bold statement and hire somebody like Bobby Valentine or another manager with proven results to take this team to the next level. Instead, they have settled for status quo by believing that going from bloody awful to just plain awful is progress. It's not and it wasn't.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Expanded 2012 MLB Playoffs?

Earlier in the season, Bud Selig commissioned a panel to look at MLB and the present game of baseball to see what improvements could be made. According to Selig at the time, everything was open to scrutiny including replay, post season, the length of games and so on. While the immediate clamor has been for expanded replay to correct large lapses in umpiring, the first result seems to be a push for expanded playoffs according to this article.

The Fan's first reaction to all of this is, "Oh GEEZ!" The playoffs, as they stand now are overly long, drawn out affairs that take three weeks or more to accomplish. According to some, in order to accommodate more playoff games, there might have to be a shrinkage of the 162 game schedule. That's all we need, more confusion with statistics. First of all, shortening the regular season schedule would negatively affect the bottom line for all 30 teams, so that isn't going to happen. So if you want more playoff games, you'd have to start the season earlier and finished the playoffs later. That's all we need is to have Cleveland and Minnesota games in mid-March.

The greatest need in baseball, aside from replay, is to figure out how kids can watch playoff games and to realign the teams for fairness and common sense. Sports and the City, a blog from Toronto, ran a commentary a while back that kicked around some playoff and alignment possibilities. One commenter for that site ("Roberto" was the name he used) proposed going back to a two division set up with balanced schedules, two division winners and two wild cards. That makes perfect sense except that the balanced schedule would mean more travel for teams and the union wouldn't care for that very much.

Here is the only expanded playoff system the Fan would support. Add one more wild card to each league. Two days after the season, have the two wild cards play a three game series with no off days. The winner plays the top seeded team which begins the playoffs as we now know them. If you add one more wild card, you at least give the leagues each one more shot to have a good team have a chance for the gold. They would just have to win four series instead of three to get there. There should be no griping because those teams didn't win the division, why should they have the ability to set up their rotations like the division winners? Such an expansion would only increase the post season by four days. The division series would start two days after the end of the Wild Card Series. See, we even have a name for it!

The one problem this Fan has with the current set up is that the wild card team currently gets to set up its rotation and prepare the same way the winner of the division does. That doesn't seem right since that team didn't win its division. The extra wild card puts the two wild card winners at a disadvantage throughout the playoffs, which is how it should be. If that was the case, the Yankees couldn't coast into the playoffs resting all their players because the current wild card isn't a penalty except for home field advantage. They would have more incentive to win the division.

And there is no reason to hold up both series to finish up the Wild Card Series. You could have the division winners with the second and third best records to start their series concurrently with the Wild Card Series while the division winner with the best record awaits the outcome of the Wild Card Series. This is the only expansion of the playoffs this Fan would support...which is always a statement made by the guy who proposes a new idea, right? Guilty.

This Fan doesn't want to shorten the season of 162 games. This Fan doesn't want baseball games in mid-March or mid-November. This Fan DOES want some day games so kids can watch and still get to bed on time. Those that work, just record the dang game for crying out loud. The single worst thing that ever happened to the post season was allowing the networks to dictate a schedule. It has led to too many days off, too much delay and a long, drawn out playoff process (that still doesn't have replay...but still has Buck and McCarver).

Now What For the Phillies?

The Philadelphia Phillies of 2010 were built to win this year and through luck or design, they didn't quite make it to the World Series for the third year in a row. The Roy Halladay trade worked out in spades, but it also cost them valuable prospects leaving little left behind. Of all the Phillies prospects, only one (Domenic Brown) is considered a five star prospect and he struggled in his debut in September. The average age of the team was 31.9 and of the starting line up, only Shane Victorino was under 30. So now that the Phillies didn't make it to their ultimate goal, where do they go from here?

At the moment, it doesn't appear that they are interested in signing Jayson Werth long term. They believe Dominic Brown is their new right fielder. But Werth is a proven commodity and you have to figure that Raul Ibanez, who will be 39 in 2011, won't continue to contribute the way he has been. Werth is only 31 and yeah, he is streaky and yeah, he strikes out a lot, but he led the team in OPS+ and is a proven winner. Why not sign him for three years and put him in left and give Brown the right field slot? Brown hasn't shown himself to be a great fielder though, so maybe you would keep Werth in right and move Brown to left where he can't be any worse than Ibanez.. But either way, the Fan thinks the Phillies should think long and hard before letting Werth walk away.

The other big questions are at short and third. Jimmy Rollins had his second straight off year. He's only 31, so you don't start to question his age like he was Derek Jeter or something. But Rollins has been a bit of a mess lately. He's still excellent in the field, still runs the bases well, still walks his fair share, but his overall numbers the last two years don't add up and his constant battles with injuries are troubling. But Rollins is their iconic player and he will be their shortstop in 2011. But what about third? Polanco played hurt almost the entire half, which didn't really do the Phillies any favors. Polanco became a shell of the player he has been and finished under 100 on his OPS+ and did not have a good year in the field. He will be 35 next year, so in this observer's mind, he shouldn't be counted on and other plans should be made. Beltre would be a good deal for them if they were interested.

The rest of the line up is set. Ryan Howard, for better or for worse, has that big contract and he will give you power and a good On Base Percentage. But he regressed in the field this year, which is hard for someone with his negative fielding stats to do, and his homer total was a mere 31. That's low for him. It didn't help things that Charlie Manuel said that Howard never found his swing in the post season and Howard responded by stating his swing never went away. Hmm... That can't be a good thing.

Chase Utley continues to be the best second baseman on the planet. At 32 in 2011, he can be counted on to have a few more good years. Victorino is solid, if not spectacular in center and Ruiz has really come into his own as a catcher.

The Phillies control the Big Three for 2011 and that's always a good thing. Cole Hamels will continue to get better. He's a young pup yet at 27 and has many more good years ahead of him. Oswalt will be 33 and Halladay, 32, but besides the increased risk of injuries, shouldn't have any problems pitching well over the next couple of years. All the Phillies would need then would be to figure out the fourth and fifth spots. It would be safe to say that Moyer is out of the equation. The Phillies need to decide what to do with Kyle Kendrick. At this point, it would seem best for all parties to trade him for whatever they can get. Blanton is okay as a fifth starter. So the Phillies need a number four starter. Vince Worley is interesting. He continued a successful Triple A season with success with the Phillies in September. Give him a shot during Spring Training and see what happens.

The Phillies bullpen is solid and under contract for another year. The only replacement should be Contreras who, at his age, can't be counted on for anything significant. Romero, Durbin, Madson and Lidge all had solid years, though Lidge has maintained some of his more adventurous ways. But except for the walks, he had a much better year in 2010.

The age of the Phillies isn't going to change much any time soon. But the talent of those aged ones should give Phillies phans just as much hope for continuing success next year. The age of the team means that peak seasons shouldn't be expected, but if they all come close to career norms, that should be enough. The big questions will be if Rollins and Howard continue to decline and how well Charlie Manuel can keep his team on his side. They should make a concerted effort to sign Werth though. Losing him will be a tough one, especially with his right handed bat. Regardless, the Phillies will be the team to beat next year at least one more time.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Yankees Fire Dave Eiland

Maybe this site is becoming a Yankee blog after all. In a report by an ESPN writer, the Yankees have relieved Dave Eiland of his duties as the Yankees' pitching coach. According to the linked story, Yankees' general manager, Brian Cashman said that Eiland's dismissal had nothing to do with the recent playoff loss to the Texas Rangers.

While Cashman could be speaking what he thinks is the truth here, the Yankees have always needed a scapegoat and Eiland was probably the easiest target. Kevin Long is extremely popular with a large chunk of Yankee batters, so it wouldn't be him. And Joe Girardi won the World Series last year, so he wasn't going to be the scapegoat. But logically, other reasons could certainly be cited.

A. J. Burnett, of course, could be front and center of this discussion. His continuing confoundedness could not be rectified by Eiland. Sabathia regressed some this year (despite all those wins) and Phil Hughes often looked lost when he should be coming into his own. Part of Eiland's problems were exacerbated by the Yankees catching problems. After a promising start, Cervelli fell apart on defense and the slippage of Jorge Posada's defense has been staggering. When you can't hold runners from stealing and you can't catch a pitch sometimes, that would get your pitcher into trouble.

There is also the matter of Dave Eiland leaving the Yankees this year for "personal" reasons. Those reasons were never spelled out and probably never will be (unless there is a "tell all" book someday). The Fan doesn't ever remember any Yankee official coming out with a statement such as, "We support Dave during this difficult time and will support him." Do you remember such a statement? Looking back, that omission speaks volumes and probably is part of the reason for this story today.

So who will the Yankees get to replace Eiland? If they were smart, they would put off Girardi for a week and heavily pursue Curt Young, who is now available since Oakland wouldn't give him a two year contract. Young is given a lot of credit for the A's great young pitching and he will be scooped up by somebody quickly. There is already speculation that Young is heading to Arizona.

Maybe the Yankees will turn to Ron Guidry or entice Righetti away from the Giants. Whomever it might be, it is still somewhat of a shock that this move was made this quickly. Coming full circle, this Fan now doubts that this is a scapegoat issue but is rather something that has built up for a while and would have happened no matter how the Yankees' season turned out.

** Update: Best headline so far: "No Coach is Dave Eiland" by Baseball Musings. Comical, but would have better as, "No Coach is an Eiland."

Blue Jays Make a Great Choice

The Blue Jays have reportedly selected John Farrell, the Red Sox pitching coach and former player personnel man for the Indians, as their next manager. The Blue Jays certainly took their time making their selection to the point that their Due Diligence started making their fan base a little wacky. But as long as all that energy ends up with the correct results, all you can do in the end is praise it. Red Sox owner, John Henry, was effusive about Farrell and congratulated the Blue Jays for their selection.

Naturally, the selection could end up being a bust. But any selection can do just the same. That's the chance you take. But you can at least hedge your bets by selecting a guy that has universal respect in the game and seems like just the kind of guy the Blue Jays need. The Blue Jays will live and die by how good their young pitching is over the next few years. The Blue Jays seemed poised to be in the same position as the Padres were going into 2010 with their young pitching. The huge difference is that the Blue Jays have a much better offense than the Padres, especially if they can address their OBP issues.

And the comparison with the Padres is no accident. The Padres are also led by an ex-pitcher in Bud Black. Black infuses his pitchers with a sense of purpose, hard preparation and responsibility. Farrell will do no less with the Blue Jays' young pitching. Plus, Farrell has been part of a Red Sox organization that stresses working the count and getting a good pitch to hit. He should bring some of that to the Blue Jays, who could use a dose of better thought processes to their offense. As good as the Blue Jays offense was, imagine how good it could be if Jose Bautista wasn't the only Blue Jay with as impressive an OBP as a slugging percentage.

The Blue Jays have been incredibly smart the past year and the hiring of John Farrell as their next manager seems to be one of the smarter moves yet.

A Way Out For Jeter and the Yankees

The Fan was loathe to write this post for fear of truly turning this general blog into a Yankee blog. But the Jeter situation is truly one of the biggest off-season stories of the year, so to ignore the story to stay true to this blog's purpose would be a bit stupid. And the story is an intriguing one. To read the best take on the stakes, see Joel Sherman's piece for the "New York Post." It is also obvious that the stakes are higher for Jeter coming off the season he did than it is for the Yankees.

The reality here is that if you split the difference between and Fangraphs and how they calculate WAR (Wins Above Replacement), the 2010 version of Derek Jeter is worth about $7.5 million a year. And that takes into account the hope that he doesn't get worse than he was in 2010. Derek Jeter made $22 million in 2010. Obviously, the Yankees would be out of their minds to give him that kind of money. There is only one shortstop in baseball that is worth that kind of money and his name is Troy Tulowitzki. The only other one close is Stephen Drew. If you added on some value to Jeter getting his 3000th hit as a Yankee, or his fan base of Yankee fans and perhaps his leadership (how do you measure that?), that might bring you to about $10 million a year. But will Derek Jeter's pride let him accept $10 million to keep playing for the Yankees? That's the big question.

If the Fan was Derek Jeter, who is obviously set for life, and as Sherman points out in his Post piece, a lot of his Madison Avenue appeal is based on his status as a Yankee, the Fan would take the $10 million with as little fanfare as possible. But nobody is expecting Jeter to roll over that easily, even if logic were to dictate that he should. All the wheels would then be in place for an impasse. So what should the Yankees do?

Here is a way out of this mess for both parties. Give Jeter a long time contract as a Yankee employee and spread the money out. Give Jeter $100 million spread out over ten years. It doesn't matter how you break that down so long as Jeter doesn't get more than $10 million in a year. Even if you made the contract so it was worth $20 million a year for the next two years, defer half of that over the life of the contract. Jeter gets a guaranteed $100 million to pad his bankroll. But what would the Yankees get?

Well, they would get a least one or two more years of Jeter at short, which is not terrible as he was about the eighth best shortstop in baseball this year (according to WAR) and then eight years of Jeter as either a marginally contributing player and as a Yankee ambassador. There are all kinds of ways Jeter can aid the Yankees outside of baseball in the same way that Reggie Jackson and Yogi Berra do now. Since he is getting paid either way, the Yankees have all the leverage to tell Jeter exactly when he is done playing. The Yankees get intense media coverage as Jeter approaches 3000 hits. Maybe Jeter will end up as the Yankee manager. Who knows.

Jeter, to many people's minds, is going to seek $100 million over four years. He gets it, but spread out over ten years, thus saving face for Jeter. The Yankees get a shortstop for the next two years that could come close to earning that $10 million and they get the Jeter brand tied to the Yankee brand for many years to come. That seems like a rational outcome. But contract negotiations are rarely rational. So, this Fan, along with the rest of baseball will wait to see what happens.

The Big Picture Versus The Small

There are thousands of baseball blogs out there. If you didn't have to make a living, you could spend your entire day reading them. Literally. The majority of those blogs are team related and that makes perfect sense. Writers of those blogs are following their passions and writing about the team they care about the most. Plus, when you write about a particular team, you have a built in fan base of people who share your passion. All of that makes perfect sense. It also makes sense that there are more blogs concerning the Yankees than most other teams. What becomes unfortunate about this system created is that many of these sites have tunnel vision. Rational thought gets lost when your focus is only on what makes you most passionate.

Consider these words from one such Yankee site, which won't be mentioned by name: "The SF Giants beat the Phillies last night to set up what should be the least watched and cared about World Series in history." For those of you who follow this Flagrant Fan, you know that despite the "general" status of this blog, the Yankees have always been the favorite team. As such, it has often been a struggle to stay rational when discussing them and the outcome of their games and players. But, if the Fan had ever written the line mentioned above, it would be time to stop blogging.

Fortunately, there are Yankee blogs that remained a tad more rational about the outcome. Consider the blog, "It's About the Money" and their recent post ( The difference between the two sites is the ability to look at the big picture and understanding that MLB is bigger than just one team and that the world doesn't live or die depending on whether your favorite team just won or lost.

Perhaps the series will be the least watched. The ratings do in many cases go up when the Yankees or the Red Sox are involved just like golf ratings improve if Tiger Woods is competing and basketball ratings improved when Michael Jordon was competing. That's a shame really. There are just as many great golf shots and basketball plays when other players play. And those who tune out of the World Series because their teams are not involved are going to miss some good theater.

It would be akin to a Chicago Bears fan to say that the "greatest football game ever" between the Colts and the Giants was uninteresting. Never mind the fact that that one game helped make the NFL the power that it became. Perhaps there were Bears fans that felt that way and tuned out. If they did, they missed a great game. No?

"It's About the Money" is dead on in that when you have to win three series to be the champion, the field is always the favorite. The writers of that site also pointed out that any other way of looking at it diminishes what the Yankees did accomplish and what the Rangers accomplished this season. Mostly on the road, the Yankees record for the playoffs this year was 5-4. That's not an embarrassment by any means.

Yes, the Fan's team lost and that is sad. But, this Fan has been a huge MLB fan for a lifetime and as a Fan, this writer is stoked about seeing Lincecum versus Lee and Josh Hamilton and the under-appreciated Vlad Guerrero and Buster Posey. The Rangers appear to be the better team. But the games haven't been played yet and that's the drama of it all, isn't it? And no matter who wins, the fan base of the two teams have an extraordinary moment in the sun. Shouldn't we all be thrilled for them? We should because we know (particularly Yankee fans who have had 27 years in the sun) how good that feels. It's always nice to share. Isn't that what we tell our kids?

Sunday, October 24, 2010

And Just One More Thing...

...if Girardi had handled his game six the way Bruce Bochy did with his pitchers, there might have been a second game today.

Just saying...