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Archive for July, 2009

I honestly tried to write a coherent, well-thought through piece about this, but I could not do it.  I just do not care if guys used steroids at a time when there was no way to punish them.  I have no idea how these writers for Sports Illustrated and ESPN keep churning out article after article about steroid use.  It may be because I am young and grew up watching the Juiced Era and do not know any better, but I thought it was a pretty accepted fact that Ortiz was on something during his tenure with the Red Sox, and that was just the way it was. 

28 years old DH’s do not randomly add 122 points to their OPS, 76 points to their ISO, and almost double their HR/FB rate over night.  All of these people who are now crying foul are hypocrites.  No one said anything in ’98 when Big Mac was hitting home runs left, right and center.  They said nothing about Ortiz in ’04 because he was so happy go lucky and part of a great story with the Red Sox.  Instead they chose to pick on Bonds, who has been driven completely out of baseball.  The only people who should be allowed to criticize these “cheaters” are guys who brought up the issue a long time ago.  Off the top of my head, I can think of Jose Canseco and Rick Helling.  Baseball needs to leave what happened in the past in the past.  If they are really serious about cleaning up the game, they should work on things they can actually control, like players using PED’s in the PRESENT.

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While it was generally accepted that the Giants would be a team to be reckoned with in 2010, GM Brian Sabean started the party early, acquiring first baseman Ryan Garko from the Indians and second baseman Freddy Sanchez from the Pirates.  My prediction is that these two players will help the deliver the Giants an NLCS championship.  They are huge upgrades over the production that the Giants are currently getting from these positions.  At first base, the Giants received a .747 OPS, ranked 25th in the league, and at second, a .601 OPS, good for a rank of 28. 

Sanchez brings to the table a .776 OPS, and will probably give the giant an extra fifteen runs above average based on weighted on-base average.  Garko owns a .826 OPS, and based on the same statistics, should give the Giants an extra five runs over their current production.  Over the course of 61 games, twenty runs is nothing to shake a stick at.  An extra .33 runs per game would move them from the 27th ranked offence in runs scored to 23rd, a significant increase.  If you add .33 runs per game to their current statistics this season, their Expected Pythagorean Record winning percentage would jump from a pedestrian .532 to .615.  To put that in perspective, the Yankees and Dodgers are leading the league with a .614 winning percentage. 

Already leading the Wild Card Race, the Giants, barring a serious injury to Tim Lincecum or Matt Cain, should slide comfortable into the postseason.  This is when they will be the most dangerous.  Lincecum and Cain form the most dangerous 1-2 punch in the NL, and will be extremely effective in a post-season series.  Let’s take a look at the Giants new and improved roster.

Lineup

C – Bengie Molina (80 OPS+)

1B – Ryan Garko (114 OPS+, 12.1 UZR/150)

2B – Freddy Sanchez ( 109 OPS+, 6.3 UZR/150)

3B – Pablo Sandoval (142 OPS+, -1.07 UZR/150)

SS – Edgar Renteria (65 OPS+, -1.9 UZR/150)

LF – Fred Lewis (93 OPS+, 3.0 UZR/150)

CF – Aaron Rowand (102 OPS+, 8.4 UZR/150)

RF – Randy Winn (86 OPS+, 15.1 UZR/150)

Utility IF – Juan Uribe (94 OPS+, 7.38 UZR/150)

On average, this line-up has an OPS+ of 98.3, barely below league average.  When you combine that with their stellar pitching, they will be a force to be reckoned with.  They are also an above average defensive squad, with a cumulative UZR/150 of 49.31 among these nine players.  This is 49 runs that the Giants will save on defence alone. 

Pitching

SP – Tim Lincecum (2.30 ERA, 1.05 WHIP, 1.99 FIP)

SP – Matt Cain (2.27 ERA, 1.21 WHIP, 3.81 FIP)

SP – Barry Zito (4.54 ERA, 1.39 WHIP, 4.37 FIP)

SP – Jonathan Sanchez (4.92 ERA, 1.47 WHIP, 4.33 FIP)

SP – Randy Johnson (4.81 ERA, 1.32 WHIP, 4.91 FIP)

Bullpen – (3.37 ERA , 1.32 WHIP, 3.74 ERA)

While starters three through five leave much to be desired, Lincecum and Cain are so dominant and throw so many innings that the Giants still have second best starting pitcher ERA in the league.  The bullpen is ranked third.  Even when you factor out the excellent fielding; the starters and relievers rank third and fourth respectively in FIP.

Even though Sabean gave up a big part of the future in Tim Alderson to acquire Sanchez, it was well worth it.  So there you have it folks, the 2009 NL Champion San Francisco Giants.

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Well, the defending world champions got their man.  No it is not Roy Halladay, but it is a second ace they can pair with Cole Hamels for a strong 1-2 punch.  The big win in this deal is that the Phillies kept their top two pitching prospects, Happ and Drabek, the former who is having a strong season with the big club.  If they had traded for Halladay, one or both of these guys would have been on their way north of the border.  The difference between Halladay and Lee is not big enough that it would warrant the Phillies giving up one of these two elite pitching prospects.  

Here is what the Phillies gave up (Baseball America Prospect Rank in parentheses):

Carlos Carrasco, RHP (2) – Carrasco topped the Phillies prospect rankings in 2007 and 2008, and has been in the top 10 since 2003.  He is still just 22 years old, but has not really put it together.  In 2007 and 2008, he put up ERA’s of 4.86 and 4.32 at AA Reading.  This year, he has a 5.18 ERA at AAA Lehigh Valley compared to 3.06 for Drabek, who has supplanted him as the organizations top pitching prospect.

Lou Marson, Catcher (3) – While Marson has a solid bat and excellent plate discipline for a catcher, his arm is not as strong as you would want, and he threw out 37% of base runners in 2008.  If his arm strength slips at all, he will no longer be able to play catcher, and his bat will no longer be nearly as impressive.

Jason Donald, Shortstop (4) – Another guy on the list who does not really have a position.  He has an excellent bat for a shortstop, but is below average defensively.  Scouts also say he barely has the skill to play second.  This leaves third base as his other option, but like Marson, his bat suddenly does not seem like such a weapon at a premiere power position.  Many scouts project him as a super utility player; valuable, but not a difference maker like Lee.   

Jason Knapp, RHP (10) – Knapp is a power pitcher who can hit the high 90’s on the radar gone.  Like many young power pitchers, he also has trouble staying consistent.  His command is sub-par, and he is certainly a work in progress.  While the Phillies used him as a starter, it is projected that he will be a power bullpen arm.  Like Donald, valuable, but not irreplaceable. 

Overall, the Phillies did well in this trade.  They traded some solid prospects but no “can’t miss” guys, and got a reigning Cy Young winner.  Lee’s low HR/9 will play well in Citizens Bank Ballpark, and he will also benefit from a move to the weaker National League.  While I do not know if this move pushes the Phillies ahead of the Dodgers as favourites in the NL, it certainly moves them closer.  Considering that 4/5 of the current Phillies rotation is now left-handed, and the Dodgers feast on left-handed pitching (290/.375/.444), this could pose a matchup problem against the Dodgers..    

Almost unmentioned is the fact the Phillies are also adding OF Ben Francisco.  Current 4th OF Matt Stairs hits exclusively against right-handed pitchers.  This year, he has 66 AB’s and a .879 OPS against righties, and only 3 AB’s and a .250 OPS against lefties.  Francisco, on the other hand, owns a .845 OPS against lefties, over 100 points higher than against righties.  This addition will give the Phillies a potent platoon off the bench, capable of hitting left-handed and right-handed pitching. 

While the Phillies did well in this trade, so did the Indians.  They received four legitimate prospects for a pitcher with a limited track record of success in the major leagues.  I would say it is even more impressive than the haul they received last year for CC Sabathia, although he was only a half-season rental.  The Indians have done well to restock their farm system, and within a couple of years have an excellent core of young players to support star Grady Sizemore.

This trade was the definition of win-win, and was well played by both sides.  The real losers are the Toronto Blue Jays, who played hardball with the Phillies and may be left with nothing at the deadline.

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It seems the Pittsburgh Pirates cannot do anything right.  Faced with brutal ticket sales for an upcoming series against the lowly Nationals, the Bucs marketing department came up with a “You Score As The Bucs Score” campaign.  I do not know about you, but I would rather have my “scoring” tied to something other than the Pirates offense, which ranks thirteenth in that National League.  Either way, the point of the promotion was that for each run the Pirates scored in their weekend series against the Diamondbacks, fans would receive $1 off of a $24 dollar ticket to a game against the Nationals. 

While they did bust out in game one, scoring ten runs, they were shutout the next two games by Doug Davis and Max Scherzer.  This left fans with a $10 discount to a game of their choice versus the Nats.  I think this is a slap in the face to the fans.  Pittsburgh is only averaging 19,074 fans per game, which is fewer than 50% of their capacity.  I understand that their ticket sales against the Nationals are going to be brutal, but the fact is they are not going to sell out against ANYONE.  Why make the promotion available only for a game against the worst team in the league?  You are not going to lose any revenue if you offer the promotion for the series’ against Arizona or St. Louis that are coming up.  You are putting a crappy product on the field; at least let your fans see a good visiting ball team for a discounted price. 

Also, why tie the promotion to your little league offence?  You know they are not going to score many runs, and the promotion will probably just tick fans off.  Why not make it something like $5 off for every hit Freddy Sanchez gets, $4 off for each strikeout Paul Maholm gets, or get a free ticket if Matt Capps serves up a home run.  Ok, maybe the last one is not the best idea. 

The first point I am trying to make is that organizational mediocrity is contagious, and spreads from baseball operations.  Poor performance on the field leads to terrible promotional ideas like this.  If you put a winning team on the field, you do not have to worry about embarrassing yourself with promotional campaigns like this.  The second point is give your fans something they want.  No amount of a discount is going to make someone excited about watching a meaningless Pirates-Nationals contest.  Baseball is a business like anything else, and people do not buy something they do not want just because it is discounted.  Pride.  Passion.  Pittsburgh Pirates.  Maybe twenty years ago.

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Here is my latest article at Inside The Majors in which I discuss the acquisition of Matt Holliday.

http://www.insidethemajors.com/?p=2369

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The last couple weeks have added a new wrinkle to a 2009 Mets season that most fans are already trying to forget.  Forget injuries to Reyes, Delgado and Beltran, or six home runs from David Wright, how about a member of the front office trying to throw down with two players on separate occasions, and the ensuing battle between GM Omar Minaya and New York Daily News reporter Adam Rubin.

About ten days before the All-Star Break, Bernazard took off his shirt and challenged the AA affiliate Binghampton Mets to a fight, specifically Jose Coronado.  While news of the event did not really surface until last week, it blew up in the tabloids and the Mets launched an investigation.  While this investigation was ongoing, Bernazard also got into a confrontation with star closer Francisco Rodriguez.  While Rodriguez did admit to it happening, he refused to elaborate on the event.  I do not know about you, but if I am already under investigation for inappropriate behaviour, the last thing I want to do is get into a fight with the star free agent pitcher. 

Barnazard has been under intense scrutiny for the Mets failures this year, and it appears the pressure finally got to him.  The team has been unable to replace key injuries from within, resulting in a disappointing 47-51 record, ahead of only the lowly Nationals in the NL East.  The AAA Buffalo Bisons are in last place in the International League at 37-61, while the AA Mets are also last in the Eastern League with a 39-61 record.

After the entire saga with Bernazard was wrapped up, Minaya proceeded to get in a war of words with Daily News reporter Adam Rubin, accusing him of trying to wiggle his way into a front office job by discrediting the current members of the staff.  Rubin was the man who reported the Bernazard stories, and denies Minaya’s accusations.    

While I have all of the respect in the world for Minaya, it appears he has lost control of the franchise, and despite a roster that includes stars like Beltran, Reyes, Delgado, Wright, Rodriguez and Johan Santana, has only made one playoff appearance since their Subway Series loss to the Yankees in 2000.  The secondary talent is simply not there to support the star players.  I think it is time for the Mets to make some changes at the top of the organization as well as on the field, and Bernazard’s head may be just the first to role.

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Bart Given recently posted an article on Inside The Majors about his involvement with a program called KidSport.  While professional sports get all the glory, it is important to recognize that sports are much more important at the grassroots level.  Little League, Minor Hockey and Soccer, Pop Warner Football.  We must also realize that not all children are fortunate enough to have the resources to play organized sports, so it is important to support organizations like KidSport.  Get out there to volunteer, coach or donate, and make a difference.

http://www.insidethemajors.com/?p=2339

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