Archive for February, 2005

More on the Last Pitcher in the Game

Monday, February 28th, 2005

The Hardball Times posted some research about how relievers are being used. I’m not going to attempt to summarize it ‘cuz I don’t really have a handle on it myself, but it’s worth reading.

Instead, I’ll take some of their own words:

A closer is two-and-a-half times more likely to be brought into the ninth with a three-run lead (75% of the time) than with the score tied (30% of the time). Excuse my bold formatting, but this makes no sense at all!

Three-run leads are gimme situations; fans are heading to the exits. On the other hand, tie games in the ninth are the epitome of crucial situations. Yet most managers would rather use their closer with a three-run lead. What gives?

Read the article and tell me if you agree or don’t agree: Regardless of whether it’s verifiable, players want tightly defined bullpen roles and managers use them in that way because they want to believe it makes things more predictable.Who knows if defying this usage pattern actually worsens most pitchers’ performances, but like Crash Davis said,

If you believe you’re playing well because you’re getting laid, or because you’re not getting laid, or because you wear women’s underwear, then you are!

So once again, the statistical survey of the game and conventional wisdom disagree. The team that can make their relievers believe in the “best guy for the tightest situations” approach would have a distinct advantage, but how do you change the minds of baseball players, whose superstitions and illogical beliefs are well-documented?

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Special Treat

Friday, February 25th, 2005

Since everyone loved the Clammy Sosa picture, I figured I would direct you to the official site of the characters. Here are a few of my favorites.

     Nomar Garciaparrot               Mia Hammster
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Enough Already

Thursday, February 24th, 2005

I am so sick and tired of all this Sammy Sosa garbage. I am making this pledge to all 5 of my readers. I WILL NOT mention his name again this year. That is my promise to you.

However, I did find this character to be hysterical. I give you, “Clammy Sosa”

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A little nugget of info

Monday, February 21st, 2005

Maybe I missed someone mentioning this, but I found it interesting. In the Sunday Sun Times, Mike Kiley mentions that Greg Maddux will not have a personal catcher this year. Dusty had this to day:

”I’ll have [Barrett] catch everybody,” he said. ”I have some things in my head I’m going to do. Maddux thinks [Barrett] is going to be one of the better catchers around. That’s a pretty good compliment coming from him. Michael is going to get better. Our staff is tough to catch. We’ve got guys with velocity and movement.”

Maybe it’s just me, but but I am excited to see all the team player demonstrations everyone has been exhibiting since the team was cured of cancer. Since then, Maddux doesn’t need a personal caddy, Prior wants to be friends will Barrett, Walker is positive. All the juices are flowing. I’m ready for baseball, and I think this team will be ready as well.

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Walker’s Words

Sunday, February 20th, 2005

www.mlb.com published a story about Todd Walker’s thoughts on the 2005 season. It seems like Todd’s been talking a lot this offseason, more than the other guys. Anyway, here are some of the things he said that I thought were interesting:

In 2001, the Seattle Mariners began the season without Alex Rodriguez, without Ken Griffey Jr., and without Randy Johnson. That 2001 Mariners team won 116 games and their division.

This little bit of baseball history is brought to you by Chicago Cubs second baseman Todd Walker. He sees a lot of similarities between the Mariners’ situation then and the Cubs’ situation now.

“The thing that keeps popping up in my head is that Seattle lost arguably three of the best players in the game,” Walker said on Sunday. “The year after Alex went to Texas, they won 116 games. They lost their big guys and had a level clubhouse and won 116.”

I’m not buying it, but what’s important is that the players believe it. If they think everything’s lined up just right for them, their Comfort and Self-Confidence scores will be at 100 out of 100, which means they can play up to potential.

“We lost 70 home runs but we didn’t have Nomar (Garciaparra) for a full year, I didn’t play a full year,” Walker said. “I figure we can make up a lot right there. (Jeromy) Burnitz is going to hit some home runs. He’s going to strike out, but he’ll hit some home runs. That’s 30 or 40. I think we can cover it.”


I like to see that Walker’s saying his year-round bat in the lineup will help. He could’ve gone the safe route and said he and Grudz brought different things to the table and whatnot, but he sounds like he’s chomping at the bit to get a full year under his belt.
I also like the way he confesses that he knows Burnitz is going to strike out a lot. So, incidentally, did Sosa. Burnitz won’t match Sammy’s production last year, in my opinion.

Known more for his offense than his defense, Walker spent a lot of time on his glove work. During the holiday break, Walker worked out with two other second basemen — one from college, one in the Texas Rangers minor league system — and they’d spend three hours a day at an indoor facility taking ground balls, doing sprint work, turning double plays.

That’s nice to hear; he’s working on his defense. The same response to the next quote applies here.

New Cubs coach Chris Speier, who will be working with infielders this year, also has gotten a head start by looking at video of Walker on the field.

Good for him. Shouldn’t they be doing that every year? Why isn’t that standard practice?

He made a crack about Sammy’s boombox later. At some point (I guess when Prior or Walker or whoever it was made mincemeat out of Sammy’s Salsa Machine) it became a standard question to ask about Sosa’s boombox. I expect it’ll be as annoying for the players to continue answering questions about the boombox as it was to actually hear the boombox.

Walker’s bat will help, so I’ll live with his defense no matter how bad it is. But if the offseason work pays off — and it seems unlilkely that he’ll suddenly reverse a career-long standard of mediocre defense — he’ll be a big asset to the Cubs this year.

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New Baseball Rule

Thursday, February 17th, 2005

One of the main complaints people have about baseball is that it is too slow. MLB is one step closer to potentially significantly speeding up the game. It appears that the minor leagues will adopt a new batters box rule this year. The rule calls for a batter to keep 1 foot in the box at all times or risk a strike being called on them. There are, however, some exceptions to this rule.

# The batter swings at a pitch;

In all seriousness, this is a good idea. Get the game moving, so more people may be interested. Maybe then, it can win over some of the people that can’t take the current slow pace.

Now, if MLB can just get this strike zone enforced.

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The Closer We Get

Wednesday, February 16th, 2005

As the season draws closer by the minute, the burning question on everyone’s mind is who the closer will be. This offseason there have been a god awful amount of names that have been thrown around. I’d like to offer some opinions on the names that were and are being considered.

LaTroy Hawkins

If I could choose anyone on the Cubs to not be the closer, he would be tops on my list. Plain and simple, he can’t get the job done in that role. Something happens when Latroy steps on the field in a save situation that makes his head implode. It’s not to say that he isn’t a good reliever or late inning guy, because he truly is. It’s just something about that “Closer” title that fouls up his whole mental game. Hawkins should not be considered for the closer role. With that being said, it is obvious that Dusty Baker either does not read this blog or reads but doesn’t regard my opinions. I tend to lean toward the former, but you never know. Dusty will give Latroy every opportunity to win the closer role in spring training.

Ryan Dempster

This guy is the other major candidate for the job this year, and I’m not really sure why. He’s a starter by trade, until he encountered a cluttered rotation last year. This year, I would rather see him compete for the 5th starter job with Glendon Rusch. In 2000 and 2001, Dempster won 14 & 15 games respectively in the starting role. Those are Kerry Wood numbers in the win department, and he’s our opening day starter. Rusch was impressive last year, but will we see a return to the previous year in which he posted a 6.42 ERA? It’s tough to say, but why not at least have a competition for that role. I would guess that Dempster, if given the choice, would rather start.

Kyle Farnsworth

I would have loved to see him get a shot at the role, but so much for that happening. Good Luck in Detroit.

Joe Borowski

If I had my choice, this is the guy I choose. He was great in the role before he tried to be an ironman and pitch hurt. Suddenly, no one remembers those days. He says he’s healthy, so should the job technically go back to him? I think it should. He earned it by pitching well. If we had a better option, that would be different, but seeing that there is not one, give the job to average Joe.

Conclusion

The competition has apparently been restricted to LaTroy Hawkins and Ryan Dempster. Hawkins is the incumbent, but not many Cubs fans have forgotten that he blew three saves down the stretch last fall. Dempster has saved exactly two games in his professional career, both of them last September.

What makes this particularly interesting is that general manager Jim Hendry seems to favor Dempster, while manager Dusty Baker seems to favor Hawkins. My guess? One of the starters gets hurt in spring training, and Dempster gets tabbed for the rotation. And at 32, Hawkins finally enjoys his first 30-save season.

I think Neyer smokes some good stuff to think 30 is the number for Hawkins, but it is interesting to see that Hendry and Dusty do not see eye to eye on this one. We’ll see how THAT plays out.

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Opinions Please

Monday, February 14th, 2005

Yesterday I was browsing some of the “legit media sites”, as if blogs were not included in that, and noticed this article about players / executives on the hot seat for 2005. One name that was mentioned was Dusty Baker. I was curious to see what my readers thought about that. So, please express your opinions. Don’t be lazy, just click the comment section and post if you agree or disagree. If you want to put why, all the better. There is no reason why if we get 150-200 readers today that we can’t have at least 50 comments on this post.

I will share my thoughts when I get home from work at 4 EST, so check back. In the meantime, fill that comment section up please.

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Mr. Sosa

Sunday, February 13th, 2005

Mr. Sosa’s initial business venture in Baltimore is a vineyard in the hills of western Maryland. On the bottle of Sosa Vineyard Select: “The growers provide the finest grapes, and I provide the cork.”

HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!

That said, I’d like to say that I don’t think the Tribune Company ran a malicious anti-Sosa campaign for nothing. Though they blew some things out of proportion, Sosa had been acting like an ass since the Larry Himes era, and somebody finally got so sick of it that they got rid of him.

Good riddance — the time had come — but I will, on two levels, miss Sammy. He was, after all, an excellent hitter for several years; that’s #1. #2 is that Sosa fits the same mold as Mike Ditka and Dennis Rodman in Chicago sports history. They were all strong personalities who couldn’t carry a team on their own, but if surrounded by quality, their strengths would make their flaws bearable. Granted, Ditka and Rodman won championships and Sosa did not, but he did have several great seasons for us.

It is with that in mind that I say good riddance and I will miss you all in the same breath, Sammy.

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