Archive for October, 2007

From Right Field – Moneyball

Monday, October 22nd, 2007

Typically, I go in phases when it comes to reading. I’ll chew books up and spit them out in great regularity for periods of time, and then I burn myself out, and not turn a page for weeks. My wife and I have recently moved, and in doing so, we’ve made trips to the local library a scheduled event. I’d always heard about the book, “Moneyball” by Michael Lewis and had attempted to pick up a copy while killing time in airports during business travel. It never worked out. Two weeks ago, my wife came home with a little surprise, she looked it up, and sure enough the local library had a copy. I was off and reading.

For those of you that haven’t heard of “Moneyball,” the basic gist of it is how the Oakland A’s General Manager, Billy Beane, has consistently put the organization on the winning side of baseball since he came on board. Billy and his staff, which at the time of writing consisted of Paul DePodesta and J.P. Ricciardi, turned baseball on it’s head, with their new approach at how and what attributes are more important in determining winning in baseball. Stats, that “old man’s club” in baseball would like to make us think of as important, really are meaningless, where as On Base Percentage, Walks, Pitches per At Bat, etc., are more heavily weighted. Obviously, Mr. Beane and his crew were onto something, as we saw in the early 2000’s. Even as they lost players like Jason Giambi and Miguel Tejada, they continued to win.

For my taste, I’m not much into Sabermetrics, as I am completely math challenged, but Micheal Lewis begins with the touching on the history of this newer stat idea by discussing Bill James’ approach, and his thought processes gaining a toehold with others throughout the the last three decades. It’s light in math, and more into the history of how James came up with the roots of Sabermetrics. As someone that loves to just get a glimpse into the psyche of a baseball player, Lewis also tells the tale of Billy Beane’s major league career after being a high draft pick. I actually found the thought process that Billy went through being a young player fascinating. Mostly because he had some of the same thoughts running through his head, as I do when I’m thinking about my silly little baseball “career.” At a higher level of competition, it was somewhat comforting knowing that even a guy with loads more talent still questioned himself on a daily basis.

The second two thirds of the book really begin to cover how Billy Beane and Paul DePodesta ran the Oakland A’s during two of the most extraordinary seasons by one team. To top it, with one of the smallest payrolls. They’d put a winning product out on the field, with no name players, draft picks that weren’t highly sought after, and making sure Art Howe managed to fit their new way of thinking. It’s really no wonder that teams like the D-Backs, Rockies, and Indians (three smaller market teams) made the playoffs. One which is awaiting for either the Red Sox, another team that is following Beane’s model, or the Indians. If you haven’t picked up this book, I recommend that you do. You’ll see baseball management in a whole new light. And perhaps you’ll start to get a bit angry at how a team like Oakland can be competitive each year, while the Cubs cannot.

Matt’s Notes:

  • Saturday night I began to watch the Red Sox / Indians’ game. I know Joe loves Mr. Buck, but I can’t stand him. Even worse, is Tim McCarver. I’ve never listened to a guy that has absolutely no clue as much as him…well, with the exception of Joe Morgan. He was lamenting on how could any player lay off a pitch that looked to be right down the middle. Upon the replay, as you could see even during the actual pitch, the ball was really low and inside. I think only a terrible hitter wouldn’t be able to lay off that pitch Tim, or might that have been you?
  • We channel flipped Saturday night between the Bulls’ pre-season game, the Red Sox / Indians, and the Illini / Michigan game. It wasn’t until later in that game that Brent “I gotta tell ya, there’s the big fella” Musburger came up with this horrific statement, “They pulled out some trickeration.” Trickeration? You’ve got to be kidding me. Brent, you’re homerishness is reaching new levels.
  • My fingers are crossed for a Tribe win tonight. I thought the series would go seven, and here we are. Go Tribe! UPDATE: Booooooo!!!!
  • A much needed vacation is scheduled for this week. No “From Right Field” next Monday. I’ll catch everyone in two weeks.
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    Sunday Morning Webtopia

    Sunday, October 21st, 2007

    I’ve got some good ones for you this week. I’ll be back tomorrow with a commentary of the Q & A that Jim Hendry did with Carrie Muskat the other day. Until then, enjoy the world wide web.

  • Sean Gallagher was mentioned in the latest Monday Morning Ten Pack on BP

    Gallagher continued to impress Cubs brass this season, putting up a 3.10 ERA between the organization’s Double and Triple-A affiliates while limiting opposing hitters to a lowly .233 batting average and just four home runs. While he wasn’t nearly that success in a couple of brief big league stints, allowing 15 runs in 14 2/3 innings, he’s now in Arizona, and working on making a fresh start next year. In his first three innings, Gallagher has allowed just one hit while striking out four, a difficult task in the hitting-friendly environs of the AFL. He’ll likely go to camp next year with a real chance at a big league job, and his long-term role remains a valuable, durable, middle-of-the-rotation starter. (Source)

  • The Cub Reporter posted a humorous look at the 2008 season of the Cincinnati Reds now that Dusty Baker is the confirmed manager. I particularly like the entry for October 1st, 2008 (Source)
  • The Hardball Times takes a look at Why the commissioner is allowing the Mitchell Investigation to intrude on the Fall Classic. (Source)
  • MLB Trade Rumors breaks down a little bit about how Type A,B & C free agents are determined. (Source)
  • Ken Rosenthal addresses the issue of Manny Ramirez and his terrible antics. I usually agree with Rosenthal quite often, but when he suggest that the Red Sox trade Manny and sign A-Rod, that lost me. Does he not remember that in the off-season of 2003/2004, the Red Sox placed Manny on waivers and no one claimed him. If he wasn’t claimed for nothing more than a claiming fee of like $50,000, why would someone suddenly have interest in giving up prospects for him? (Source)
  • Our friend over at Cubby-Blue posted a funny cartoon of Lovie Smith that we thought we’d share. Be sure to check out his site more more great artwork a couple times a week. (Source)Every Sunday morning, we’ll highlight some good writing around the web and beyond. Feel free to send me submissions of things you run across, whether it be good YouTube videos, sports related blog posts, or good columns. In addition, this is a good day to submit some of your own writing for posting as a guest post. Send all submissions to:
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    Saturday Morning Coffee Thread

    Saturday, October 20th, 2007

    In game five of the ALCS, Manny Ramirez didn’t slide on an obvious sliding situation in the first inning and then argued a ball that went off the wall instead of taking second base. Are these things just Manny being Manny or are they a disgrace to the game?

    On a side note, I’ve been meaning to mention it, but the following players have become free agents under the minor league free agent rules.

  • Federico Baez, RHP
  • Cory Bailey, RHP
  • Gary Cates, INF
  • Robinson Chirinos, INF
  • Jorge Cortes, OF
  • Koyie Hill, C
  • Ben Howard, RHP
  • Geoff Jones, LHP
  • Josh Kroeger, OF
  • John Nelson, INF
  • Mike Nannini, RHP
  • Mike Mahoney, C
  • Ryan O’Malley, LHP
  • Carlos Rojas, INF
  • Ismael Salas, INF
  • Les Walrond, LHP
  • John Webb, RHP
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    Question for the Day

    Thursday, October 18th, 2007

    Does it frustrate you or encourage you that the Rockies are in the World Series already in their short history? Are you rooting for them or the AL rep?

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    Closure Part 2

    Tuesday, October 16th, 2007

    Each week I will make effort to write a Tuesday column that we have begun to title “Killing Time Until Opening Day.” Then on opening day we will probably need to change the title again. Then if the Cubs are bad we will just go back to the title even if it is mid-season like one of those perpetual calendars. As soon as we deem that the Cubs are out of it we will begin counting time until opening day next year.

    This column will sometimes be about baseball and sometimes not. Sometimes it might not even be about sports. Hopefully, you will find it interesting enough to read and provoking enough to throw in your two cents. This makes things more interesting for everyone. I have noticed that many people read the site while they are presumably at work and keep the discussions going throughout the day. This is good. A bored, laboring community joined together to beat the man.

    I had computer issues at home and so this column is a little short right now and I will extend it throughout the day. Last week I wrote an article entitled “Closure Part 1” which had to do with many of the things that the team did wrong in the playoffs. Next week I want to reflect on how far the team has come or not come in the past year. But the article from last week started what I think could be an interesting discussion and a timely one as well.

    This week the Cincinnati Reds hired Dusty Baker as their new manager. I have heard that there has been a backlash from fans regarding this hiring, I am not sure how true this is. But following my post last week there were some comments that implied that the team still would have gone to the playoffs this year even if Dusty Baker had been their manager instead of Lou Piniella. What do you think about this? Did Lou do anything that Dusty would not have done, aside from being a little more fiery? Would the team still have done as well with Dusty here? Or maybe would they have even done better?

    On another discussion note. Last night I was up late watching the Colorado Rockies celebrate the National League pennant. (Are you like me and know for absolute certainty that if the Cubs can ever do it you will break down sobbing like a little child?) So I was thinking to myself it seems to me that the National League teams that are successful build their teams one way and American league teams that are successful build them a different way. This is probably obvious, although I think there is more meaning to what I am saying than is present on the surface. But I was thinking last night that the Cubs seem to build their team more like an American League team than a National League team. Do you think this is true? Help me flesh this thought out. Why or why not?

    And finally a question that I think might be somewhat fun. During the press conference introducing Dusty Baker yesterday he said that a number of players called him and said they would be willing and excited to join the team. Who do you think those players are? I bet Jon Kruk, since they’ve gotten so close from hosting Baseball Tonight together…Krukky might be ready to throw on the cleats again.

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    From Right Field – Cleveland Rocks!

    Monday, October 15th, 2007

    As the Cubs season has moved past us, I’ve continued to watch baseball. Sometimes thinking about what might have been, as I still think the Cubs were the one of the top two teams in the National League to make the playoffs. Unfortunately, I’m not sure they would have found their way past the buzz saw that is the Colorado Rockies. Proving once again, that all you need to do is make the playoffs. After that, it’s anyone’s game. This year has proven tough, as I typically pull for the underdog, and this year’s final four can typically always be considered the underdog from year to year. Boston may be the only exception to that in recent history, but really with the Yankees in your division, you’re always going to be a second place team, if not by virtue of the standings.

    My family has strong roots in Cleveland. My father and two uncles both attended John Carroll University, before it was even co-ed (hee hee). My one uncle moved back there after a short stint in Chicago, and now my cousins have laid down families there as well. Even my wife’s best friend from college and her husband live in the suburbs of Cleveland. We’re pretty connected to the city, and I typically hear my relatives of Ohio complaining that if it weren’t for Chicago, the Cleveland fans would have the worst teams to cheer for. I agree to a certain degree. I pulled for the Indians back in the nineties, I loved Matt Williams in his lone year with them in 1997. That team was stacked, with a young Brian Giles, Manny Ramirez, Jim Thome, David Justice, Sandy Alomar, and Omar Vizquel. After the Cubs, I root for the Indians, and I was let down again back in 1997. I guess I’m a glutton for punishment. Then again, it’s still like rooting against the White Sox, right?

    This year, I was treated to opening day tickets from a friend. It wasn’t to the Cubs, it was for the White Sox. I know, blasphemy! He’s a season ticket holder, and I never pass up free tickets, no matter who’s playing. That day was against the Cleveland Indians. There was no way I was passing that up! I sat there in silent joy, as the Indians beat up the Sox twelve to five, leaving the Sox faithful disheartened, and somewhat flummoxed at what they had just seen. Over a steak at the Chop House, my buddy and his two friends that tagged along, was certain it was an aberration. There was no way the Sox would look that bad all season. He was right, they didn’t, but they certainly didn’t look that good either. It was the Indians that impressed, and I’ve been secretly cheering them on the rest of season, as I do every year.

    I’ve said before, that I have a man-crush on Eric Byrnes. That man-crush is only eclipsed by Grady Sizemore. I love watching him gracefully and effortlessly play outfield. If you haven’t watched and of the games, check him out. He makes baseball look easy. Not too shabby fora white guy. Then there’s Travis Hafner. Last summer, while visiting friends and family, we took in one of the Cubs and Indians’ games in Cleveland. We were introduced to Pronk. My cousin informed me he was brandished the nickname in the minors from being half prodigy-half donkey. I’m not sure what the heck that means, but after watching a ball reach the deepest part of the second deck, I was in love. He can flat out hit. Along with Victor Martinez, Jhonny Peralta, Ryan Garko, with veterans like Casey Blake and Kenny Lofton…..mmmm, Kenny Lofton, this team plays both small ball and the power game the way it should be. Which makes for fun baseball.

    These Indians are rockers and I am too, So, Cleveland Rocks!

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    Sunday Morning Webtopia

    Sunday, October 14th, 2007

    This week we’ve got some interesting ones for you. It’s not just Cubs related either.

  • Lou Piniella is going to the Yankees? (Source)
  • Notes from the Arizona Instructional League (Source)
  • Dusty Baker interviews with the Reds (Source)
  • Why the Diamondbacks won and why the Cubs lost. (Part I / Part II)
  • The Umpartial Observer – Why umpires are getting in players faces more than ever (Source)
  • Finally, this is totally non-sports related, but made me laugh pretty hard:Every Sunday morning, we’ll highlight some good writing around the web and beyond. Feel free to send me submissions of things you run across, whether it be good youtube videos, sports related blog posts, or good columns. Send all submissions to:
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    And Then There Were Four

    Thursday, October 11th, 2007

    If I have learned anything watching the National League playoffs unfold, it is this. The New York Yankee book of How-to-Win-a-Baseball-Championship does not work. Spend your money wisely; do not simply just spend it. Case in point, Colorado, 25th in the major leagues with a $54 million payroll, eliminated Philadelphia, and Arizona ranked 26th at $52 million eliminated the Cubs, in case you forgot the outcome of that series.

    What does work is this, developing young, talented players combined with a couple of veteran leaders. (Jim Hendry, I am available if you want to talk.) This series is not exactly made in TV ratings heaven. It is a series I think will be fun to watch. Let me set the stage. The Rockies caught fire late and are hot having won 17 of their last 18 games. In that span, guess what team handed the Rockies their only loss? You guessed it, the Diamondbacks. The Rockies won the season series, 10-8, while outscoring the Diamondbacks, 86-72. However, 12 of the games were decided by two runs or less, with each team winning six. This has the making of a seven game series. Heres why:

    NLCSColorado Rockies vs Arizona Diamondbacks

    The Rockies are playing baseball as it should be played. Good pitching and timely hitting. They are getting hits with runners in scoring position (I am talking to you Aramis). Leading the way for the Rockies is Matt Holliday, who belted 36 home runs and led the league with a .340 average and 137 RBI. He did however struggle against the Phillies hitting two home runs and an average of .231. I have no doubt he will be big in this series, even using his face to slide into home plate if needed. I doubt Troy Tulowitzki has another series batting. 167 and Todd Helton plays well against the Diamondbacks. In 160 games against them, Helton is hitting .327 with a 29 homers, 103 RBI and 116 runs scored.

    Do not look past the Diamondbacks. When a team has Augie Ojeda hitting .444 against the Cubs, they must be doing something right. Obviously keep an eye out for center fielder Chris Young, who will, if thrown a fastball, HIT IT OUT. (Now I am talking to you Rich Hill) while Stephen Drew hit .500 with two homers and four RBI in the three games against the Cubs. Edge: Rockies

    Starting Pitching
    I have to give the starting pitching edge to the Diamondbacks. Even though Brandon Webb has a 5.77 ERA against the Rockies this year, he is still Brandon Webb and he can win twice in a seven-game series. If push comes to shove, Webb could even pitch three times. He is slated to go in Game 1, but could then return on short rest in Game 4 before starting a potential seventh game on full rest. My advice would be just don’t save him for a Game 4 while he is in the middle of pitching strongly in Game 1*. (Taken from the Lou Piniella guide to playoff pitching.) Jeff Francis won 17 games this season and I barely know his name. He is a 7-2 lifetime against the Diamondbacks with a 3.54 ERA in 14 starts. After Francis, the picture is a little cloudy with names like Josh Fogg, Ubaldo Jimenez and Franklin Morales. Um, who?Edge: Diamondbacks

    Both bullpens are performing exceptionally well. In the ninth inning, The Diamondbacks Jose Valverde has proved to thrive on the pressure, recording the NL-best 47 saves this season. Arizona skipper Bob Melvin just has to remember not to call up Juan Cruz to early and the bullpen will be tough. The Rockies Manny Corpas was lights out against the Phillies, recording the save in all three games. Corpas posted 19 saves and a 2.08 ERA in a team-high 78 appearances this year. Interestingly enough, the Diamondbacks are just 3 for 36 lifetime against him. Edge: Even

    I predict the Rockies, in seven. If the extended days off did not damper the Rockies momentum, they are really going to be a tough team to beat. Their potential has been there all season, they just clicked at the last and best possible moment.

    ALCSCleveland Indians vs Boston Red Sox

    While the NLCS is highlighting the young and talented, the ALCS will highlight the 1-2 punch. The two teams in my mind are pretty evenly matched on paper, but as we all know that does not always translate out onto the field. The Indians may have a deeper lineup, but the Red Sox have Ramirez and Ortiz. The Indians may have Sabathia and Carmona but the Red Sox have Beckett and Shilling. Lets see how it plays out:

    Two words. Ramirez and Ortiz. Ok, that was three words but you get my point. Ortiz batted .714 with three RBIs and two homeruns in the ALDS. Manny hit a game winning shot in Game 2 against the Angels and hit .375. (Note to Soriano, Lee and Ramirez – those are what playoff statistics should look like) Mike Lowell also batted .333 against the Angels. As good as the big three are performing; the supporting cast needs to step it up. According to the Sports Network, Crisp (.200), J.D. Drew (.182), Jason Varitek (.182) and Dustin Pedroia (.154) all hit .200 or below.

    The tone is set for the Indians offense by none other than Kenny Lofton. Doesn’t it seem to be that way with every team he plays for. Lofton hit .375 against the Yankees, and was 5-for-7 through the first two games with four RBI and two runs scored. Grady Sizemore and Victor Martinez both had good series and look for them to continue that. The Indians need Travis Hafner to step up his production to be able to stay competitive with Boston’s powerhouses. Edge: Red Sox

    Starting Pitching
    It just doesn’t get better than this, two Cy Young award candidates, Josh Beckett versus C.C. Sabathia. Number one versus Number two, who will win? I really don’t have enough room to write about Beckett’s post season resume but take this into consideration – in his seven postseason appearances, spanning 51 2/3 innings; Beckett has pitched to a 1.74 earned run average. In Game 1 against the Angels, he held them to four hits with eight strikeouts in a 4-0 win. Dust off a place for your award Josh? I imagine following Beckett cant be to fun but that is exactly what Shilling will do. Say what you want about Schilling, the man knows how to pitch in the postseason.

    Although the Indians Sabathia won his start against the Yankees, he did not seem to have his best stuff and was in and out of trouble all night long. (and no, I did not forget I picked him to win the Cy Young a few weeks ago.) For his career, Sabathia is 2-4 lifetime against Boston with a 3.91 ERA in seven starts. Carmona, meanwhile, pitched brilliantly in the ALDS. He gave up just a run and three hits in nine innings, while striking out eight. If Manny and Big Papi stay as hot as they have been, it is going to be a long series for the Indians pitchers. Edge: Red Sox

    Who would have though only three months after the acquisition of Eric Gagne, he would hardly be a factor in the Red Sox bullpen. That hurts. Instead, the Red Sox will rely on Jonathan Papelbon, who posted 37 saves and a 1.85 ERA this season. He was only needed once against the Angels and got the win. Hideki Okajima has also seemed to get some much needed rest and has pitched 2 1/3 scoreless innings.

    For the Indians it all comes down to an ex Cub factor. This time it is Joe Borowski, who led the AL with 45 saves despite pitching to a 5.07 ERA. (Maybe we can call it the Ryan Dempster effect, plenty of saves but plenty of earned runs too.) Borowski will most likely be called upon in a key moment of this series and you are not really sure what you are going to get. Will he give up a home run or will he get the out. (Again, that sounds awfully familiar.) Stay tuned. The Indians three set up guys, Rafael Perez, Jensen Lewis and Rafael Betancourt, have been spot on and I am exited to see Perez match up against David Ortiz.

    I predict the Red Sox in six. If the Manny and Big Papi stay hot, maybe 5 and no doubt Boston will win a game with a walk-off. The Indians are clicking but I just don’t think it will be enough. Sabathia and Carmona are good but Beckett and Shilling may just be better. Edge: Red Sox

    Jacki’s column, Seven Up, Seven Down runs every Friday and highlights top stories in the world of baseball

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    The Minor League Minute

    Thursday, October 11th, 2007

    Baseball America released top 20 prospect lists for the Southern League (AA) and the Pacific Coast League (AAA) over the past days. Here is what it looks like, with our boys highlighted.

    1. Yovani Galladro, RHP (MIL)
    2. Adam Jones, OF (SEA)
    3. Billy Butler, OF-1B (KC)
    4. Andy LaRoche, 3B (LAD)
    5. Ian Stewart, 3B (COL)
    6. Felix Pie, OF (CUBS)
    7. Carlos Gomez, OF (NYM)
    8. James Loney,1B (LAD)
    9. Brandon Wood, 3B-SS (LAA)
    10. Luke Hochevar, RHP (KC)
    11. Jeff Clement, C (SEA)
    12. Mike Pelfrey, RHP (NYM)
    13. Edison Volquez, RHP (TEX)
    14. Wladimir Balentien, OF (SEA)
    15. Troy Patton, LHP (HOU)
    16. Eric Hurley, RHP (TEX)
    17. Billy Buckner, RHP (KC)
    18. Chin-Lung Hu , SS (LAD)
    19. Daric Barton, 1B (OAK)
    20. Geovany Soto, C (CUBS)

    It’s good to see Felix rated so high. Now if we would just see that translate to performance on the field at the Major League level. As for Geo, it’s great to see him turn into what could be our starting catcher in 2008. Here is a kid that was drafted in the 11th round in 2001, and has been basically mediocre over the past years until seemingly figuring it out at the plate this year in AAA and the bigs. I’m excited to see what he can do next year.

    1. Justin Upton, OF (AZ)
    2. Evan Longoria, 3B (TB)
    3. Wade Davis, RHP (TB)
    4. Johnny Cueto, RHP (CIN)
    5. Brandon Jones, OF (ATL)
    6. Reid Brignac, SS (TB)
    7. Tyler Colvin, OF (CUBS)
    8. Manny Parra, LHP (MIL)
    9. Gio Gonzalez, LHOP (PHI)
    10. Carlos Gonzalez, OF (AZ)
    11. Mark Reynolds, 3B (AZ)
    12. Chin-Lung Hu, SS (LAD)
    13. Brent Lillibridge, SS (ATL)
    14. Jonathan Meloan, RHP (LAD)
    15. Max Scherzer, RHP (AZ)
    16. Jo Jo Reyes, LHP (ATL)
    17. Diory Hernandez, SS (ATL)
    18. James McDonald, RHP (LAD)
    19. Gaby Hernandez, RHP (FLA)
    20. Alcides Escobar, SS (MIL)

    I like Tyler Colvin a lot. He’s one of my favorites in the system right now. I’ve been meaning to put together the audio of an interview with him and have just procrastinated with doing it. In the meantime, feel free to discuss this list or anything else on your mind.

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