Sunday, April 20, 2008

Who Would You Rather Have at DH?

- A future Hall of Famer who's long past his prime but still going strong?
- A backup catcher?

Today, the Blue Jays opted for the latter, releasing Frank Thomas and starting Rod Barajas in his place.

Toronto has made some comments about how it "wasn't fair" to keep Thomas on the bench. Maybe that wasn't in Thomas's best interests--letting him go to some DH-starved team like the Twins or Rays does increase the overall efficiency of Major League Baseball--but as their employee he's under contract to play when they tell him to. A backup DH isn't the most useful thing in the world, but surely Thomas has value to a team that's willing to play Rod Barajas there instead. Furthermore, is Thomas really looking so bad out there? Three homers and 11 walks in 16 games isn't that bad of a slump in my book.

There's no way this move is purely baseball-related. Maybe the Jays wanted to make sure Thomas's 2009 option wouldn't vest, but there had to be a better way than this.

Saturday, April 12, 2008

R-D Politics

I don't really follow politics--because it strikes me as the only bigger time drain than following baseball--so I'm probably missing something here, but it seems to me that Hillary Clinton's quest for the presidency is handicapped because she initially supported the Iraq War but is now against it.

To me, that's not waffling, or indecisiveness, or anything of the sort. It's a (perhaps belated) recognition that the Iraq conflict has not gone as well as planned for the USA.

It's not like she's alone. Wasn't America's population in support of the war when it began? Haven't they (mostly) changed their minds? Should we condemn every citizen for not foreseeing what would happen?

I'll probably offend some people by comparing something as important as war to something as trivial as sports, but here goes. I thought the Patriots would win the Super Bowl often enough to make a money line bet at -400 profitable. I might have been wrong at the time, but a lot of pros were betting the same way, so I feel fine about it.

Obviously, knowing what I know now, I'd prefer not to have made that bet. Does that make me a waffler or a poor prognosticator? No, it simply means that the results don't always match the expectations.

No one can say for certain whether or not the Iraq War was a "good play" when it began. But certainly government officials thought so, or they wouldn't have started the fight. And whatever you may think of them, they were better informed than you of the possible outcomes.

Rant over. I'll try to make the next post less controversial and more baseball-centric.

Tuesday, April 08, 2008

Tony La Russa Is Off The Wagon

Okay, maybe he's not, but I can't see why any sober person would bat Cesar Izturis leadoff because of his "high on-base percentage."

Mr. La Russa, let me introduce you to a concept called "sample size". It helps explain why A.J. Pierzynski may not win the AL batting title this year, why Chris Shelton won't make it to the Hall of Fame in spite of his April 2006 performance, and why your shortstop with a .297 career OBP did not suddenly learn to be a perfect leadoff hitter for your team.

Frankly, as a Cubs fan, it gives me great pleasure to see divisional rivals screwing themselves over by batting ex-Cubs leadoff, especially when they're allergic to walks, like Izturis or Corey Patterson. This move probably won't cost the Cards a playoff spot--they're not good enough to get there anyway--but it certainly can't help them.

Monday, April 07, 2008

Great Reading

Through Fire Joe Morgan I came across this blog, which is fabulous if your sense of humor is anything like mine.

I like to think that the three times i quoted "closer" in my last post were all necessary, but hey, who knows.

Saturday, April 05, 2008

When a "Closer" is a Bad Thing

Tonight, the Orioles entered the ninth inning with a two-run lead. Due up for the Mariners were two right-handed hitters and a switch-hitter. The Orioles' pitcher was Chad Bradford, who is extremely effective against right-handed hitters but bad against lefties. Their "closer" is George Sherrill, who is just the opposite: murder on lefties, but ineffective against righties.

What did manager Dave Trembly do? I think the answer is obvious, or I wouldn't be writing this.

Bradford wasn't too tired to go back out there. Did Trembley pick Sherrill because he gave Baltimore the best chance to win? No, it happened because Sherrill is the "closer" and this was a save situation.

There's nothing wrong with giving up the platoon advantage to put Jonathan Papelbon or Mo Rivera out there to close out a game, but when you take a lefty specialist (in relief of a righty specialist!) and let him face three right-handed batters just because of his job title, you're actively hurting your team's chances. Better to have no designated closer at all than to use him in this way.

Of course, the Mariners went down 1-2-3, so Trembley will make this same mistake next time.

Friday, April 04, 2008

Suspended Disbelief

Why does MLB bother issuing suspensions anymore? The standard five-game suspension for a starting pitcher is a joke, at worst delaying a hurler's next start by one day. Meanwhile, the appeals process often allows a position player to delay his suspension until he's injured or needs a day off.

And now we've come to this. Jonny Gomes tried "to figure out which day he would serve his sentence, which turned out to be Friday night." So the player not only has his suspension reduced, but gets to decide which game he wants to miss? I hope never to go to jail, but I could probably serve a 20-year sentence comfortably as long as I could divide it into eight-hour mini-sentences whenever I was ready for bed.

Since I'm ranting anyway, I'm going to turn to the dated topic of Monday's White Sox-Indians game and the interference call at second base. For those who didn't see the play, Orlando Cabrera slid into second base and extended his arm to break up a potential double play, while his foot was touching the bag. Cabrera was called for interference, much to the chagrin of Hawk Harrelson.

The ump had the authority to make this judgment call, but he still shouldn't have. When you have one set of rules on the books and a different set in practice, bad things always happen, whether it's Merkle's Boner or Cabrera getting called out. If all the MLB players think they won't get called for interference if they can touch second base, then don't call interference when the runner is actually touching second. It's just bad policy.

That said, I generally find a scorned Hawk to be hilarious, and this was no different.

Thursday, April 03, 2008

One More Fearless Prediction

The Tigers will not come close to scoring 1000 runs.

This isn't an overreaction to the first week, I just forgot to include it. Those who think this is an all-time great offense, or even the best offense in the league this year, are simply wrong. Just about everyone in Detroit's starting lineup is overrated for some reason or another (i.e. they made an all-star team five years ago, or had a fluke season last year).

Furthermore, scoring 1000 runs in a season is hard. It happens maybe once a decade, and this is not a once-a-decade offense.