'Cuse in the house

Just a quick note of congrats to the Boys in Orange, as they won their 10th lacrosse title over the weekend. They beat Johns Hopkins for the title and in doing so, became the winningest mens lacrosse program in NCAA Div 1 (Johns Hopkins had been tied with them with 9 titles, too).

When you get recruited at Syracuse, you’re going there to win a national championship,” said [Mike] Leveille, who was voted the NCAA tournament’s most outstanding player.

I was there when the Gait Brothers won three straight titles and while it was neat, I had little interest in it having never played lacrosse (not offered in my high school). Though, we did make some extra money for textbooks (um, yeah) making t-shirts celebrating the three-peat.

Of course, you wouldn’t know it just by visiting their website. D’oh. I’m sure those pesky webmasters are simply hung over from celebrating. Yeah, that’s it.

Continue reading 'Cuse in the house

Sobering anti-steroids stuff

The bloodhounds known as Mark Fainaru-Wada and T.J. Quinn are at it again. If you have any interest in where the sporting community is with regards to testing for any and all PEDs, you should have a good, long read.

Tell ya what, if I were a CLEAN professional athlete, I’d be signing up for “longitudinal testing” immediately.

Longitudinal testing, known in some quarters as an athlete’s “passport” program, might be the only chance anyone has to prove he’s clean. It’s an approach that involves rigorous blood and urine tests and establishes a baseline against which an athlete is subsequently measured. Right now the best assurance an athlete can offer is that he or she hasn’t failed a drug test.
[USADA executive director Travis] Tygart wouldn’t say whether anyone refused, but says, “An athlete’s involvement in this program proves that they’re willing to do whatever it takes to compete clean.”

Continue reading Sobering anti-steroids stuff

Whither Johan?

There was a subtle (or not-so-subtle depending on your acuity) murmur as Johan was being shopped this winter that he’s already into a decline. Maybe the Yanks and Sox were listening more intently rather than more confident in their prospects. Maybe the Mets knew this, too, but decided to take the leap. We’ll never know, but, as Buster Olney notes, the decline is real and becomming more obvious. {Insider access required for full access} [Note: I graphed Buster’s data, since I am indeed a geek who likes to see data visually.]

After the item on Johan Santana’s diminished velocity was posted here yesterday, some scouts from other teams chimed in, indicating through e-mails and phone calls that they were seeing the same thing. “The Mets were asking around about that in spring training, about what his true [velocity] baseline was,” said one talent evaluator. “They were concerned.”

Said an AL scout who has seen Santana this month: “His stuff isn’t even close to what it was [with the Twins].”

With that said, here are the primary indicators:

  • His ratio of strikeouts per nine innings over the last six seasons has been 11.38, 9.61, 10.46, 9.25, 9.44, 9.66. This year: 7.79.
  • His strikeout-to-walk ratio over the last six seasons: 2.80, 3.60, 4.91, 5.29, 5.21, 4.52. This year: 3.87.
  • Opponents’ OPS over the last six seasons: .607, .642, .564, .594, .616, .678. This year: .723.

As I wrote a lot about during the winter of Santana trade talks, rival talent evaluators saw a noticeable — not dramatic, but noticeable — decline in his stuff after his 17-strikeout performance against Texas on Aug. 19. He’s made 17 starts since then, and here are his primary numbers:

  • Innings: 111
  • Hits: 109
  • Earned runs: 50
  • Home runs: 20 (By comparison, Paul Byrd has allowed 21 during the same span)
  • Walks: 28
  • Strikeouts: 102
  • ERA: 4.05

(Since the beginning of the 2007 season, Santana has allowed 44 home runs — most in the majors.)

Santana’s historically been a better second half pitcher than first half, so if I were the Mets or a Mets fan, I would not be panicking yet. But, I’ll tell ya, I’d be nervous.

Continue reading Whither Johan?

Nerd Machine

I’m an admitted hybrid of stat geeks: I like all the new ways to examine and analyze the game, but I don’t obsess over them. I love OBP but I know others love OPS+. I appreciate WARP and VORP but don’t track or memorize the numbers or know how to calculate them.

That said, the new Pitch f/x on MLB.com is pretty neat. Have a ride in the latest Nerd Machine.

I’ve developed and often use this phrase as it relates to me and my job and I think it’s relevant to this discussion: Data is interesting only if you can turn it into actionable information; otherwise it’s just a waste of resources. We’re presented with so much data on a daily basis. It’s when you can turn that data into information that will affect decisions and strategy that it actually becomes useful. Otherwise, you have armies of people churning excel spreadsheets merely to stay employed.

Pitch f/x is simply another vehicle to help turn data into information.

And at what point can the Mainstream Media ditch the “nerd“, “geek“, “living home with mom in the basement while she washes my clothes” stereotypes?

Continue reading Nerd Machine

More on Instant Replay

Good buddy ShysterBall has posted a few entries dedicated to the possibility of Instant Replay in baseball and there’s been a good, spirited debate by the commenters, myself included. I wholeheartedly recommend a visit.

I’ll try to keep it brief and summarize my thoughts here:

  1. I’m entirely concerned about the slippery slope if IR is adopted for boundary calls (HR fair/foul, over the wall or not, fan interference on HRs). I do not want it used on safe/out or worse, ball/strike. Period.
  2. I think it will speed up the games, not slow it down.
  3. I think the ump’s would rather have help to get it right than be subbornly wrong. That was the attitude back in the 50’s, not today.
  4. This IR idea was proposed to Selig during the most recent off-season but Selig himself shelved the idea. So for those who claim —erroneously— that the only reason this is an issue today is because it happened 2x this week at Yankee Stadium, you are incorrect. The three incidents (the third being in Houston) this week were merely accelerants to have the proposal re-examined by Bud.
  5. I don’t think the cost will be material at all, at least not with respect to the revenues earned by MLB ($6B last year!).
  6. I think the ump’s union can be assuaged with the hiring of one more ump for each crew, and the rotation includes a night per rotation as “video judge”. More jobs for umps makes umps and their union leaders happy…just guessing.
  7. The NFL has restricted use of IR to only certain plays; MLB could and should do the same.
  8. The NFL and NHL has proved the concept of IR to be both successful and welcomed by players and fans alike.
  9. I firmly believe, and I’ve yet to hear a cogent argument to the contrary, that fans would rather have a pause in the action to get the call right than to have the call left wrong for eternity. Instant replay would not have reversed the Denkinger call back in 1985 but that’s OK. It would have changed the outcome of the infamous Jeffrey Maier play back in 1996. It would NOT have changed the outcome of the Bartman play.
  10. I hope MLB changes its normal pace of action and this doesn’t take a major blown call in the playoffs to enact change. We’ve seen the other leagues change their rules quickly. NHL changed a rule mid-playoff series. The NFL righted a wrong in the immediate off-season. The MLB would benefit to follow the leads set by their peers.

Continue reading More on Instant Replay

Get over yourselves

I just read this and my first thought (and you know what they say about your first, gut reactions) is that Lonn Trost and Randy Levine must really be the biggest wussies around. My other immediate thought was “so what?”

Ortiz will have the opportunity to be like Babe because of a Call Your Shot promotion that is part of the home run derby. The fan who wins the online contest will choose a spot where he believes Ortiz can smash a homer. Then Ortiz has one swing, one dramatic swing, to do it.

But the Yankees do not seem as if they want Ortiz to take that swing. The Yankees were upset about the plans involving Ortiz and said they were unaware of the promotion until a reporter contacted them Thursday night. The Yankees were discussing the matter internally and planning to contact Major League Baseball for an explanation.
Based on how the Yankees apparently feel about Ortiz, there has not been any thawing between them and Red Sox. Since Ortiz joined the Red Sox in 2003, he has manhandled the Yankees and powered Boston to two World Series championships. If there is one player that the Yankees do not want to see batting during critical at-bats, it is Ortiz. For everyone but the Yankees, it is one fun and potentially fan-profitable swing. The Yankees would rather have Alex Rodriguez, their home run hero, calling his shot. But Rodriguez has traditionally shunned home run derbies.

Has my hometown team become the biggest bunch of wussies? Has management become so over-the-top concerned about the same things we used to mock the Sox for: curses, hoaxes, etc.? Yeesh, this makes my skin crawl.

Memo to Yanks ownership/leadership: Get over yourselves.

[My own joke to myself: If ARod was picked for that promo, can I call “a high popup to the SS” as where I think he will hit that one pressure-filled pitch? ba-dum-cha!

Also, is there any doubt why ARod won’t participate in those Derbies? I don’t think so.]

Continue reading Get over yourselves

Happy Birthday, Mom!

Just a quick public birthday wish to my Mom! I just wanted to make sure I’m still your favorite son. After all, did your other son wish you a happy birthday on a website? I don’t think so.

Also, happy birthday wishes to my mom’s twin sis, Auntie Claus, as she’s known in our neighborhood for her incredible generosity. Other kids have asked my sons if Auntie Claus can come to their house sometime. Continue reading Happy Birthday, Mom!

Sumthin' fo' nuthin'

LaTroy Hawkins, the latest craptastic middle reliever/set-up schlub the Yanks brought in, was sent home for 3 days and fined for failing to retaliate properly. Well, that wasn’t in the memo, but it’s the reason why he is getting a long weekend off.

New York Yankees reliever LaTroy Hawkins has been suspended three games for throwing an inside, head-high pitch to Baltimore Orioles left fielder Luke Scott, Major League Baseball announced Thursday.

First he misses with a pitch that would have been OK. Waist high. Standard protocol for hitting someone after your star SS is drilled. But he freakin’ MISSED. Dumbass. Missed. So his next pitch sails over the batter’s head and Hawkins is tossed and there’s a bench clearing love-in.

Sounds familar, right? Because my favorite no-talent ass-clown Farnsworthless did the same damn thing to Manny earlier this year.

It was the second time this season a Yankees pitcher has been suspended for a high throw that did not hit a batter. Kyle Farnsworth was suspended for throwing behind the head of Boston Red Sox outfielder Manny Ramirez.

Not a big fan of self-quoting but here goes, from yesterday:

Hawkins & Farnsworth: If you miss an intentional attempt to exact payback from one of your teammates getting plunked, don’t try it a 2nd time with that batter. Getting ejected and insighting a brawl is useless and only serves to get your teammates hurt further. And for the love of all things holy, stop throwing near a guy’s head.

Continue reading Sumthin' fo' nuthin'

Now starting for the Yanks: Joba

So it’s official: Joba will enter the rotation.

Joba Chamberlain pitched the eighth and ninth inning of Wednesday night’s 8-0 win over the Orioles, and afterward the Yankees announced that it was the first step of the phenom’s much-anticipated conversion from lights-out set-up man to starting pitcher.

I am excited about the opportunity,” Chamberlain said of the transition. “First and foremost though, we got to win ballgames from here on out. So tomorrow starts another day of getting my legs and getting back on mound to see what happens. And making sure we win a game.”

On one hand, I am very excited to see what he can do. He’s exciting, engaging, emotional. He has proven that he can be successful at this level, albeit in shorter stints. The reports from those who know Joba and his repetoire better than any of us (bloggers, fans and professional writers alike) say Joba has other pitches that he doesn’t regularly use out of the pen. I hope that his starts become “must see” affairs. How cool would that be?

On the other hand, I’m a bit nervous for two reasons: 1) I have little faith in the others in the bullpen leading up to Mo; 2) I’m worried about him not succeeding. Now, I know #2 is a real wimpy thing to say, but after seeing Hughes struggle, Kennedy struggle, I worried that any lack of success will be detrimental to Joba. I am also concerned about expectations. Again, I know all these “things” are merely manifestations of my own fears and concerns about this team, but I try to be realistic, even if it’s sobering.

So who does Joba replace? Obvious choice right now is Kennedy or whoever is the #5 right now. After all, Rasner’s doing his best Aaron Small imitation and not giving up his #4 slot anytime soon, right? Moose isn’t really a #3 any more but last start not withstanding, he’s been pretty good. What about when Hughes comes back?

UPDATE: If you’re here from the Providence Journal, welcome. I love a good debate, just keep it above the usual “Yanks suck–Sox suck” stuff!

Continue reading Now starting for the Yanks: Joba