Wednesday, September 30, 2009

And Here's To You, David Robertson

Any baseball fan knows that come playoff time, even the smallest minutia take on a galactic importance. And nowhere is this more true than in middle relief. Guys on other teams you may not know much about suddenly become "the key" to winning a shortened series. Just think of the way the Angels used Brandan Donnelly in the 2002 World Series. Donnelly pitched 7.2 innings in the World Series all between the 5th and the 8th innings, building the bridge to F-Rod and Percival.

These are the guys who are asked to eat innings, yet get no credit. They come into games—often in perilous situations, and are told "Keep a lid on this." They are not flashy like closers—no huge fist-pumps—no "Shout-Out" finger-point to God. Just keep the game close until we can get to the big boys in the 8th and 9th.

And that is why I present, that if the Yankees make it far into the playoffs, David Robertson might suddenly become an important cog in the machine.

The Yankees have a closer—Mariano—and they have a solid, shiny new 8th inning guy—Phil Hughes. They have a couple of lefties—Phil Coke, Damaso Marte—and a long guy or two—Alfredo Aceves, Chad Gaudin. What they don't have is a reliable 6th and 7th inning guy who can come in, put out the fire when the starter gets tired, and get the bridge started to Hughes and Rivera.

Over the course of the year, Robertson has excelled in that job. Going into last night's game, Robertson had 61 Ks in 41 IP, leading all AL relievers with a 13.39 K/9 rate. He had a 3.24 ERA this season and was infinitely more reliable for the 7th inning role than the Jekyll & Hyde known as Brian Bruney.

However, the problem with Robertson earlier this month, when Robertson felt pain in his elbow. It got so bad, Yankee fans heard the words every sports fan hates to hear: Dr. James Andrews. However, after fulfilling his prescription of rest and rehab, Robertson pitched last night. He threw 0.2 of an inning and got 1 K. If he's able to pitch at least one more time, and do so effectively, Joe Girardi should take Robertson and plug him into his playoff roster.

Assuming the Yankees take 4 starters as well as Hughes and Rivera, that leaves 4 spots open for the rest of the pen. Girardi stated he'd like 2 lefties, meaning Marte and Coke both make it. Chad Gaudin has been pitching well and should win the long relief spot over Aceves, who seems to have fallen out of favor with Girardi. Which leaves one more spot.

When the Yankees won World Series, Joe Torre had a system designed to get games to the 9th and hand the ball over to Wetteland/Rivera. From 1996 until 2001, guys like Mike Stanton, Graeme Lloyd and/or Ramiro Mendoza worked the 6th and 7th innings reliably, and then handed the ball over to Jeff Nelson, and then to Rivera. It was designed to cut the game short, and it worked effectivly. If the Yankees want to have a similar kind of system, then—assuming he's healthy—they should give the 7th inning over to Robertson. With his exploding fastball with late life, plus power slider and ability to punch out batters, Robertson— has the makeup to be an effective reliever. He deserves the chance to prove it this playoff series.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Transactions....

Hey! No one told me it was nasty uniform Day!


You gotta like Nick Swisher's reaction in the Yankee clubhouse yesterday. Seems likes he really loves being a Yankee.


So did you hear? Michael Vick played yesterday!!!


On Football America Tonite (or whatever that NBC wrap-up show is called), Rodney Harrison said the way the Eagles were using Michael Vick in the Wildcat was foolish. Harrison said emphatically that Vick is a dropback QB, and the Eagles were wasting his talents. Boomer Esiason on the CBS pre-game show said Vick could start right now for at least 5 teams. Right now? Huh?
As I've said previously, the last year Michael Vick started, he threw for a 52% completion rating. Fifty. Freakin'. Two. And that was after 5 years of starting—not after 2 years of prison. And believe after being away from the game since 2006, Vick hasn't gotten better. Just older.
And if Rodney Harrison is right and Vick has lost his explosiveness and isn't the runner he once was, what the heck makes anyone think he should be starting? He was never a great and accurate thrower; Vick was always a danger to take off and run all over the place. And if he lost that, why pretend he was great in the pocket?
Especially on Philadelphia where you have McNabb, Kolb—who is the first QB in the history of the game to start his career with 2 consecutive 300 yard games, and Jeff Garcia.
Look, maybe Vick could start in someplace like St. Louis, because.....well, why the heck not? But it's hard for me to see Vick being the long-term dropback option for any football team. He's about to turn 30, his lifetime completion%+ rating is 80 (200 below average), and has lost a step. I wish Vick well, I really do—but all this talk about him being able to start right now and be one of the best QBs in the league. Please.


Dude. The Browns just aren't losing. They are playing awful. Mangini's play tough and smart concept is just not taking over in Cleveland. They look awful. And by "awful" I mean, they look like dog poo.


Somewhat related, supposedly agents are trying to steer their players away from the Browns. Apparently agents don't like the fact that the Browns played hardball with a couple of their clients, and also forced rookies to take a long bus ride to work a charity camp during the off-season. Really? This is the problem. So what happens if the Browns offer a free agent 20 million more than another team. Will the agent really steer his client away? Don't think so.


For once it seems like the schedule-makers gods smiled down on the Yankees. usually the Yankee have one of the tougher schedules in the league—a night games before a cross-country flight (because Yankees get higher TV ratings at night) Or like in 2004 when they opened the season in Japan, then had to fly like 45,000 to Tampa for a series against the Rays. However, next year, the Yankees have only no west coast trips after the all-star break next year, And only 2 overall. As opposed to this season where the Yankees have 3 West Coast trips, two in the last 48 games of the season. Or unlike the 4 they had in 2007.


The Steelers made a huge mistake not improving their offensive line this off-season. Coach Mike Tomlin/Foreman from House kept saying how improved they were in camp. Hmmmm, no. No only are they 1-2, they can' run the ball. Willie Parker is averging 3.1 yards a carry, and except for one long run by Rashard Mendenhall, the Steelers have done diddly + squat on the ground turning them into a one-dimensional team. And when you're one-dimensional, you lose to teams like the Cincinnati Bengals. Don't believe me. here are the last few plays the Steelers ran when they were trying to play out the clock against the Bengals. Willie Parker for 3. Willie Parker for 1. Sack. Punt. Bengals drive. Bengals win. They should have paid Alan Faneca what he wanted.


And that brings us to the AAPTBNL Man of the Week. Carson Palmer. No, he didn't have the best stats. All he did was drive the Bengals twice in the 4th quarter to beat the Steelers, something haven't done since before the Brooklyn Bridge was built. And the last drive included 2 tough 4th down completions. Well done Carson, you've earned it.


Oh, one other question about the NFL NBC wrap-up show. Why do they make Peter King stand when he gives his "insider information." He doesn't use a screen or telestrator, so he doesn't need to stand. Why wont they let him sit with the big kids?


By the way, just saw this shot again, and wow ... it's not just that Federer hit it, but he hit it amazingly accurately and hard. I couldn't hit that shot that well facing the court, much less the way Federer did it.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Friday Five

OK, here are the 5 questions for this week.

1. Do you think having an outdoor baseball stadium in Minneapolis—where games will be played in very early April and possible late October, is a bad idea?

2. Worst uniform in college football. Which is it?

3. Does female grunting in tennis bother you? Turn you on?

4. Which playoff bound team has the best starting rotation? Bullpen?

5. Which sport do you hate the most?

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

It Does Matter

Don't tell me that A.J. Burnett doesn't prefer Jose Molina.

And more importantly, don't tell me it doesn't matter who catches him.

Some think that a pitcher's ERA with certain catchers is a overrated stat. Wrong. It isn't. It matters. Just like any working relationship, it matters how well you work with someone. Kismet matters.

And A.J. Burnett has kismet with Molina.

Going into last night's game, (before Burnett threw 5.2 innings, giving up 2 runs and striking out 11) batters were batting .204 off of Burnett when Molina caught him. They are batting .270 off him when Posada caught him. Batters had a .653 OPS off Burnett with Molina catching; .775 with Posada.

The last time Posada caught Burnett, he gave up 6 runs in 5 innings. Since then with Molina catching his last 4 games, Burnett has a 3.52 ERA. And that includes one rough inning where he gave up 6 runs in Seattle. Throw that inning out (I know, you can't, but for argument's sake) and
Burnett has given up 4 runs in 24.2 innings.

Or to put this in another way, the last 3 times Burnett has pitched to Posada, his ERA is a touch under 9.oo.

Joe Girardi would have you believe that if Molina catches Burnett instead of Posada, it is just "...simply will be a result of the way he's rotated his catchers." when Burnett pitches, and that there is nothing to the story that there are working issues between Posada and Burnett. "I think people are trying to make this a bigger story than it needs to be," Girardi says. Riiiiight. No, Girardi knows that Burnett is happier when Molina is behind the plate and Girardi's job is to make Burnett happy.

Mike Axisa of River Avenue Blues feels that the stats are overblown and that there's nothing to worry about. Well, as Bill Parcells says, you are what you're record says you are. And Burnett has been caught by Posada for 16 games, and 9 by Molina. With Posada, Burnett has a 102 sOPS+, with Molina his sOPS+ is 93.

Now why would Girardi, or anyone, argue with those numbers going into the playoffs?

Simply put, the Yankees desperately need A.J. at his best. The Yankees need a reliable two going into the playoffs. And in your heart of hearts, if you were the manager of the Yankees and needed a win against the Angels or Red Sox, who would you put behind the plate to catch Burnett; the guy who caught him to a 9.00 ERA in his last 3 starts, or the guy who caught him to a 3.52 ERA in his last 4?

Heck, even if Burnett just thinks he is better with Molina behind the plate, even if the pitch calls would be exactly the same as Posada would call, why not let him throw to Molina? If he's more thinks he's better, and for whatever reason performs better, why not make him comfortable?

Posada can DH if he has to. Burnett is more reliable with Molina behind the plate. The numbers don't lie.

Derek Jeter and the MVP

With Joe Mauer each and every day putting his stamp on the 2009 MVP trophy, and with the very real possibility that Derek Jeter may never win an MVP, the question begs: Does not winning an MVP tarnish Derek Jeter's legacy?

By any definition, Jeter is a lock for the Hall of Fame. He is a four-time World Champion, won the 1996 Rookie of the Year, the 2000 World Series MVP, the 2006 Hank Aaron Award (the year he got jobbed and didn't get the MVP). Jeter is also the all-time Yankee hits leader, closing in on 3,000 hits, and he has an outside chance for 4,000. All of this—plus the fact that on Bill James' Hall of Fame monitor, where 100 is the threshold for being inducted into the Hall of Fame, Jeter has 268—spells an easy entry to the Hall of Fame.

All well and good; however, if Derek Jeter retires without an MVP to his name, will that fact mar his legacy?

Some writers seem to think so. Go explore the web right now, or check out some baseball periodicals, and you’ll see how hard some of the writers around the league are pushing for Jeter to win the MVP despite Mauer's better numbers. Check out Hal Bodley of mlb.com's article
, or Allen Barra's article in the WSJ. Or here. Or here. In almost every article, aside from claiming that Jeter should win the MVP, there are mentions of his longevity, his leadership, and his consistency. And the fact that he's never won the award before.

A great many writers want Jeter to win because they feel that he’s been so good for so long (remember the comparisons early in his career to Garciaparra?), he deserves one. That he should have at least one in his career.

And by the “Jeter should have at least one” logic, they feel going into the Hall without one tarnishes his legacy.

To be sure, the Hall of Fame does have some day-to-day players who never won the MVP: Duke Snider, Gary Carter, Bill Mazeroski, Bill Dickey, Kirby Puckett, Eddie Murray and Tony Gwynn.

But Jeter is different. He’s supposed to be this generation's Cal Ripken, Joe DiMaggio or Pete Rose. The defining player of his generation. Determination, hustle and greatness on the field and grace and class off it. As opposed to, say, Manny Ramirez (who's never won an MVP), but who, while a mega-talent, is a famous "dog" on the field and less than classy off it. Unlike Manny, Jeter appears in commercials with Roger Federer and Tiger Woods, an implication of his world-class status.

While arguments can, and have, been made to Jeter’s talent, one explanation of why he hasn’t won the MVP might be the characterization of Jeter outside of New York. In short, that he is overrated. Just type "Jeter" and "Overrated" into Google and revel in the hate. Here's just one example.

The Wall Street Journal's Allen Barra discusses the anti-Jeter bias outside of the New York City Area:

And yet Mr. Jeter has never been voted the MVP. In 1999, most baseball analysts thought that the Yankee, who batted .349 with 24 home runs and a league-leading 219 hits, was the best player. But sportswriters chose Texas catcher Ivan Rodriguez. In 2006, the analysts again favored Mr. Jeter, who batted .343 and stole 34 bases, but the writers went with Minnesota first baseman Justin Morneau.

"I think there's always been a bit of resentment toward Derek outside of New York, where he is worshipped," says Dave Fleming of Bill James ­Online. "There's an assumption that New York players have an unfair advantage when it comes to MVP voting, but in the case of Jeter and other New York ballplayers like the Mets' Carlos Beltran, I think you might say there's a ­counterargument: namely, that to play in New York might cost you votes."


The argument made by Mr. Barra has serious merit. In 1999, Jeter had a higher BA, a higher OPS+, more stolen bases, more runs, a ton more walks. Pretty much the only stat that year’s winner Ivan Rodriguez had on Jeter was home runs (of course, he played in Arlington), and even that only amounted to .006 slugging points higher than Jeter. Even still Jeter placed 6th in the MVP voting.

The same could be said for 2006, when Jeter had a higher BA (2nd in the league), a higher OBP (4th in the league), more runs (2nd in the league), a heck more stolen bases (7th in the league) and struck out at a lower clip than eventual MVP winner, Justin Morneau. Jeter also batted .369 with “2 out and RISP” situations as compared to Morneau's .303, and Jeter batted .325 in "Late & Close" situations compared to Morneau's .299.

However, the past is the past, and this isn't a "By the Numbers" defense of Jeter's greatness or deserving. It is just that one can't help wondering if this season was Derek Jeter's last, best chance for the MVP. Jeter turns 36 next season, and unlike some power hitters who can keep their power later into their careers, Jeter’s game isn’t designed for old age. And this season, with Joe Mauer running away with the MVP, the question seems to be looming, will Jeter, like Duke, Kirby and Eddie, ever get his award?

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Transactions.....

These pictures break my heart. Constructions crews recently started to dismantle the old Stadium, and they have gotten to the point where they had to take down the white fence on the top of the Stadium wall. if you're not a Yankee fan, you wont get it, but its as if they tore down the Green monster or Lambeau Field. it just feels wrong.


Is it OK to officially call Reggie Bush a huge, aircraft carrier-sized Bust.


Word to the wise: Matt Ryan; Joe Flacco. They are for real.


Watched some of the Buffalo-Tampa Bay game yesterday—before it got so awful i had to turn it off—and Man! the Tampa Bay Bucs look awful. They made the Buffalo Bills look like the mid-80s 49ers. They got 13 penalties, gave up 218 yards to Buffalo's ground game (Buffalo got 90 yards on the ground the week before) and 438 yards overall to Buffalo. Geez. Jeff Jagozinski should send a thank you card to Tampa's Front Office thanking them for firing him.


So, the Tennessee Titans are 0-2. And while they have replaced Albert Haynesworth at least in run defense—both the Steelers and Texans didn't get squat from their run game, both quarterbacks had awesome days in the air. Big Ben and Matt Schaub had about 360 yards passing each. And there ain't no way you're gonna win much making opposing quarterbacks feel comfortable enough to throw for 360 yards.


Milton Bradley....what the heck is wrong with you?


Did Tom Brady look comfortable in the pocket once yesterday? He had a mega-case of the "happy feet" all day in the pocket; throwing off his back foot, on the run. Maybe he gets more comfortable as the year goes on. Or maybe the Jets got to him.


The only thing that didn't go right for the Jets yesterday was Vernon Gholston. Playing sparingly, he threw up a )-fer yesterday. No tackles. No pressure, no nothing.


Jack Del Rio: Time to get your resume ready.


Buzz is that Jason Bay will be getting an offer this off-season from the Toronto Blue Jays. One question: why would Bay want to go there. Boston will annually be in a playoff hunt, and Bay will have a great team around him. Toronto is cost-cutting so much, they just gave Alex Rios away, and couldn't find anyone to take Roy Halladay for their offer. Why would Bay want to go to such a franchise?


Mitch Mustain, at one time, one of the most decorated high school passers in history, is not only ranked 3rd on the USC QB depth chart, Pete Carroll now says that if he sees the field, it will be, wait for it, as a punter. Wow. The other quarterbacks who joined the college ranks that year? Matt Stafford, Josh Freeman, Tim Tebow and Sam Bradford. Seriously, Mustain....what the heck happened?


Losing 3 of last 4, 6 out of the last 10. Yeah, that'll about do it for the SF Giants.


OK, the AAPTBNL Man of the week...well, they are actually Men this week. The award goes to Rex Ryan and Mike Singletary. For changing the entire culture, attitude and belief in their respective franchises. The Jets hadn't won at home against the Patriots since before Tom Brady was throwing passes. And the 49ers—mired in mediocrity for year—have gone 8-2 in the last 10 games since Mike Singletary took over. Way to incorporate winning attitudes into your players! Congrats guys!!


And finally, something I forgot to post. Just would like to give big props to the Boston College band. Huh? Yes, really.

Linebacker Mark Herzlich was diagnosed with cancer earlier in the year. And as a tribute, the band will play with their faces painted a la Mark—like crazed vikings—for the rest of the year. A great and classy move. I'm sure, somewhere, mark is very touched.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

The 10 Best Yankees Ever

One thing I noticed in compiling this list: Any other franchise wouldn’t have a guy who won 3 MVPs, a triple crown and was probably the defining player of his generation….in 4th place on this list. But then again, these are the Yankees. And compiling this list was nigh impossible. But here it is: The 10 Best Yankees Ever.


10. Don Mattingly
Donnie Baseball had more intentional walks than any other Yankee ever. Ever. More than Ruth, Mantle, DiMaggio, everyone. Know what that tells me? That pitchers did not fear anybody else on the Yankees. So if they just gave Mattingly a pass, they would deal with Alvaro Espinoza, Ron Kittle, Steve Balboni or Wayne Tollenson. Mattingly is 9th all time for Yankee batting average, 7th in hits, 9th in runs scored, 8th in total bases, 9th in RBI, 8th in extra base hits and 1st in sacrifice flies—that last one typifying everything about Mattingly; he’d do anything to get the team a run. And remember, he played the second half of his career was with a bad back—a death knell for most athletes, yet Mattingly persevered. In the last series of his career, his first playoff series, Donnie Baseball batted .417 and slugged .708—a sad testimony to the fact that, if he ever had a decent supporting cast, what a post-season player he might have been.

9. Derek Jeter
The face of the latest generation of the Yankees. Has more signature moments in the playoffs than other Yankees have in their entire career (Mr. November, The Flip, 2000 WS MVP—2 HRs, 1 3B, 2 2B). Rookie of the Year, all-time Yankee hits leader. Jeter also compiled 3 Gold Gloves, Silver Sluggers in a time when a there were a myriad of young shortstops (A-Rod Garciaparra, Tejada). 5th all-time Yankee Batting Average, 4th in runs scored, 4th in total bases. 10th in RBI. .309 lifetime postseason batting average, which encompasses 123 games—so far.

8. Mariano Rivera
The best at what he does. Ever. 3rd lowest WHIP in history of game. Lowest ERA+ in history of game. 4th lowest SO/BB in history of game. All-time Yankees saves leader with 522 and counting. Postseason ERA of a ridiculous 0.77. An intimidator. Simply the best ever at his position.

7. Bill Dickey
The first great Yankee catcher. Lifetime BA of .313. 11 time All-Star. 9th in Yankee history for total bases, 7th in RBI, 8th for doubles and amazingly, tied for 10th in triples—just ridiculous for a catcher. Hard to SO—5th all-time in Yankee history with 21.800 AB per SO. Was in 8 World Series, winning 7. Was 57th in Sporting News’ 1999 Best 100 baseball players of all time.

6. Whitey Ford
Nicknamed Chairman of the Board for his ability to remain cool and unflappable while under duress. All-time Yankees win leader and 7th with a .690 win percentage. All-time Yankee leader in innings pitched, shutouts & strikeouts. Compiled 156 complete games. 4th all-time in Yankee history in adjusted ERA+ at 133. Lifetime ERA of 2.75—the lowest ERA of starting pitchers whose career began after 1920—and has a ERA+ of 133. His postseason ERA mirrored his regular ERA—2.71. Broke Babe Ruth’s record of 29 1/3 scoreless innings pitched in the World Series. Would win 6 World Series with the Yankees and won the WS MVP in 1961, the same year he would win the Cy Young.

5. Yogi Berra
Dickey would have been the best Yankee catcher of all time, if not for Yogi. 8th all-time for hits in Yankee history. 7th in total bases. Won 3 MVPs in an era with Mickey Mantle and Ted Williams. Received MVP votes in 15 consecutive seasons. 5th all-time in Yankee home runs and RBI. All-time World Series hits leader. Caught the only World Series perfect game in baseball history. Won 10 World Series. Had a massive 10 RBI and 3 HR in 1956 World Series. Led the Yankees in RBI for 7 consecutive seasons. Greatest living Yankee.

4. Mickey Mantle
Along with Willie Mays, defined baseball for his generation. Won a Triple Crown—for both AL & NL—in 1956. Won 3 MVPs and was an All-Star for 16 of the 18 seasons he played. 3rd all-time in Yankee history in On-Base plus Slugging, and 12th all-time in all of baseball. 2nd all-time in Yankee history with 536 home runs, 4th in RBI, 2nd in walks, 3rd in extra base hits, 4th in RBI. 2nd all time in Yankee history in walks, and 7th in history of the game. All-time World Series home run, total bases, runs scored and RBIs. Played his entire career on balky knees. Eulogized by Bob Costas, who said: "In the last year of his life, Mickey Mantle, always so hard on himself, finally came to accept and appreciate the distinction between a role model and a hero. The first, he often was not. The second, he always will be.”

3. Joe DiMaggio
13 time All-Star, 3 time MVP who lost 3 years of his career to World War 2. 4th all-time in Yankee history with a .325 BA; 3rd in slugging percentage with .579. Tied with Mantle for 3rd in OPS. 6th in Yankee history with 389 doubles, despite over 2000 less plate appearances than Mantle who has 40 less than DiMaggio. 4th all-time in Yankee home runs, again having much fewer plate appearances than the players around him on the list. 3rd in RBI in Yankee history, 4th in extra base hits. Would have had more HRs had he not played in Yankee Stadium with its cavernous left field. Indeed, except for DiMaggio, all of the top 8 Yankee Home Run leaders are lefties or switch-hitters. It was estimated had he played anywhere else, he would have had about 90 more home runs in his career. An icon. Referenced in Hemingway’s The Old Man and the Sea and in Simon & Garfunkel’s “Mrs. Robinson.”

2. Lou Gehrig
Just preposterous numbers. Lifetime .340 BA, .447 OBP and .632 slugging percentage. 2nd place in Yankee history with a OPS+ at 1.080, which is 3rd in all of baseball history. 4th all-time in adjusted OPS+ (but some might say that Bonds usurping Lou Gehrig is questionable). His .632 slugging percentage is good for 3rd in baseball history. 2nd in Yankee history in runs scored, hits, total bases. First in doubles, triples, extra base hits and RBI. 3rd in home runs. Won a Triple Crown In 1934. Upped his play in the postseason to a batting average of .361, a slugging percentage of .731 and a OPS of a whopping 1.208. Had 184 RBI in 1931. Holds the record for 23 grand slams lifetime. His average season over his career consisted of 37 home runs, 40 doubles, 12 triples and 149 RBI. Played in 2,130 straight games.

1. Babe Ruth
There is a reason the absurd numbers Gehrig put up only get him to second place. And that because of a roly-poly unathletic-looking boozer and carouser named Babe Ruth. Simply put, Ruth was the Man who made baseball what it is in American society. 3rd all-time in HRs, but in much few AB’S than Bonds or Aaron (To say nothing of other enhancements Bonds may have received). 10th all-time in baseball history with a .342 BA. 1st in OPS, 1st in slugging, 2nd in OBP. 4th all-time in runs scored, 2nd in RBI, 1st in Adj. Batting Wins and in Offensive Win percentage. Needless to say, he is in 1st place in all of these categories in Yankee history, except for RBI, where he is second only to Gehrig.

Batted 393 in 1923. The first to not only reach 60 HR, the first to reach 50, 40 and 30 as well. From 1920-1933, he averaged 45.5 home runs. Turned a moribund franchise into the greatest team in all of sports.

Also a terrific pitcher, with a lifetime 2.28 ERA with a 0.87 ERA in the World Series. Had 65 wins in a 3-year period with the Red Sox. Despite throwing 324 innings in 1916, did not give up a HR. Had a 158 ERA+ that year. Was in the top 4 of the AL in hits per 9 IP from 1915 to 1918.

Impact on America culture was incalculable, from Candy Bars, to anti-American WWII slogans (“To Hell with Babe Ruth!”). 3rd on ESPN’s greatest athlete of the century, well before television or mass media could have aided him. Took baseball, which was in free-fall after the Black Sox scandals and brought it to height never before thought possible. The king of baseball. Forever.


Honorable Mention:

Red Ruffing: 273 wins, 3.80 ERA, 7-2, 2.63 ERA postseason, HOF

Lefty Gomez: 3.34 ERA, 6-0, 286 ERA postseason, .649 W/L %, HOF

Bernie Williams: 2nd all-time Yankees 2Bs, 5th in hits, 6th HRs, 5th XBH

Jorge Posada: 5-time AS and Silver Slugger. 8th in Yankee history in HR

Spud Chandler: 2.84 lifetime ERA, 1.62 postseason ERA; 1943 MVP

Goose Gossage: Lowest Yankee ERA ever. 2nd in WHiP, 5th in SO/BB; HOF

Allie Reynolds: 6-time AS, .686 W/L %; 3.30 ERA, 2.79 postseason ERA

Mike Mussina: 5th all-time for Yankees at BB/9, 7th SO/9, 1st SO/BB, 123 ERA+

Tony Lazzeri: 10th All-time for Yankees in total bases, 8th in RBI, HOF

Ron Guidry; 3.29 ERA, .651 W/L %, Cy Young, 2nd all-time Yankee in SO

Bob Meusel: 10th in Yankee history in 2B, 7th in 3B, 8th in BA

Andy Pettitte: 3rd in Yankee wins, 3rd in SO, .632 W/L %


So that’s the list. Let’s hear what you all think and your top 10.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Friday Five

OK, time for the five questions....

1. Should Michael Vick have been suspended from the NFL. if so, how long?

2. Should the Brewers trade Prince Fielder for whatever they can get?

3. Does Lou Pinella come back as the Cubs manager next year?

4. What gratuitously stupid & nonsensical stunt would you do if somehow it would make your team win the World Series/Super bowl? Be as disgusting/creative/stupid as you can be.

5. Do you believe that Omar Epps and Mike Tomlin were separated at birth?

Thursday, September 17, 2009

"Fun"

This week, Torri Hunter, OF for the Anaheim Angels of California—or whatever they are called this week—said that he notices something different about the Yankees this year.

“There’s a different fire about those guys,” Hunter said. “I’ve been playing a long time. I know they hit homers, they do different things, but it’s the smaller things I see that’s different.”

Although Hunter said there was a difference about the Yankees, he could not pinpoint exactly what it was. Hunter said the Yankees routinely had the largest payroll so “you can’t say it’s that.” He wondered if C.C. Sabathia’s arrival was the reason for the difference. He also mentioned the jolly Nick Swisher as a positive addition.

“It’s something different over there about those guys, like they’re having a lot more fun instead of walking on eggshells,” Hunter said.

You hear that a lot around the Bronx this year. "The Yankees are loose." "It's a fun clubhouse this year." "The pitchers stay in the dugout, not the clubhouse, when it's their off day." And of course, there are the shaving cream pies, and kangaroo courts and all that. And the press eats it up, writing story after story about how much "fun" the Yankees are having.

Does it matter?

Does it matter if a team has fun? Does "fun" lead, in any way, to winning?

The 1977-1978 Yankees—aka, the Bronx Zoo—hated each other. Munson hated Jackson. Gossage hated Martin. Martin fought with everybody. And over them all, loomed King George Steinbrenner, who's presence made sure somebody or everybody would be held accountable if things didn't work out.

All in all, not the most "fun" atmosphere.

Those guys—Munson, Jackson, Nettles, Pinella, Lyle—might be characterised as "Fun" but their relationships with each other could be described as "Volatile" or "Ready To Explode in a Blind Fury." Yet those guys won two World Series. and one of those was with Billy Martin who would challenge players to fights, or drinks, sometimes in the same conversation.

The same could be said for the Big Red Machine Cincinnati teams of the mid 70s. Rose, Anderson, Morgan all had "big" personalities that led to sometimes-divided clubhouse (check out Joe Posnanski's "The Machine: A Hot Team, a Legendary Season, and a Heart-stopping World Series - The Story of the 1975 Cincinnati Reds." which just came out.) Yet those guys won two championships themselves.

And the same could be said for other sports. Shaq-Kobe won a championship. The Raiders of the 80s won two championships with the team, the coaches and the owner fighting each other and pretty much everybody on the planet. Fun? My guess; not so much on a day-to-day basis.

So, does it matter if teammates like each other, and have fun? Does it help a team win ballgames? I'm not so sure it's all it's cracked up to be, by the press. Maybe it helps some guys, but on the whole, I don't think it matters as much as everyone thinks. What's your opinion?

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Got a Bad Feeling About This

Maybe its nothing. Maybe it’s just like 1998.

The 1998 Yankees had pretty much wrapped up the AL title by mid-June. So in September, they went on cruise control. They lost 4 in a row in late August, 5 of 7 in early September, then 7 out of 10 in mid September before remembering, "Oh, yeah, we're a good team." They finished on a 7-win roll.

Hopefully, it's just something like that.

We really have no reason to be worried. They Yankees have the best record in baseball. I mean, we can't expect the Yankees to always win 12 out of 13 (like they did in early August), right? The Yankees only lost 3 out of their last 5. Nothing too bad.

Well......

What worries and gives me the sour feeling in my stomach is the way in which the Yankees have been losing. That is to say, terrible pitching. In the games they've lost this month, they've given up 6, 14, 10, 7 and 10 runs. And in those losses, the starting pitching's ERA has been a whopping 10.00.

The Yankees cannot just rely on Sabathia for solid pitching come the playoffs. And after Sabathia, the rest of the rotation rolls out like this: Pettitte—shoulder issues; Burnett—has forgotten how to pitch to the tune of a 7.67 ERA in the last 28 days; Chamberlain—who knows?; Mitre—Good Lord.

Meanwhile, the Red Sox—in a display of "Hey, we're not so bad, either!"—suddenly seem like World Dominators, having gone 15-5 since the Yankees took 2 out of 3 from them at Fenway in late August. And that includes having won 6 in a row, giving up just 8 runs in the process. The Red Sox, with a dominating performance Tuesday night from Matsusaka, would appear to almost have an embarrassment of starting pitching. With a revitalized Matsusaka, the Red Sox would compound him with Beckett (3.82 ERA; lifetime postseason ERA of 2.90), Lester (3.29 ERA; 1.51 ERA in the last month) and Buchholz (3.66 ERA; 5 runs in the last 28 IP). That's a pretty impressive starting 4 heading into the playoffs.

Again, this could be just a blip in “Yankee juggernaut 2009”. They are still 6 1/2 games ahead of Boston and have the best record in the majors. That said, Pettitte has shoulder fatigue—memories of last year, anyone?—making Chad Gaudin follow Sergio Mitre in the rotation. Who knows what you get from Joba on any night—is only giving 3 runs in the last 7 innings really something to get excited about? And can Burnett go into deep regression hypnosis so as to remember how to work his slider with a semblance of control. Burnett leads the AL with 87 walks and 17 wild pitches—think that kind of performance might hurt him come the playoffs? BTW, Chamberlain, even with his innings monitored, is tied for third in the AL with 68 walks.

And that's why there is an ookey feeling in my stomach right now. Of course, this could be just the Yankees on cruise control, like in 1998.

But I don't think so.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Transactions....

Good move, Michael Crabtree. Just a good move.


Sick amounts of injuries yesterday. Urlacher is gone for the season—which basically means that the Bears are done for the season. Donovan McNabb (is he ever not hurt?) injured ribs shouldn't be too bad—Kolb seems at least, capable, and they have a bye week after the third game. The Colts losing Anthony Gonzalez is going to be big. They had better hope its not too serious. Aside from Wayne, none of their wideouts has any experience.


Adrian Peterson is the Man. He's been the Man the day he walked onto the Sooner football field, and he's a Man now.


Great juke by Jason Witten on the TD run he had against the Buccaneers. First he gets away from the DB covering him, then he completely fakes Jermaine Phillips out of his socks. And remember, this guy is 6'5" 270. Damn. (The juke takes place about 1:25 into the video.)


Seems like Manning isn't missing Plaxico that much, huh?2-0-29 for 256 yards and passes to 4 different wideouts. Or that Romo isn't missing T.O. that much—353 yards passing, a career high. Guess wideouts aren't as valuable as they think they are, maybe? (Are you listening Michael Crabtree?)


Wait! Has the whole world gone topsy-turvy?


Is there any story out there right now, better than the Kim Clijsters story. Having retired 2 years ago to have her child, the unseeded Clijsters comes back and beats both Williams sisters en route to the U.S. Open championship. An amazing story. And a cute kid to boot.


Going further on the U.S. Open, and the whole Serena Williams thing: Let me just say this. Serena, what the heck is wrong with you? A while back I wrote that it wasn't classy for you to say that while Dinara Safina is ranked number 1 in the world, "We all know who really is number one." However, what Serena did this weekend takes it to a whole new level.
I'd say this was a one time thing, but it isn't. Serena has repeatedly shown herself to be a petulant, arrogant, often indifferent tennis player who, unfortunately, happens to be the most talented woman's tennis player of all time. She routinely shows up her fellow tennis players. She loses matches she could easily win just because she doesn't care—and only goes to the smaller matches to get paid and because she is forced to by the Women's tour is forcing her to. She shows no respect for tennis, her competitors or apparently, line judges, who she threatened to stick "this [expletive] ball down your [expletive] throat." Wow, you stay classy, Serena. Really, the sport, and the little girls watching, deserve better.


One last thing. Jon Wertheim of SI.com voiced an opinion that I briefly thought of myself. What if Serena, knew she was going to lose to Clijsters (She was down one set, and a point away from losing the entire match), and freaked out on purpose? Sort of like Mike Tyson biting off Holyfield's ear because he couldn't box him? I know, sounds a little fishy—but as Wertheim wrote: "We've seen elite athletes go to greater lengths to delude themselves."
Can FoxSports Football please get rid of that weird robot mascot football player. OK, I get it. it's a robot who likes football. Move on now.


I think Jake Delhomme might be done, no?


OK, for AAPTBNL's Man of the Week. Almost had to give it to the aforementioned Adrian Peterson, but he'll get more chances at that. For now, I give it to Issac Bruce: in one of the most under-reported events of the entire weekend, Bruce passed Tim Brown to become second only to Jerry Rice in career receiving yards. And he did it in two less years than Brown. So, if no one else will congratulate him, AAPTBNL will: Congrats, Bruce! you're the AAPTBNL Man of the Week.


And finally, gotta give it to Prince Fielder and the Brewers for having the best Home Run celebration I've ever seen.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Damon in 2010

After the disappointing 2008 season, if you had said that the Yankees would resign Johnny Damon after his contract would run out in 2009, most people would have thought you crazy.

Not that Damon played poorly. Not at all. In fact, his numbers generally, across the board were as good, or better than his career averages.

No. It had more to do with the perception of the Yankees after their subpar 89-win season. After 2008, the general consensus was that the Yankees were old, slow and brittle—the complete opposite of the AL-winning Tampa Rays. And to that end, Damon was one of the perceived culprits. He had been moved from center field to left field in Yankee Stadium (he had a -15 tally on Bill James rating system for centerfielders from 2005 to 2007) and wasn't considered an ideal fielder to cover the cavernous ground out in Death Valley. He had a chicken arm, and wasn't a threat to throw out your grandmother taking the extra base. And, he missed time to due foot and shoulder injuries.

So, with the Yankees feeling they had to get younger, faster and more durable, considering Damon to be a Yankee past 2009, seeming like a non-starter.

However, with the new season brings a new perspective. The 2009 Yankees, rebuilt, are cruising. And with their resurgence, comes a Johnny Damon who seems reborn. Or at least playing for a new contract.

Switched to batting second, Damon is on pace for a career high in HRs, RBI, Slugging percentage, OPS and walks. And while he will never be mistaken for Willie Mays in the outfield, he does have 6 assists, and is at the least, holding his own in the OF.

The blog, Pinstripe Alley recently posed the question of what should the Yankees do with Damon in 2010. To that end, Damon has publicly stated he'd like to return. And if a deal was short and relatively market price (and not Yankee-priced), the Yankees would probably be amenable. Why, with Damon aging, youngsters waiting to fill his spot, and the free agent market beckoning, would the Yankees consider resigning him?

Firstly, with Matsui most likely not returning, the DH spot would open up—which would give more options to play Damon’s bat without subjecting the Yankees to his arm out in LF every day. Both Posada, Damon and sometimes, Rodriguez can rotate through the DH spot giving the Yankees some flexibility.

Plus there is the question of the instability of the outfield. With Austin Jackson batting well in AAA, should he have a good spring, the Yankees might try him in CF, but that can’t be counted upon. Is Brett Gardnet or Melky Cabrera the long-term answer? And if Jackson does come up, would Girardi move Cabrera or possibly Gardner to...where exactly, LF, RF? Nady is most likely not resigned, but would the Yankees prefer Cabrera in RF over Swisher and relegate Swisher and Gardner to utility status? Or would they Cabrera move to LF and have Damon fill the DH spot on a regular basis? And what about the rumors that the Yankees would be making a play for Matt Holliday?

By resigning Johnny Damon, the Yankees would give themselves—something Girardi loves, and somwthing they can afford to give themselves—options. And Damon's bat is a very good option. By next year, the Yankees can protect themselves from Damon's arm and declining fielding skills to some degree—no matter what they decide to do in the outfield, be it Austin Jackson, Matt Holliday or whomever. Damon can DH, or spot start in the outfield, or fill in should someone get injured. His bat more than makes up for any declining skills he may have in the limited time he would be on the field. Singing Damon to a 1-year contract with an option makes the most sense. It gives the Yankees the flexibility they could use and keeps a good hitter and a good clubhouse influence in Pinstripes for a couple more years.

Friday, September 11, 2009

9-11

In lieu of the usual Friday quiz, I'd just like to take a moment to bring you some art from comic writers who drew what they felt from 9-11. Will be back to the sports tomorrow.



Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Completely Superflous But Totally Fun, NFL 2009 Preview

Previews and predictions aren't worth the cathode light rays burning your eyeballs as you read them. But, they are fun, and not only because, at the end of the year, you usually are so wrong. I mean, who picked the Cardinals last year?

That said, let's get into it.

NFC East
Dallas is ready for a crash and burn. The o-line is old, the secondary unsettled...the owner impatient. And who is catching Romo's passes? The Giants have some questions themselves at WR, but have a lot of quantity, if not quality to chose from there. Despite Vick getting all the headlines, the real story is who takes over for injured MLB, Stewart Bradley. Also, the rebuilt O-line hasn't taken a snap together yet. The Redskins...well they are getting tired for the real Jason Campbell to show up. This is his last chance.

New York: 12-4
Philadelphia 9-7
Washington 6-10
Dallas 5-11


NFC Central
Green Bay is the pick, and for good reason. Aaron Rodgers had a Farve-free summer and should be ready to tee off on a weak central division. The Vikings are also talented everywhere, but if Farve couldn't do it last year, what makes anyone think, a year older, he can do it this year? The Bears are getting a little old on defense, and have Cutler, Forte and.....on offense. Ooof. The Lions....well, growing pains is the phrase for them this year.

Green Bay 13-3
Minnesota 10-6
Chicago 8-8
Detroit 2-14

NFC South
New Orleans, despite Reggie Bush's numerous injuries, should be the leader of the toughest division. A revamped defense and Drew Brees will take them far. Matt Ryan just got the best security blanket in Tony Gonzalez since Linus Van Pelt. He will need it; Atlanta's defense could have problems. Carolina lost their run plugger, Maake Kemoeatu and since then, in preseason teams have been running all over the Panthers. And as for Tampa....nothing coming out of there makes anyone think there is a plan in place. Tampa could get the number one pick next year.

New Orleans 11-5
Atlanta 11-5
Carolina 6-10
Tampa Bay 2-14

NFC West
Arizona had a freak run into the playoffs last year. Can they do it again? It doesn't hurt to play in the NFC West, where they could easily win 6 games alone. The Seahawks have Matt Hasslebeck back, but his protector, Walter Jones is injured, as is Marcus Trufant. Seattle has a lot of talent, but a lot of question marks at key areas. If San Francisco is appreciably better this season—their roster doesn't have the talent, at least they should be more fun to watch with Mike Singletary around. And the Rams....need a lot of time for a complete roster overhaul.

Arizona 11-5
San Francisco 8-8
Seattle 7-9
St. Louis 3-13

AFC East
Might get a lot of flak for this, but with all the question marks on defense, I'm not sure the Patriots will be as good as they have been. Losing Richard Seymour, Tedy Bruschi and Mike Vrabel is a lot of leadership and talent. Miami took everybody by surprise last year. They wont this year, and while they lack some talent, they do have a lot of "Parcells"-type guys on the team. Rex Ryan has the swagger, and some nice pieces to work with. But it wont last for a true deep playoff run. The Bills Trent Edwards didn't throw a TD pass in the preseason and had 3 interceptions and a 46 QB rating. Think T.O. will be quiet if that happens in the real season?

New England 11-5
Miami 10-6
New York 9-7
Buffalo 4-12

AFC North
Yes, there are questions on both lines. That said, the Steelers are the class of the league right now, period. Joe Flacco is the real deal. And with Ray Rice improving and Kelly Gregg returning, the only question is, can anybody help Flacco by actually catching the ball? The Bengals are a cipher—the talent is there to go a long way, especially on offense. Yet, i can't see them doing it. The Browns are a while away from contention.

Pittsburgh 13-3
Baltimore 12-4
Cincinnati 7-9
Cleveland 4-12

AFC South
Indy has been the class for so long here, is it the year they slip? A new defense, new WR, a battered-up OL...maybe. The Titans lost D coordinator Jim Schwartz, but have new options on offense, with Javon Ringer, Kenny Britt and rookie breakout TE Jared Cook who had a nice preseason—watch for Collins to go to him. Good news for the Jags is that David Garrard looked like vintage 2007 Garrard in preseason. Bad news, is that they mustered only 2 sacks the entire preseason. The Texans completely revamped their defense, coaches and players. On offense, balance is there, as long as Schuab stays healthy. Possibly a surprise team.

Tennessee 12-4
Indianapolis 10-6
Houston 10-6
Jacksonville 4-12

AFC West
Is this the year the Chargers put it all together. The pieces are there, well except for Norv Turner. The rest of the division is a toss-up. Did Josh McDaniels do too much damage for the Broncos to come together—their defense is a mess anyway. The Chiefs are at least a year—and a pass rush—away. And my God, the Raiders are a pee-wee league mess.

San Diego 12-4
Denver 6-10
Kansas City 5-11
Oakland 3-13


NFC Division Winners: New York, Green Bay, New Orleans, Arizona
NFC Wild Cards: Atlanta, Minnesota
NFC Winner: Green Bay

AFC Division Winners: New England, Pittsburgh, Tennessee, San Diego
AFC Wild Cards: Baltimore, Indianapolis
AFC Winner: San Diego

Super Bowl Winner: Green Bay

MVP: Aaron Rodgers
Offensive Rookie Of The Year: Jeremy Maclin
Defensive Rookie Of The Year: B. J. Raji
Coach Of The Year: Mike McCarthy

Enjoy the Season.

Monday, September 7, 2009

Transactions....

Happy Labor-Free Day everyone. Now, let's see what's out there.

Gotta give Kim Clijsters big props for going this far in the U.S. Open. She was out of the game for 2 years having here child, then comes back and defeats the number 3 in the World. Not too shabby.


Hate to say it, but what happened Saturday Night to Sam Bradford is exactly what you feared when he decided to come back to Oklahoma this season. Bradford, who would have been a Top ten pick in the draft, if no the number 1, decided to come back and play another season in Oklahoma. And now, with the shoulder injury that occurred on Saturday, you have to wonder if he just jeopardized his chances to play at a high level in the NFL.


Quietly, Ichiro is having not only a superb career, but a Hall of Fame career. The 2nd fastest to 2000 hits, he is 5 hits away from 200 for the season. If Ichiro gets to 200 again this season, he would set the record for most consecutive seasons for 200 hits. A 8 time Gold Glove winner, Ichiro has a career batting average of .333 and averages around 35 or so steals a year. What's most amazing though, about Ichiro to me though is his durability. For a guy who's listed at 5'9" (yeah, right) 160 lbs, the man has never played less than 157 games a season. Amazing.


Completely hate the fact that the Jets waived Danny Woodhead. The kid, out of tiny Chadron State is in 2nd place all-time in the NCAA for all-purpose yards, behind Brian Westbrook. Barry Sanders is the only college player to accumulate more all-purpose yards than the 3,159 that Woodhead gained in 2006. He had 158 yards in 18 carries against the Eagles last week. I don't like the move. Not saying that Woodhead could have been the next Barry Sanders, but I think he had the kind of spark that could get a team going in certain situations.


What in the name of Jebus is Michael Crabtree doing? Holding out before you've played a down of professional football is always a dubious decision, but threatening to hold out for an entire season, your rookie season, because you think you should be paid more than guys who were taken ahead of you, is not just arrogant, but criminally stupid. How can Crabtree, who, again, has never played a second of professional football, deem 20 million dollars "unacceptable." And up until the second of next season's draft, Crabtree will be the property of the San Francisco 49ers. he can't go to the combine, can't talk to any other teams, he can sit on the couch and wait until the 2010 draft begins. Will his value really increase over the next season considering he has done nothing between last season's bowl game and the 2010 draft?
Good plan, Michael.


Amazing move by the Patriots on Sunday in trading Richard Seymour to the Raiders for a first-round pick. But let's think about it. Will the Patriots miss him this season? Most definitely. However, Seymour hasn't made the Pro Bowl since 2006, has been dinged up recently, turns 30 this season and will be a free agent next season—and you just know he will demand top dollar. So, instead of paying top dollar for past achievements, while on the wrong side of 30, the Patriots decided to send him to a team they feel will have a high draft pick next season. The Patriots have no problem getting rid of guys who are getting older and who demand more money—think back to the cutting of Lawyer Milloy in 2002. Planning ahead, heartlessly, is what has kept the Patriots consistently on top over the past decade.


To Russ Mitchell and his completely overblown column calling the Alabama-Virginia Tech game a disgrace, dude, lighten up. The game wasn't a disgrace, it was exactly what you expect: Virginia Tech to win through defense and special teams. And the reason why the Hokie running game "had no experience whatsoever" was because their returning starter got injured. So, really, Mitchell, lighten up.


Completely amazing that the second John Smoltz and Brad Penny get dumped by the Red Sox and move to the National league, they turn into Cy Young and Walter Johnson. Goes to show what pitching in the AL East is like.


Guy to watch: Austin Collie, WR for the Colts. A rookie, drafted in the 4th round, Collie has shown the ability in camp to play well with Peyton Manning in the slot. With good burst off the line, and good hands, Collie can turn into a nice safety net for the Colts and put up a lot of first downs for Manning.


And finally, the buzz is that the Nationals would like Bobby Valentine, who had been coaching in the Japanese League. Not a bad choice. Valentine did take two slumping teams, the Rangers and Mets, and make them appreciably better. Now, if he can bring his wacky glasses, he might distract the Nationals fans—all 5 of them—from how bad they are going to be for a while.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Friday Five

OK, let's do the 5-spot quiz for today.

1. Who was the best closer of all time?

2. Your favorite piece of sports clothing that you own/owned?

3. You favorite athlete turned politician?

4. The best seats you ever got at a sporting event. How'd you get them?

5. The best choke of all time in all sports?

Rivera For Cy Young?

Interesting question posed to Tim Kurkjian this morning. Does Mariano Rivera have a shot at the Cy Young?

The short answer is no. Zack Grienke—unless he completely and utterly implodes—is getting it. He all but wrapped it up with the amazing start he had.

That said; why isn't Rivera in the conversation?

I know, I know. Relievers have "the most overrated job in baseball," blah, blah blah. And yes, that thought does trickle through to those who vote for the Cy Young. But it's not unheard of; Dennis Eckersly won it in 1992, Mark Davis won it in 1989, and Steve Bedrosian won it in 1987 (all of them with stats not as good as Rivera has right now).

Add to that, the fact that Rivera got completely hosed in 2005 when voters gave the award to a completely undeserving Bartolo Colon over Rivera. Colon had a respectable 3.48 ERA and 122 ERA+ (neither of them his best numbers in those categories for his career). Rivera, on the other hand, had a 1.38 ERA and a preposterous 307 ERA+. Batters had a .177 BA on Rivera that season (compared to .254 for Colon.) Rivera didn't give up a run that year, from May 6th to July 8th, a span of 23 games.

And this year, he might even be more dominating. Since June 16th, Rivera, in 29 innings, has given up 13 hits, 1 run and has 29 Ks. Opponents have hit in the neighborhood of .130 BA off him in that span and have batted .199 over the season. That number (BAA) drops to .167 with 2 outs and RISP. His WHIP is a ridiculous .898 (which, incidentally is not even the lowest of his career, both 2008 and 2005 are lower—of course he didn't win the Cy Young either of those seasons). His career WHIP of 1.0136 is the third lowest of all-time, and the two pitchers ahead of his last pitched when World War 1 was making headlines. Oh, and his lifetime adjusted ERA+ of 201 is the best....of all time. By 47 points.

And we all know that the postseason is where Rivera makes his money. Of course that has no bearing in the Cy Young voting—but it's worth a mention here. In 117.1 innings pitched in the postseason, Rivera has given up 11 hits to the tune of a 0.77 ERA. His WHIP is .750. His so/BB is an insane 6.00. His lifetime SO/BB of 3.93 is 4th all-time.

And he hasn't gotten the Cy Young for any of this. He is without question one of the three most dominant pitchers of his generation (Pedro Martinez and Greg Maddux —both of whom rightly received their awards), and each and every team in the league would gladly trade whomever the Yankees wanted for him, even at 39. His durability is remarkable; minor aches and pains aside, the man has been as consistent as the Northern, Southern and any other star you'd like. What else does Rivera have to do to get the reward he so obviously deserves?

All of this is not to say that Grienke doesn’t deserve the award—he is a viable candidate. But as you can see, for as good as he has pitched, it really hasn’t helped his team all that much. Rivera, on the other hand, comes into a game in perilous situations, where his team hands him a game they can win—but need him to close for them. The pressure he pitches in makes 1 inning seem like 9.

Tom Kelly once said of Rivera; "He needs to pitch in a higher league." Dennis Eckersley said Rivera is "The best ever, no doubt." Alex Rodriguez once said, "If my daughter's life depended on it, I'd want Mariano Rivera closing." What else is there to say?

He deserves the award.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

The Verdict On Pitch Counts

Here's a quick fact. In the 70s, Earl Weaver used to break spring training camp with 7 or 8 pitchers, or about 5 less than are on most major league rosters right now.

Here's another fact, by way of Tim Kurkjian: "In 2000, there were 454 starts of at least 120 pitches. Last season, there were 71 starts, or 1.5 percent, an 84 percent drop. In 2009, 1.9 percent of starts have been 120 pitches."

And here's one last fact. In 2008, there were 136 complete games pitched. In 1968, the last season of the higher mound, with fewer teams in the MLB, there were 897.

What all of this is saying, in a roundabout way, is that pitchers are being “protected”—by way of pitching fewer innings—much more than ever before. They pitch less complete games, and throw fewer pitches before being relieved. The practice begins way before any kid throws one pitch in the majors; rather it begins way down in the minors where young pitchers are given strict pitch counts, all in order to protect their organization’s investment in their arms.

The irony is, as Kurkjian writes: "More pitchers are on the disabled list today than ever before. It's a paradox: The less they throw, the more often they get hurt." How on Earth does that happen?

Perhaps, baseball guru, Bill James can explain. He writes:

Most injuries to pitchers are not the result of chronic overuse; some are, particularly to young pitchers, but most are not. They're catastrophic events, just like a heart attack or a torn muscle. They happen suddenly, and they happen when a pitcher goes outside the envelope of his previous conditioning.

Backing away from the pitcher's limits too far doesn't make a pitcher less vulnerable; it makes him more vulnerable. And pushing the envelope, while it may lead to a catastrophic event, is more likely to enhance the pitcher's durability than to destroy it.

Nolan Ryan would agree. He told his pitching staff before this season that a "Quality Start" to the Texas Rangers, would no longer be classified as 3 runs or less in 6 innings. No, now it's 3 runs or less with the starter going at least 7 innings. In point of fact, the Texas Rangers pitching staff is having its best season in years.

So…training pitchers to pitch more innings is a good thing, right? It toughens them up and gets them to survive longer. Well, not so fast.

The counterpoint argument would point out something called the "Verducci Effect" named after Tom Verducci of Sports Illustrated who wrote:

"The unofficial industry standard (regarding pitch counts) is that no young pitcher should throw more than 30 more innings than he did the previous season. It's a general rule of thumb, and one I've been tracking for about a decade. When teams violate the incremental safeguard, it's amazing how often they pay for it."

A good example of this might be Fausto Carmona. His first season with the Indians, 2006, when he was 22, he pitched 74.1 innings. The next season, he threw 215 innings and had a stellar 3.06 ERA. He has never been the same, with an ERA since 2007, hovering near 6.00. It's a similar story for theTwins' Francisco Liriano, who at 22, in 2006, threw a hundred more innings than he had the year before. He was out with an arm injury in 2007 and this year, has thrown for a 5.80 ERA. The story is the same for Mark Prior, Bill Pulsipher and many others.

Which is why Joba Chamberlain threw only 3 innings in his last start and whose pitch count is being monitored with the kind of scrutiny usually only given to NASA Space Shuttle calculations. But are strict pitch counts and inning caps really necessary? Do they really serve any purpose? Or do they actually do the reverse of what they are supposed to do—that is, train pitchers to pitch less, and cause pitchers to actually get weaker?

Steve Treder of the Hardball Times wrote an excellent comprehensive piece a while back, with loads of statistical analysis. His conclusion of pitch counts: "It is, in short, a policy that has delivered an extremely poor cost-benefit. Pitchers get hurt a lot; they always have, and 15 years into the era of significantly reduced workloads, they still do.

Hal Bodley of mlb.com goes even further: "Baseball's obsession with pitch counts is one of the most disgusting statistics the sport has embraced in the past 15-20 years." Well, that's a tad overstated, Hal, but point made. The zealousness with which certain managers, GMs and members of the media (What's the first thing a journalist does when a pitcher gets injured? They blame the pitcher's workload. As Orel Hershiser says, "Pitch counts have crept into the heads of managers, pitching coaches and doctors in part because of CYA, cover your ass.") adhere to pitch counts is a bit small-minded. Tampa Bay manager Joe Maddon describes his philosophy of pitch counts quite well:

"With me, I think it's wise," Maddon said. "But they should vary according to the individual. Some guys you can have more latitude with, others less. It has a lot to do with the fastball and command of it. Guys who have good pitch counts usually have command of it and have a good defense behind them.

"Look at Toronto's Doc Halladay [the AL starting pitcher]. He's never really been in heavy pitch-count trouble and he's throwing complete games because he's got great effectiveness with his fastball. I'm in favor of pitch counts, but I also believe it should be just one number for each guy."

Well said, Joe. Pitch counts are important, especially for younger pitchers and for pitchers not used to high workloads. But that doesn't mean if a pitcher is pitching a two-hit shutout, with 99 pitches in the 8th inning, you automatically yank him after the next pitch. This overcautiousness has, as Kurkjian pointed out, actually led to injuries. By babying younger pitchers in the minors, teams didn't properly prepare they're future aces for the workload waiting for them.

Tony LaRussa adds another point: LaRussa added, "Young guys today rely on stuff. They throw 100 pitches; they don't pitch 100 pitches. They are max effort on every pitch...Today's young pitchers are firing 85-90 pitches, fatigue sets in, and the next 15-20 they throw, they're still firing. A veteran at 70 pitches might have all kinds of stuff left. Clubs that have a lot of young pitchers are leery of pushing them because they know it's smart not to push them because they are throwing, not pitching."

LaRussa just described Joba Chamberlain to a tee. Chamberlain, as I've written before, doesn't know how to pitch yet. How to take a little off, how to reserve yourself for the long haul—he hurls every pitch, firing it violently up there. As a result, going all out and firing each and every pitch, they develop arm issues. Ask Kerry Wood.

Hershiser backs up LaRussa's point: "If your mechanics are good, you can throw 75 pitches without being taxed. But if your mechanics are not in order [as with some young pitchers], you could be worn out at 35 pitches. The light bulb goes on with a veteran pitcher about how to extend his career beyond injury and time by understanding the game."

Josh Beckett also talks about the difference between the types of pitches. "We've talked a lot about pitches per inning and the kind of pitches they are -- runners on second or third base with fewer than two outs—one pitch becomes a pitch and a half. Those are stressful. "

All of this is to refute John Kruk's outburst against the Yankees on Sunday night. In it, Kruk claims the Yankees have "wasted Joba Chamberlain" and why not let him pitch like King Felix (Hernandez).

Actually, John, Seattle kept Hernandez on a consistent workflow, never letting his arm jump in innings too much. In 2005, he pitched a total of about 170 innings. The next year, it increased only to 191. 2007 was almost identical and 2008 had him increase his workload by 10 innings. This year, Hernandez is expecting to jump a little higher, but definitely under the 30-inning threshold. Kruk's outburst of old-timey "just let him pitch" wisdom, while sounding good to the average fan, is a bit flippant. The evidence suggests that the Yankees playing it safe with young arms, is wise. Throwing an unprepared arm into the fury of a pennant race and a long playoff series would be foolish.

That said, while pitch counts should be kept, they should, as Maddon suggests, only be part of the data on a pitcher. As Steve Treder wrote in the Hardball Times, "...that there's a reasonable deployment of the tool, and there's an unreasonable, counterproductive fixation upon it, and over the past decade and a half we've left the former behind and driven ourselves right into the latter."

Amen.