Friday, September 28, 2012

Jeremy Guthrie's Next Contract

Trying to make sense out of Jeremy Guthrie is almost like trying to explain the color red to a blind man. Guthrie was drafted by the Mets, wouldn’t sign, drafted by the Pirates, wouldn’t sign, and finally is the 22nd pick of the 2002 draft. He couldn’t put it together in three short seasons with Cleveland, they give up on him and let him go to Baltimore where he promptly turns it on for two years, follows it up with an inexplicable stinker in ‘09. Has a great year after that, then a weaker, but still respectable year in 2011. They sent him to the Rockies for two effective pitchers in Jason Hammel and Matt Lindstrom. He was so bad that he was traded after ½ of a season for Jonathan Sanchez. He emerges as the replacement for Sanchez in the KC rotation and turns it on again.

It appears that Guthrie really flourishes when people give up on him. He can really turn it on, just concentrate on pitching, but not until he makes himself a burden first. He is a free agent after this season, and the market is thin on top flight pitchers. Guthrie was truly awful in the first ½ this season, just terrible, So much so that he was relegated to the bullpen to limit the damage he could do in a given week.  In all fairness, the time in Colorado was the worst he’s been for any extended stretch in his professional career, and a lot of it can be attributed to his home starts in Coors field, the thin air ruins the break of a curveball, and in 7 starts and 2 relief appearances at Coors this year, he gave up 14 home runs and 20 doubles over 41 and ⅔ innings. By comparison he’s made 8 starts at Kauffman Stadium this year and has given up 5 doubles, 3 homers, and pitched 12 & ⅓ more innings.

He is also a flyball pitcher, so that much cannot be excused, if you’re letting opposing hitters put the ball in the air in Coors field you may as well just let them put it in the seats and jog around the bases. All in all, the first ½ of this season could be considered a wash for Guthrie who was all but set up to fail from the onset. Poor decisions made by the Colorado Rockies front office may well negatively impact Guthrie’s next contract unfairly.

Looking at the 2013 free agent class for starters we’re faced with a near formulaic grouping: There are a few excellent starters coming off strong years in their late 20s/early 30s looking to sign a big multi year deal (Zack Greinke, Jake Peavy, and to a lesser extent Edwin Jackson), there are older pitchers who are still productive enough to look for a multi year contract, but are realistically going to receive a one year contract (Hiroki Kuroda, Kevin Millwood, and Ryan Dempster), effective innings eaters (Joe Blanton, Joe Saunders), reclamation projects (Francisco Liriano, Daisuke Matsuzaka), and guys who aren’t living up to their potential (Ervin Santana, Dan Haren, arguably Carlos Zambrano). There’s no particular group that Guthrie fits into, he was terrible for ½ of a year, and he’s been an ace for ½ of a year. What do you do with that?

I think that many teams will be wary of the hot and cold nature of Guthrie’s performance but some are bound to be enticed by his potential. He’s got a successful track record, but has had bouts with ineffectiveness that have made his ace like potential difficult to count on. I am unsure of whether Guthrie will receive a multi-year contract, he’s 34 so counting on a 3+ year contract is unlikely, but maybe a 2 year contract somewhere around an annual value of 8 Million is not out of the question, but many teams may offer more on a 1 year contract with a 2nd year team option, maybe 10 million with a 2 million buyout and a 10 million 2nd year? Someone may be willing to overpay for his services given his track record but this season has certainly made it difficult to assess his true value to an acquiring team. There will certainly be suitors who are willing to give him a shot, possibly someone in the NL west, or the rebuilding Astros. In his position I may be one to look for a chance at the playoffs though, possibly accepting a 1 year deal with the Rays, White Sox, A’s, Yankees, Nationals, Braves, etc. would be in line with getting a chance at the championship. The Royals may make a play to keep the Stanford grad in their rotation, and there may be some interest in the NL Central from teams like the Cubbies, a pitcher like Guthrie can be valuable trade bait at the deadline if his contract is reasonable, so he may be a good gamble for a team that won’t likely be in the playoff hunt, but is looking to compete in a few years time.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

The Second NL Wild Card and the Teams that Want It

Something of a departure from the AL wild card picture, where all of the teams that are in the wild card race are close enough together that either/both of the spots could change hands at a moment’s notice, the NL is a totally different ballgame. Seven games separate the Braves and the Cardinals, and every team that’s chasing the cards are closer to being .500 teams than they are to being true playoff contenders. Also in a strange turn of events, just about everyone in the hunt for this last playoff spot is facing a reasonably tough schedule down the final stretch with not a single team in the mix having less than 6 games against current playoff bound opponents.

The Cardinals are in line for seven more games against sub par competition before closing out the season with three games against the Nationals and three more against the Reds. The four remaining games against Houston, and three against the Cubbies should have the Redbirds looking good going into that final stretch, and if ever there was a time to try to put some distance between themselves and the pack, it would behoove them to do so now.

The Brewers are two and a half games behind the Cards and have a marginally harder schedule to combat to actually make the playoffs this year, Currently in the midst of a three game set against the even .500 Pirates, they are also facing up against three games with the Reds and a four game set with the Nationals but they close the season with three against Houston and then the Padres, the Brewers need to gain ground during this last tough stretch and hope they can strike while the Cards are closing out the season against two playoff locks.

The Dodgers having split yesterday’s doubleheader are now two behind the Cards for the final playoff spot and aren’t exactly looking at a bunch of pushovers in the next few days to help them make their playoff push. They finish up a three game set against the Nats today followed by three games against the Reds. They get a six game respite from playoff bound opponents with three and three against the Padres and the Rockies but finish the season with a three game set against the Giants who, despite losing Melky Cabrera’s juiced up bat, gone 22 - 9 since the Melk Man’s forced vacation. The Dodgers certainly have enough talent on the team to make it through to the playoffs, but they will have to play their asses off against some stiff competition just to have a shot.

The Phillies are mathematically in the race, and if they had a cushy schedule to close the season, it might be a totally different story here, but with six games against the Nationals and three against the Braves in their last 13 I’m gonna have to call it for Phillies’ fans, there is no postseason this year, at least the Eagles are 2-0 so far.

The Pirates are similarly mathematically still involved but they’ve really only got the next eight games to make up ground before closing the year with three against the Reds and three against the Braves. The Pirates have been streaky enough to rattle off a few wins quickly, but they’ve faded over the second half and they might need another year or two to get over the hump and really make a postseason push.

Given the upcoming schedules for these postseason hopefuls, I don’t see too much reason to write the Cards out of it, honestly the Dodgers are just massively underperforming and while the Brewers have been hot of late (seriously, they haven’t lost two games in a row since before August 20th) it may just be too little too late.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

AL Postseason Hopefuls and the Schedules That Could Break Them

The AL wild card race is getting pretty serious down the stretch now, and we’re seeing that while the playoff picture is being painted at this point, we’re looking to see the season come down to the last game or two again this season. With that said, it appears that the last 15 or so games will make a good bit of difference. Of teams that are fighting for playoff berths outside of the AL Central (I have both already covered it, and both teams have worse records than the bulk of the wild card hopefuls). 

The Athletics have looked great this season, pitching especially has carried the team. It appears in fact that they may have a second and possibly third MLB quality rotation sitting between AAA and AA. They do however have a very difficult schedule going forward. Of their last 15 games, they have 12 against teams with a winning record and only three against the Seattle Mariners. Contrasting that, the Angels have eight of their last 14 against winning teams and six games against those same Mariners. Those 3 additional games against a last place team could certainly make a notable difference for them trying to get into the postseason.

In the AL East, the Tampa Bay Rays are apt to have the hardest time getting into the postseason, not only because of their record at this point, but because they are going to finish the season with seven straight games against teams that are currently in position to make the postseason, four against the White Sox and three games against the Orioles to close out their season. The Orioles and the Yankees are currently tied for the division lead after the Yankees were rained out yesterday. Both teams have 3 games left against postseason contenders, and are otherwise facing teams fighting to avoid the basement in their divisions. They have a pretty equal schedule at this point, and it’s somewhat hard to give the edge to either team given the A’s and Tampa are both very strong teams, and it’s hard to point to one and declare them the “better” team given their respective schedules but I’d probably give a slight edge to the A’s, which would give the Yankees the marginally harder schedule.

There’s a lot going on over these last two weeks of the regular season. Given the difficulty of the A’s remaining schedule, the Angels may surprise us and overtake them for a postseason berth, the Orioles may be in the midst of making a worst to first switch, showing everyone yet again that Buck Showalter and Dan Duquette are both still capable of turning a team around at a baseball moment’s notice. Without a real push, the Tigers will miss the postseason after making it to last year’s ALCS, and the AL Central will have a different division winner for the third year in a row.

Monday, September 17, 2012

The AL Central Lynch Pin

The Detroit Tigers have made their share of big moves in recent years, acquiring Miguel Cabrera and Dontrelle Willis from the Marlins, signing Jose Valverde, trading for Doug Fister, and this year’s signing of Prince Fielder but despite their frequent additions, and the hope that Fielder would push them over the edge this year and make them a World Series team, it appears that they may just be enjoying the postseason from their homes this season.

That said, the Tigers are poised to strike here, today’s game against the White Sox could be the most important game of the regular season for Detroit, They are 2 games in back of the White Sox and if they can narrow that to 1 game with only 3 of their last 16 games coming against a team with a winning record, and their final 13 coming against the Royals and the Twins. Contrasting that Chicago has 3 against the LA Angels and 4 against the Tampa Bay Rays in that same stretch. It will be a tougher fight for the White Sox to hold onto first than it will be for Detroit to overtake them, but it’s all a moot point if Chicago can keep winning games.

Detroit has the decided personnel advantage, but it now becomes an argument about heart and the kind of players you want on your team. Chicago has gotten a great deal of production out of some unexpected sources, A.J. Pierzynski has up and become some type of masher behind the plate, Alex Rios is contributing in a big way, Adam Dunn is the mold from which all 3 outcome hitters are cut, Paul Konerko has been rock solid, and despite his notable decline, Kevin Youkilis has been a productive addition. The White Sox also have themselves set up with a potentially very formidable 3 man rotation for the postseason, behind Jake Peavy, Chris Sale, and Jose Quintana the White Sox have a very dangerous rotation, and though their bullpen isn’t exactly a lockdown quality, it’s certainly serviceable enough behind those 3 pitchers.

Contrasting that the Tigers have a strong enough lineup to be competitive, but their middle infield is tragically anemic and their right field/DH are somewhat below average. That doesn’t take anything away from the potential the lineup has to burn an opposing pitcher, Fielder, Cabrera, and Austin Jackson have been spectacular, but with Fielder and Cabrera go the team’s offense, and that’s a lot to rest on two men’s shoulders down the stretch of a pennant race. The rotation is nothing to sneeze at, but Justin Verlander, Max Scherzer, and Fister aren’t quite the same type of dominant trio that has been helping carry the heavy load in Chicago. There is however, no denying the stronger bullpen in Detroit, while Brett Myers helps sure up the late innings in Chicago he doesn’t quite do the job Valverde, Joaquin Benoit, Phil Coke, and Co. have been able to lock in for Detroit.

Today’s game pits Quintana against Fister, in what could be the most pivotal game of their team’s seasons. Both young pitchers have had very good years, though Quintana has been struggling of late his last outing (also against Detroit) was an impressive 7 & ⅔ inning affair so he may have turned the corner after battling some fatigue late in the season. Both teams understand exactly what’s riding on this game, and I’m nearing certain that this is will be the real decider here, coming out of this game with momentum and a 3 game lead in the division, Chicago will be looking much better than Detroit, though if the Tigers can pull within one, Jim Leyland et. al. recognize their easier schedule and most certainly will look to capitalize on such.

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Why are the Cardinals still bunting?

Remember earlier when I said that Matheny hasn’t made many wise moves?  This is the sort of thing I’m talking about.

7th inning and you’re up a run, 0 out and a runner at first (David Freese for the record).  The Dodgers go to a lefty to counteract Skip Schumaker and Daniel Descalso coming up.  Matheny pinch hits Pete Kozma for Skip Schumaker.  Kozma, for the record, was a very reviled and derided first round pick in 2007.  He plays SS and fields his position well, and was probably going to replace Skip for defensive purposes later in the game anyways.  He’s not a great hitter by any stretch, but he’s on a decent streak right now (7/20 for the month), and he is probably a safer bet against the lefty coming in than Schumaker.


He tries to drop down a bunt.  Not once, but twice.  Fouls both off.  Winds up lining into a DP.  While I’m not nearly as upset at the end result as you’d think, I’m just upset at the methods that it came to.  I have a few reasons why.  Care to indulge me?  Why thank you!  You’re so sweet.  Remind me to buy you chocolates for your next birthday.  Anyways, here we go:

1) If you’re going to pinch hit, you should go up there to hit.  Not burn an out intentionally.  If you were going to do that, why not let Skip try there?  It changes nothing really, both ways are close to wasting an out, and Skip probably would have hit it on the ground (if he did at all) and potentially at least would have resulted in a runner on base somewhere.

2) If you were planning to waste an out, at least put Beltran up in that spot.  He has some power and his bat looks lately like it is returning to life.  If Beltran could have put you in a position to score multiple runs with the one AB he is probably going to get, might as well do it when you first get the chance.

3) The pitcher is fresh into the game and I think you’re more likely to get at a reliever when he is first inserted and trying to find the strike zone and gauge his stuff, especially early in the count.

4) The team as a whole, position players and pitchers included, have looked terrible at bunting this year, and I don’t think this is the time to be trying to bunt often.  If they want to bunt, they need to do a lot more bunting drills.  I would rather that time be used to increase their ability to hit for power, but if Mike is going to pull an Ozzie Guillen and try for small ball all the time, at least practice it more.

It wouldn’t be as bad if it was the first time in the same game that he tried something like this.  First two men reach in the 6th (score was tied at this point), Matt Carpenter facing a tiring Joe Blanton.  Matt Carpenter is a left handed hitter, who in utility plus play (not really an everyday guy but not a bench rider either) is hitting 303/368/496 for a tidy 135 OPS+ entering play.  He doesn’t make an out at a very good 36.8% of the time.  And, in a big spot with Holliday and Craig coming up behind him, he calls for the bunt TWICE.  Again, both failed and Carpenter ended up striking out.  Holliday hit into a forceout, so now with 2 outs and 2 on (only one in scoring position), Craig had to come through with a hit to score.  Of course he did because Allen Craig is an awesome hitter, but trying to take the bat out of Carpenter’s hands like that seemed to be a bad idea from the go.  In 310 PA in the bigs, Carpenter has never had a sac hit.  This didn’t seem like a good time to get his first.

All in all, two spots in a crucial game against the Dodgers that could have been used to set up for a big inning were ruined because Matheny had to play small ball.  It’s called small for a reason, you don’t score many runs.  I really hope they start swinging the bats like they should soon.  This team is too talented on offense to be relying on those tactics.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Molina's Mistake

Yadier Molina is my favorite catcher.  No joke, I think he’s great.  I’ve never seen someone fire missiles like he can from behind the plate.  And, over the past few years he has turned into a decent hitter and is having his best year currently with the stick.  I rarely can find fault with a catcher providing tremendous defense and hitting 313/366/490 with a wRC+ of 138.


Top of the 9th in San Diego, NO ONE OUT, runner at second, he drops down a sacrifice bunt.  Good old fashioned NL style smart ball right?  Right?

No.  It isn’t smart or the right play in that situation.  Why?  Well I’m glad you asked.  Here’s the situation:

1) You’re on the road down by one.  You can’t play to tie on the road, you have to play to take the lead.  Especially with as poor and leaky as the Cardinals’ pen has been this year.  If you get a chance to take a lead, you go for it, but not taking the chance to tie.

2) The runner is already at second base, so getting him to third with one out is stupid.  With no outs and a runner at second, the run expectancy is 1.170.  You’re almost guaranteed to score more than one run.  With a runner at third and one out, the expectancy is 0.989, meaning that you are most likely but not nearly guaranteed to score the one run, but a big inning isn’t nearly as likely.  So, you’re wasting a precious out, one of three remaining mind you, for...nothing.

3) Adron Chambers came in to pinch run for Allen Craig following his leadoff double.  That means that even if the game gets tied, you’re down a big run producing bat in Craig which will make it way too difficult to take the lead in the later innings.

4) Molina is one of the best hitters on the team, and it’s a team that is struggling to score runs lately.  Taking the bat out of his hands is like telling one of your great pilots in the air force to become a Kamikaze bomber.  Or like taking the sword out of your best knight and tell him to protect a lesser knight with his chest.

Following the game, Molina and Matheny said that the bunt call was Molina’s.  Matheny said that he has earned that right.  Ugh.  Look, Yaddy, buddy, you haven’t earned that right.  Albert Pujols had earned the right to call plays on his own because he is a no doubt first ballot hall of fame player and hits the ball hard and well.  He has done that for the better part of 12 years now.  You, my squatting friend, have been a good hitter for only 4 or 5 years now.  You have NOT earned that right.  But with the boneheaded moves that Mike Matheny has made this year (might do a post on that later), I can see why you would do that.  But please, grow a brain and never do it again.  I’m begging you.  I still love you, but I might have to divorce you if you ever try something like that again.

Forward to the future!

While I was taking a brief hiatus due to my move and just a recharge of my batteries, lots of weird and interesting things happened in the world of baseball, though I suppose none weirder than the fact that as of this writing the ORIOLES ARE IN FIRST PLACE OF THEIR DIVISION!  Just nucking futs as the kiddies say.

Well, as such I’m going to take some time to comment on a few items I find the most interesting in a small brief segment I like to call “Around The League In Eighty Days”  Editor’s note: It won’t actually be 80 days.  More like 3 or 5.

Topics I plan to cover include:

Poking fun at Bobby V!

Taking My Favorite Catcher to Task!

Dodgers/Sox Mega Waiver Deal!

Strasburg’s Shutdown!

And more.

Hopefully I can find my groove again.  If there are any other ideas for topics, give me a heads up.

By the way, according to Toyota, Eli Manning is GOD!  Who knew?

My glorious return

Just a quick heads up before I start bitching about the Cardinals poor play.

The Red Sox have Scott Podsednik as their DH tonight.

No joke, just pointing it out.

Why is Bobby still managing them? Oh yeah because they're a lame duck team and there isn't a lamer or duckier manager than him.

More to come. I swear.

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Clemens, PEDs, and the Hall

With all of the Roger Clemens drama going about, I have to say, at this point I just don’t care anymore. It does have me thinking a bit though. Clemens who, was great throughout his whole career, statistically probably deserved 2 or 3 more Cy Young awards than he received, but at the end of the day, isn’t all of the PED scandal “Barry Bonds did X”, “Clemens did Y”, crap just old news now? I can understand there’s some talk that Clemens is considering trying to dodge the Hall of Fame ballot for 5 more years, but who would really fall for that? Maybe I’m giving the writers association too much credit, but if they think he’s a PED cheat, and shouldn’t get in now, who’s going to up and change their mind in 5 years?

I mean, maybe it will come out that literally EVERY good player from 1989 to 2006 were juicing, and as such there was no actual competitive edge, but lets not kid ourselves into thinking that news will come out any time soon. Lets be serious for a moment though, Bonds, Mark McGwire, Sammy Sosa, Gary Sheffield, Rafael Palmeiro, Roger Clemens, Jose Canseco, Jose Guillen, Paul Byrd, Jason Giambi, and though he’s probably the only one I believe without any reservations, Andy Pettitte are all steroid or HGH users at points in their careers, all implicated in the Mitchell Report, and that’s okay. Really it made for an entertaining, if somewhat sullied period in baseball, and one day it will be a part of baseball history that we all look back on later in life for better or for worse. The triumphs of the clean greats through this time frame are made all the bigger by the realization that they were pitching against homerun hitting machines, players who made their careers largely, if not solely, on their ability to put the baseball in the stands. Batters as well, the truly gifted hitters of this generation are still great, and arguably stand out all the more for being able to do it clean, Derek Jeter, Albert Pujols, etc. are virtual Hall of Fame locks, and it’s made all the more impressive by the fact that some of the pitchers they were facing were taking performance enhancing drugs.

The whole HoF argument is the real kicker isn’t it? Who gets in, who doesn’t? Does a steroid cheat deserve to get in? I’m sure there’s a compromise to be had here, possibly announcing that anyone who gets in who has been implicated in steroid use will have that fact appended to their plaque? The Bonds and Clemens of the world can get in just fine, but they will be wearing caps with a big asterisk rather than a team’s logo, a reminder going forward that “They were great, so great in fact that we can’t absolutely justify denying them this honor, but we’ll always have to wonder if they could have done it on their own.”

Alternatively, we could as an entire community of fans say that if you get caught, you’re not getting in, period, end of discussion. You could strike out 600 batters over 240 innings, pitch to a 0.50 ERA for the season, win 28 games, and walk all of 3 batters for the season, but if at any point in your career you are found to have used PEDs, hit the bricks kid, there’s nothing at the end for you.

I’m not particularly sympathetic to the steroid users, I just don’t care anymore. I don’t know how long Clemens used steroids for, he could have used ‘roids from the second he was drafted to the second he retired officially after 2007, he could have taken steroids once in 2000 with the Yanks, maybe the day before he threw half of a broken bat at Mike Piazza? There’s no definitive way to tell, and that’s probably the trickiest part of it all.

Roid Rage, or just kind of a jerk?
With the Hall of Fame ballot looming for some of these guys, do we let the ‘roid users in and justify it as “part of the game’s history”, or do we say to hell with ‘em all, is there some non-boolean way to resolve this? It’s hard to say really.