September 7, 2005
Performance Enhancing Jewelry
BEST MATCHUP (opponents with best combined Prospectus Hit List rankings): Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim (7th) @ Boston Red Sox (3rd)
Los Angels del O.C.
What's in a name? I know not
As with folks so 'tis with clubs
Among them all none hold candle
These Angels change their city
Are we confused? Oh, and how.
WORST MATCHUP (opponents with worst combined Prospectus Hit List rankings, provided both are in the lower half): Arizona Diamondbacks (28th) @ Pittsburgh Pirates (27th)
It wasn't too long ago that the Diamondbacks were within a realistic distance of first place. Now, the best thing they can say about their season is that there is no possible way they can slip below the Royals for title of worst team in baseball and that they have a pretty good bulge on the Rockies in their crusade to stay out of last place.
Why do I hate the September call-up system? There are a lot of reasons, but one of them is this:
Consider a Diamondbacks game from a year ago. On September 5, 2004, Arizona played San Francisco and lost, 4-1, in spite of having the upper hand in the pitching matchup with Randy Johnson on the mound against Brett Tomko. That sort of thing happens, so it's no big deal. What I find riling is that the Arizona lineup included four call-ups, only one of whom has even seen the light of day this year.
It will be interesting to see if Jason Bay gets any love come MVP voting time. Let's assume that the voters are going to lay a bunch of votes on Albert Pujols, Derrek Lee (in spite of the fact that the Cubs have tanked) and, probably, Miguel Cabrera. We're also going to have to assume that Andruw Jones is going to poll very high, perhaps even winning the thing.
Bay should, by rights, poll somewhere around fifth, but, at the very least, should be included in the top ten. With those four players hogging the top spots, that leaves six slots open. Two questions: why does this matter and who is Bay's competition?
First of all, this, along with the mid-season appearance of Zach Duke, will rank as the highlights of another lost Pittsburgh season. You can argue that the dismissal of Lloyd McClendon was a positive step, too, but only if he is replaced by a visionary manager who does something other than beat the team's collective head against the same old wall.
So, Bay, MVP…Bay is currently fourth in the league in VORP. He's in the same ballpark as Cabrera and slightly ahead of Ken Griffey Jr. of the Reds, another player on a flatlining team. He's been noticeably better than the next bunch: David Wright, Brian Giles (for whom he was traded), Morgan Ensberg, Jeff Kent, Carlos Delgado and Adam Dunn. Kent and Dunn will take hits from the voters for not being on contenders, no doubt.
We can sound off about his Hall of Fame-caliber EqA (.321) and his VORP, but, when trying to predict where he'll end up in the MVP balloting, it's more telling to explore the traditional stats and it is there that Bay's position is dicey. He's only 14th in home runs and barely cracks the top 20 in RBI (that's Runs…Batted…In for those of you not acquainted with the ways of the ancients). He is third in the league in runs scored, though. He's also the most reliable base stealer in the league among those who actually try to steal bases, not having been caught in 17 attempts. Oh--batting average! Who can forget batting average? He's right around .300.
A case can mounted that Bay is having one of the third- or fourth-best season in the league in 2005. Here are the top WARP3 numbers:
11.3: Derrek Lee
I don't expect Bay will get that much respect come voting time, but he should at least finish in the top six and, failing that, find his way into the top 10. Don't be surprised if he doesn't, though.
CLOSEST MATCHUP (opponents closest to one another in the Prospectus Hit List rankings): New York Mets (9th) @ Atlanta Braves (8th)
The Mets have six pitchers they can be fairly comfortable with starting games for them. So who to leave out of the rotation? Kris Benson and Victor Zambrano would seem the likely choices, but, if end results are all that count, perhaps they should ship Pedro Martinez to the bullpen. Since July 28, the team is just 2-6 in games he's started while going 16-13 the rest of the time.
I hope you all read News of the Weird whenever you get the chance. Chuck Shepherd does a great job of culling the most entertaining news items from around the world and packaging them in a succinct and witty way. In this week's installment, he discusses the report from the New York Times about the titanium necklaces worn by something like 200 major leaguers because they, according to the Japanese company that makes them, stabilize the flow of static electricity in your body if you're stressed or tired.
A better idea might be for the players to run some sort of aerial out their wahoos and transmit the excess energy to government receptacles designed for such a purpose. They could be paid for every spare kilowatt produced. The piece quotes Heath Bell of the Mets--an owner of two of the necklaces--as saying, "If you think it works, it's going to work. If you don't think it works, it's not going to work. But I'm going to keep wearing it because next year, there will be something new we'll all have to get." There's something wonderfully self-aware about that quote, yet it leads to this question: Does Bell's faith in the necklaces waver?
For instance, he had to have entered the game on June 9 doubting their usefulness because he gave up hits to four of the five Astros he faced and blew the contest for the Mets. Another such crisis in confidence must have followed a month later when he gave up four runs to the Pirates in an inning and two-thirds. The confidence in their worth returned in subsequent successful appearances, however.
This is a fascinating situation when you think about it. These are men who are exposed to the very best medical care in the world on a daily basis and yet they put their faith in something the likes of which would be more at home being sold off the back of a wagon at a state fair 125 years ago. You can react to this in one of two ways: you can either shake your head in mild disgust at the primitive state of their collective thinking or you can put a thinking cap on your own head and try to come up with next year's bogus device that they'll want to buy and make some money for yourself.