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September 13, 2008

Prospectus Today

Heavy Schedules and Caffeinated Flashbacks

by Joe Sheehan

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I don’t do these as often as I should...

  • With Hurricane Ike now having passed through Houston, the Astros and Cubs await a plan for playing the three games that were scheduled for Minute Maid Park this weekend. The options are quite limited: the sole remaining open date for the Cubs is Monday, and it’s an open question how much baseball can get played in Houston after the significant hit the city takes from Ike in the next couple of days. That decision will be made today, with the possibility, reported by Adam McCalvy of MLB.com that the teams will play the three games over two days, Sunday and Monday, at a neutral site such as Miller Park. The Astros players and management were resistant to moving the games outside of Houston, but at this point, it’s hard to see what other option exists. It doesn’t seem likely that playing one game Sunday amidst a recovering city would be a good idea, and while the day after the season, September 29, has been floated as a possibility, there are so many problems created by it that MLB has to avoid that option at all costs.

    Why, you ask? For one, it’s unfair to the Cubs to make them fly to Houston for a single game on an off day between the end of their season and the beginning of the Division Series. That would provide a competitive advantage for any better-rested opponent. Moreover, the Cubs would be forced into the awkward position of deciding between their own best interests—which would certainly involve leaving some players, especially pitchers, behind in Chicago—and the integrity of the race. As it is, they’re probably going to have to play out their schedule without playing meaningless games, as they play the Mets and Brewers in the last week of the season. That’s a tough spot to be in, especially for a team that has famously gone 100 years without a title and has had some ugly post-season moments in recent years. There will be little rest for them down the stretch no matter how big their lead, and all attempts to get rest for players will probably be met with criticism. Potentially adding two flights and a game that means everything for their opponent to the mix would make that even worse.

    No, MLB has to move to get these games played this week, and if that means relocating them to Milwaukee, then it should be done. It’s not entirely fair to the Astros, but then again, neither is having a hurricane sweep through their city. This is an unfortunate consequence that MLB has to look to mitigate, even if in doing so they make a decision that displeases one team, or one owner

  • For all of the focus on Ike, the rest of the country spent much of Friday under water as well. Including the Cubs/Astros game, there were six rainouts, the most in a decade. That sets up a day with 20 games, weather permitting, with contending Mets, Rays, Twins, White Sox, and Red Sox teams all slated to play two. (The Red Sox doubleheader was already on the schedule, a makeup from earlier this season.) Clay Davenport checked, and if all 20 are played, that will tie for second place in a two-team-league era; the record of 21 was set on September 7, 1970. Twenty games on one day has happened nine other times, all between 1962 and 1974, the sweet spot where bigger leagues and doubleheaders intersect.

    We’re not out of the woods yet, either, as rain is in the forecast for broad swaths of the country, setting up a domino effect on the schedule. It’s supposed to rain hard in Chicago all day, putting the Tigers/White Sox doubleheader in jeopardy. Precipitation is also expected in New York, Baltimore, and Boston, so even if those games all get played, it sets up as something shy of a beautiful day for baseball.

    Personally, I like a little chaos, so a bunch of rain-induced doubleheaders and the loss of some offdays adds a little fun to the end of the season. I think a situation such as the Cubs might face, mentioned above, is an extreme to be avoided, but there are 20 baseball games today, 13 of which have relevance to one race or another. You can’t beat that with a stick.

  • One of those games—just one, as they’ll play two Sunday—is the Phillies/Brewers tilt, a series that now essentially reads as a best-of-three for wild-card relevance. Give the Phillies a massive edge heading in; they face the back end of the Brewers rotation, they’re playing at home, and they have three of their top four starters going in the three games. Three back of the Brewers, they can close that gap entirely, but just getting it to two games with two weeks to play would give them two post-season berths to shoot for.

    The Brewers’ slide is a surprise for primarily one reason: they are a team that hammers left-handers, yet they’ve been getting beaten by them lately. Going back to September 1, they’ve lost their last five games started by an opposing southpaw. Given that any tough right-hander presents a challenge, they have to take advantage when facing a lefty. When Jamie Moyer tosses a quality start against them, that’s a missed opportunity. Throw in the bullpen problems that have cost them some games, and you have a team that’s losing both the games it should lose and too many of the others.

    With all that, the Brewers have a three-game lead on the pack and have one of the better run differentials in the league. They’re a good team, and even after their slide, they have a 3-in-4 shot to reach October. Two losses over the next two days would bite into that; three would turn their season into a coin flip. There’s no scoreboard-watching for them; they have to put the Phillies away this weekend.

  • I have very uncool musical tastes. I grew up in the '80s and was weaned on pop music, and have never tried to get away from that. I’m convinced that the period from June 1982 through the end of 1983 is where Top 40 peaked. I do like a variety of music, but I don’t really seek out new stuff, or have an ear for it. My iPod is notable largely for its lack of music recorded since the first George Bush administration. No, the other one.

    So I was pretty excited to discover Thursday night that even though I can’t find all the random stuff I liked when I was growing up on iTunes, I can find a lot of it on YouTube. It’s amazing the random songs and videos that have been uploaded there. Forget minor hits or forgotten songs; I found stuff that barely charted that I happened to hear once and really liked, as well as music that was all over radio or MTV when I was a kid.

    It’s a silly, stupid thing, but I lost five hours overnight Thursday with a list of songs from the 1980s and '90s and YouTube. There was stuff I’d completely forgotten about that I came across on the list, looked up, and listened to. I mean, I thought no one remembered TKA, a freestyle group that never really broke nationally but was big in New York. (Yeah, I liked freestyle.) And there I was at 3:45 a.m. watching "Louder Than Love" with the sound turned up.

    I didn’t get to sleep until after 5 a.m. that night. I’m not going to defend my tastes, but I do think it’s amazing that someone who is a hopeless dork when it comes to music can wander on to the internet and lose a night to the ridiculous pop songs he liked back when he thought skinny leather ties were the height of fashion. My sleep patterns will be screwed up for a week, but it will be well worth it. I mean, I got to hear "The Salt in My Tears" again.

  • An excerpt from Rule 8.01(b):
    The pitcher, following his stretch, must (a) hold the ball in both hands in front of his body and (b) come to a complete stop. This must be enforced. Umpires should watch this closely. Pitchers are constantly attempting to "beat the rule" in their efforts to hold runners on bases and in cases where the pitcher fails to make a complete "stop" called for in the rules, the umpire should immediately call a "Balk."
    It’s a good rule. Does someone want to now point me to the approved ruling that excuses B.J. Ryan from following it?

  • I’m rooting for Carlos Delgado to win the NL MVP Award. It would, I hope, put an end to the BBRAA awards as a credible arbiter of such honors to have a player not half as good as the actual MVP, and playing alongside two clearly superior players in his own infield, walk away with the hardware. Go Carlos

  • New to my world are chocolate-covered espresso beans. I’d never had these before last Sunday, and now I can’t remember my life without them. I’ll leave it as an exercise for the reader to determine any connection between this and the Thursday night YouTube marathon, but man, these things are good.

  • I got asked recently whether the difference between the Yankees and the Dodgers at the moment comes down to Joe Torre. I understand where the thought comes from—the Dodgers are leading their division and probably headed back to the postseason, while the Yankees are fourth in theirs and due to miss October for the first time since before Torre took their reins. So couldn’t Torre be the difference between the two?

    The problem is just this: the Yankees are better than the Dodgers are. Just on record, the Yankees are 77-69, while the Dodgers are 76-71. When you look any deeper than that, the gap between the teams grows exponentially. The Yankees have compiled their mark with an unbalanced schedule in possibly the toughest division in baseball history. The Dodgers... haven’t. The Adjusted Standings report does a good job of accounting for situations like this: it shows the Yankees as an 81-65 team. The Dodgers? 80-67. That’s a small gap, but it illustrates the point: the Yankees are better than the Dodgers, and their relative success is all about the competitive environment.

    No one would have suggested that Joe Torre is some kind of savant two weeks ago. When the Dodgers were getting swept by the Nationals on their way to eight losses in a row, the idea that Torre was some kind of difference-maker would have seemed silly. Moreover, the context in which he’s managing is completely different. Dodgers GM Ned Colletti, playing for his job, traded away huge chunks of the future in Andy LaRoche, Carlos Santana, and Jonathan Meloan in an effort to make the 2008 roster a little better. The Yankees’ Brian Cashman has protected his organization’s young talent, for the most part, focusing on the long term.

    Really, the Dodgers' storyline has been exaggerated. They were 54-54 before Manny Ramirez arrived; they’re 22-17 with him. That they’re in the position they’re in, at 76-71, is a testament to how poor the NL West is this year. That’s not their fault, but any fair comparison of the Yankees and Dodgers, or of Joe Torre and Joe Girardi, has to have that fact displayed prominently.

Joe Sheehan is an author of Baseball Prospectus. 
Click here to see Joe's other articles. You can contact Joe by clicking here

Related Content:  Sunday Night Baseball,  The Call-up

26 comments have been left for this article. (Click to hide comments)

BP Comment Quick Links

Brian24

Wow, I hadn't even thought of "Salt in my Tears" in years. Thanks for mentioning that, I looked it up on YouTube and sat there wondering where the time went and why such a great song would vanish.

Sep 13, 2008 11:47 AM
rating: 0
 
Shkspr

Admit it, Joe - Larry King ghostwrote this column for you.

Sep 13, 2008 11:50 AM
rating: 0
 
sorrento

Joe, are you in favor of a balanced schedule? I haven't thought too deeply about it, but unbalanced has always seemed unfair to me competitively and boring as a fan. I want to be able to see as many different teams as I can when I make a trip to the ball park, but I always end up seeing the Royals or the Twins.

Sep 13, 2008 11:56 AM
rating: 5
 
Schlom
Other readers have rated this comment below the viewing threshold. Click here to view anyway.

Another defender of Brian Cashman. I understand that if you aren't a fan of the Yankees you'd want Cashman as their GM -- only his incompetence is keeping them from winning the World Series every year. But for a fan of the team to praise Cashman baffles me.

Sep 13, 2008 12:15 PM
rating: -14
 
leez34

Schlom - your statement would be more welcome here if you would give reasons to back up your assertion. Cashman is one of the best, and has been under constant ownership pressure to sign expensive free agents, but has still managed to put together a perennially contending club and a half decent farm system.

Sep 13, 2008 12:30 PM
rating: 2
 
ScottyB

Why on earth would Schlom's comment be flagged as inappropriate? Perhaps not wholly empirical, but his comment is not offensive or inappropriate.

Sep 13, 2008 17:17 PM
rating: 0
 
BP staff member Dave Pease
BP staff
(2)

Schlom's comment is not flagged as inappropriate. When a comment has a negative rating as assigned by commenting participants, as Schlom's does, it isn't displayed by default.

Sep 14, 2008 15:45 PM
 
ScottyB

Hi Dave- Thanks for clarifying. It looks like a -1 rating is enough to get a comment hidden. Seems a bit harsh to me. The best solution is for us, as a community, to be more tolerant of non-offesive but low-information posts.

Sep 14, 2008 19:07 PM
rating: 0
 
BP staff member Dave Pease
BP staff
(2)

We haven't decided how we want to handle this yet. We may go with a higher (or lower, depending on how you look at it) threshold than -1. Please use the Beta bar above to send us your thoughts on this, or any other comments you might have about the comments functionality. Thanks!

Sep 14, 2008 21:29 PM
 
Patrickj

Joe, the BJ Ryan balk is allowed because other umpires have allowed him to get away with it. He does stop in theory, but the time he stops for is so tiny that it really shouldn't be allowed. It's unfair to the runners but because he doesn't get called for it, he continues to do it.

When he got called for it May 6, he lost it, Gibbons got thrown out, but Ryan managed to get the save. I don't know if it gives him an advantage, though.

Sep 13, 2008 12:36 PM
rating: 3
 
Hendo

This Nats fan would happily chip in to throw Cashman the biggest homecoming party D.C. ever saw.

The crystal ball shows the Great Bronx GM Rotation Engine fixing to rev up again.

Sep 13, 2008 13:05 PM
rating: 1
 
SFC B

Milwaukee is not a neutral field for the Houston Astros in a game against the Cubs. Milwaukee is within driving distance of Chicago and a Cubs-Astros tilt there will be shafting Houston fans since it's not like they can make it there for the game, and players since they'll be playing a de facto road against in the Cubs back yard.

If MLB wants to require the two teams to make up the missing game(s) at a third party's field, what prevents them from at least playing them someplace where Houston fans can make it to their nominal home games, like Arlington? Or at least a more central location like KC or STL.

Sep 13, 2008 16:12 PM
rating: 2
 
rbrianc

Agree, these games still count. the only worst park to play it in would be Comiskey. Grossly unfair to anyone chasing the NL pennant.

Anywhere but Miller aka 'Wrigley North'. Sure, it could be filled with cheeseheads rooting against the Cubs...... NOT!

Sep 13, 2008 16:30 PM
rating: 1
 
Drew

tearec makes a good point. How did MLB come up with Miller Park as the replacement venue? The games should be played at the closest available stadium. I think any stadium in Texas would result in a crowd that was pro-Astros.

Miller Park wouldn't turn it into a Cubs home game, but it would be close.

Sep 13, 2008 16:33 PM
rating: 2
 
BP staff member Joe Sheehan
BP staff
(17)

The key advantage to Miller Park is that it's covered, ensuring that the games will be played. Arlington, Kansas City and St. Louis were all threatened by rain this weekend. Tampa, I suppose, would have been an option, but on Thursday; once McLane declined to move the games initially, I think he lost the ability to complain about the solution.

The idea that you were going to be able to play baseball in Houston Sunday was a stupid one, so I have a hard time feeling bad for McLane and his charges.

I'm curious about the idea that Cubs fans will show up in droves on a Sunday night and/or a Monday afternoon. I think the Bears game will be a deterrent today--even though they play at 1--and tomorrow being a Monday will dampen the crowd as well. I could be wrong, but even if I am, I don't see this as a bad plan. Hurricanes happen.

Sep 14, 2008 09:53 AM
 
Evan
(47)

If Ryan is moving one direction, slows, and then moves the other direction, theoretically he must have stopped between the two. There's no route from +2 to -2 that doesn't pass zero.

Sep 13, 2008 17:18 PM
rating: 0
 
Art K
(516)

True, if you only consider one dimension... however, think of a roller-coaster, it goes down and then up again but I don't think anybody would consider that it 'stopped' in-between.

Sep 14, 2008 07:18 AM
rating: 2
 
John Collins
(110)

Evan,
This is Aristotelian physics, and has been disproven, centuries ago. Reversal of direction doesn't imply that an object was ever still.

Sep 19, 2008 12:46 PM
rating: 0
 
asbasb

True, but this interpretation makes the rule superfluous. I doubt the rule makers included it because they felt compelled to state the obvious fact that the function describing the velocity of the pitcher's hands is continuous! The rule has always been interpreted to require the pitcher to PAUSE FOR A PERCEPTIBLE TIME while holding the ball in both hands in front of his body.

Sep 14, 2008 04:49 AM
rating: 2
 
James Martin Cole

What is with all the love for Cashman? He sort of reminds me of JP Richardi with a whole lot more money. He's had 200 million to play with for the last four years and hasn't made it out of the first round of the playoffs. This year he's got the biggest payroll in baseball history, and he's going to finish in fourth.

Sep 14, 2008 05:56 AM
rating: 0
 
Drew

Evaluating Cashman based on the Yankees' recent postseason struggles is a bit of a reach. The postseason is a total crapshoot. A better indicator of success is the fact that the Yankees have been to the playoffs every year since the early nineties. Yes, they haven't won a World Series recently, but last I checked they won a few under Cashman. In fact, Neyer rates the 98-00 Yankees as the 2nd greatest dynasty of all time.

Sep 14, 2008 23:22 PM
rating: 0
 
Christopher Taylor

I want Delgado to win the MVP too, but only because he ought to have won it in 2000 and/or 2003 but was passed over for not very good reasons.

Sep 14, 2008 12:17 PM
rating: 0
 
ScottyB

You can't really argue with Giambi in 2000 or ARod in 2003, but Delgado did have OPS+ of 181 in 2000 (won MLB player of the year award, but the A's won the division) and 161 in 2003. Both were MVP-worthy seasons for Carlos. This year, he's the 5th most valuable Met.

Sep 15, 2008 08:01 AM
rating: 0
 
havybeaks

The "Delgado for MVP" thing already happened in 2006 where Morneau was quite arguably the 4th most valuable player on his own team behind Mauer, Santana and Nathan.

Sep 15, 2008 13:53 PM
rating: 0
 
ScottyB

Morneau could win again this year, although I think we can all admit he's at least the Twins' MVP this year,as opposed to a few years ago.

Sep 15, 2008 16:06 PM
rating: 0
 
John Collins
(110)

Scotty B,
Well Mauer's VORP is (barely) higher than Morneau's, and that's without crediting him for fielding his postion better than Morneau does. So, no.

Sep 19, 2008 12:49 PM
rating: 0
 
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