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Teams: A Critical Guide 

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10-18

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Teams: A Critical Guide: AL Season Wrap-Up, Non-Playoff Teams Edition
by
Steven Goldman

09-25

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Teams: A Critical Guide: American League, September 13-19
by
Steven Goldman

09-22

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Teams: A Critical Guide: Rare Dick Weik Mention Edition
by
Steven Goldman

09-17

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Teams: A Critical Guide: Pitching Martyrs at the Wall Edition, National League
by
Steven Goldman

09-16

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Teams: A Critical Guide: My Aunt's Thanksgiving Turkey Edition, American League
by
Steven Goldman

09-09

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Teams: A Critical Guide: Dylan Thomas...Whoever He Was...Edition
by
Steven Goldman

09-07

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Teams: A Critical Guide: Hoagy Carmichael's Rockin' Chair Edition
by
Steven Goldman

08-31

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Teams: A Critical Guide: In Which A Myth is Shattered
by
Steven Goldman

08-27

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Teams: A Critical Guide: In Which Darin Erstad is Queried
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Steven Goldman

08-07

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Teams: A Critical Guide: Does Anybody Know What Time It Is in the National League Edition
by
Steven Goldman

08-05

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Teams: A Critical Guide: In Which Several Plot Lines Are Resolved, AL Edition
by
Steven Goldman

07-29

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Teams: A Critical Guide: One Week at a Time, NL Edition
by
Steven Goldman

07-29

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Teams: A Critical Guide: One Week at a Time, AL Edition
by
Steven Goldman

07-20

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Teams: A Critical Guide: American League, (Belated) First-Half Edition
by
Steven Goldman

07-09

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Teams: A Critical Guide: National League, First-Half Edition
by
Steven Goldman

06-26

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Teams: A Critical Guide: It's Saturday and I Have to Take My Daughter to See ''Shrek 2'' Edition
by
Steven Goldman

06-25

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Teams: A Critical Guide: Mad About Beltran Edition
by
Steven Goldman

06-04

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Teams: A Critical Guide: American League Only Edition
by
Steven Goldman

05-24

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Teams: A Critical Guide: Lights Dimmed on Broadway
by
Steven Goldman

05-12

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Teams: A Critical Guide: Teams is Not Your Ex-Girlfriend Edition
by
Steven Goldman

04-23

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Teams: A Critical Guide: The Branch Rickey Edition
by
Steven Goldman

04-13

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Teams: A Critical Guide: April 5-11
by
Steven Goldman

03-30

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Teams: A Critical Guide: Preseason Edition
by
Steven Goldman

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July 29, 2004 12:00 am

Teams: A Critical Guide: One Week at a Time, NL Edition

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Steven Goldman

ARIZONA DIAMONDBACKS Winless on the week, including a three-game series against the Rockies in which they scored a grand total of six runs. The only two players who actually reported to work were the two most likely to be exiled, Randy Johnson (15 IP, 13 H, 2 R, 1 BB 20 K), and Steve Finley (.934 OPS). The rest of them played as if they were Charlie Bucket's dad, screwing the caps onto toothpaste tubes for a living... One thing that many observers miss about the Yankees is that they are not the only team that can afford to take on salary at the deadline, but may be the only team willing. The difference is that the Yankees' owner, answerable only to himself, may decide in a given year to take home less money by cutting into his own profit margin (and that of the junior partners, who may take home relatively little as a result). Other teams, particularly those that are components of larger corporations, may fix a profit goal for the year and stick to it at the expense of winning. Most execs of public companies are uncomfortable telling the shareholders that they lost money on the sports operation this year because they decided to gamble on winning a World Series. Thus, if the DBs chose to dump salary and other objects of refuse in New York's general direction, there's nothing unfair about it at all. GRADE: F

ARIZONA DIAMONDBACKS

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CHICAGO WHITE SOX We got some middling pitching and a pretty good offense, albeit one thats going to last as long as youre impression that Jose Uribe is really a good hitter after all. Weve also got Minnesotas underwear, not that theyve noticed, because if youve got Doug Mientkiewicz, who needs a G-string? Friends, no matter what Mr. Ryan says, second place chafes, as Mr. Kenny Williams can attest after two straight years of raw inner thighs. Gird your loins with Frank Thomas and his .334 EQA and you need never say, Not tonight, Josephine, I left my epidermis at the office because I was afraid to let a DH be a DH, a first baseman be a first baseman, I keep trying to get blood from a stone, and no matter how many elephants I interview, none of them can do calculus. Even Sharon and Arafat agree that Garcia wasnt quite worth the freight, but credit the Sox with having a pulse. Late note: Thomas is gone, Carl Everett is here, which is kind of like replacing a dinosaur with a guy who doesnt believe in dinosaurs. Ironically, its neither of them that faces extinction, but Joe Borchard. GRADE: A-

The outpost of the Borders book store chain in my home town apparently has a dress code: you must be tattooed and pierced to work there, just as to write TEAMS you must be corpulent and profane. It can be intimidating; one is reluctant to ask for their cappuccino with skim milk when a purple-haired billboard with shining metallic tusks is taking your order.

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SAN FRANCISCO GIANTS The Giants page at ESPN.com currently features the headline, "Alou Still Believes in Tomko." Alou also believes in the lone gunman theory, that the Beatles reunited to record "My Sharona," and that "Joe Sheehan" is just another one of Joyce Carol Oates' pen names. He may even be right about one or two of these things but not about Tomko, who has pitched in 212 career games and has seen more balls get whacked than the kid who got held back twice at the boys' school. At this point, waiting for a turnaround is an act of blind faith equivalent to eating McSushi. Despite (or perhaps because of) the name on the label, you know that things can't turn out well. Tomko is symbolic of the problems with the Alou/Giants approach this year: on both sides of the ball they've wasted precious resources on automatic non-contributors. Perhaps at times they didn't have any other options, but that's the whole point of team-building: what you don't have, you try to find, as opposed to pretending that your Tomkos will somehow learn to be Marichals. GRADE: C+ COLORADO ROCKIES The Rockies are going nowhere fast, but it's hard to get very upset about it because my town is finally getting a Papa John's. Consuming a Domino's pizza is akin to chewing a very salty tire, so we've stuck with the local product for years, most of it of variable quality. "Variable quality" also describes the CRockies, who in the first half have gotten Matt Holiday and Aaron Milesoff to major league careers--for what that's worth given the former's lack of real production and the latter's age and lack of plate discipline--as well as salvaged Joe Kennedy, probably the most impressive stroke of all. As for the second half, perhaps Ian Stewart will get a shot at Visalia, or--dare we hope!--double-A. For the mnemonically impaired: Ian Stewart is the Rockies' third base prospect. Ian Anderson was the singer-flautist in Jethro Tull, while Dave Stewart was the male half of the Eurythmics. Golly, why didn't those two guys ever record together? GRADE: D

NATIONAL LEAGUE WEST

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NATIONAL LEAGUE EAST FLORIDA MARLINS Currently sporting a run differential of just +5, using Lenny Harris as DH in interleague games, and that isn't helping. 9-13 in June, and if you survey pennant races, it's just one bad month that sinks many a strong team. Ate Billy Koch's contract, which was just charity, tied for the league lead in caught stealing, pinch hitters batting .177, one of the worst benches in baseball... These scattershot muttering add up to a strong club being undone by inattention to detail. Reminiscent of some Braves teams of the past which had the pitching and select offensive parts but couldn't buy a hit off the bench in about 800 post-season series. GRADE: D+

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NEW YORK YANKEES Andruw Jones and his $12.5 million to Yankees in the right deal? It sounds crazy, but the Braves are going nowhere, even in a division in which all the teams forgot to show up (echoes of "What if we gave a war and nobody came?"). If offered a choice between Carlos Beltran and Jones, who would you rather have? Beltran and Jones, both center fielders, are precisely the same age, having been born two days apart. G AB HR AVG OBP SLG Jones 1203 4361 233 .267 .341 .494 Beltran 792 3121 121 .287 .352 .482 Beltran has seemed to blossom while Jones has stood still, but keep in mind that Beltran has been hitting in a park very friendly to hitters, while The Ted has been tougher on Jones. Defensively, Jones is by far the better fielder. Finally, one will become a free agent at the end of the season, while the other is locked in for all eternity We should probably alter the baseball vocabulary when it comes to pitching and injuries. We normally say, "Kevin Brown will be on the disabled list indefinitely." A better way of putting it might be to say that "Kevin Brown has been activated from the disabled list indefinitely." Actually, you can apply that to everything: relationships, mortality...boy, that's depressing. Better have another donut.

NEW YORK YANKEES

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ANAHEIM ANGELS With luck, Raul Mondesi is a temporary condition, like a heat rash. Jeff DaVanon has mashed righties, with a .451 OBP/.533 SLG against mundane-handers, so you really don't want to see him sit until he proves he can't keep it up. Vladimir Guerrero and Jose Guillen have made like Wonder Twins whose super power is the ability to channel Al Simmons from beyond the grave. Tim Salmon is rehabbing. Garret Anderson will be back soon. That makes five players for four spots, the outfield and DH, all of whom have a better claim to playing time than the deserter Mondesi. That's not even counting Chone Figgins, who has apparently settled in at third, or the return of Darin Erstad. Make that "revival" instead of "return." To return you had to have been here in the first place. Now, if only they could get one of those outfielders to slide over to first. Casey Kotchman may be the future, but he's not getting it done now. GRADE: B-

ANAHEIM ANGELS

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May 24, 2004 12:00 am

Teams: A Critical Guide: Lights Dimmed on Broadway

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Steven Goldman

HOUSTON ASTROS Adam Everett leads the majors with 10 sacrifice bunts. That's from the #2 hole, which means that Mr. Williams is shortening the innings in which his best bats come up. With slugging and on-base percentages in the threes (OBP low-threes), there's no reason to keep Everett up there, except for the stubborn belief that he's "changed." This concludes this week's Jimy Williams bash. Moving from the mundane to the sublime, Roger Clemens is doing something that has very little in the way of precedent. Perhaps it's an obvious point, but most 41-year-old pitchers don't perform at this level. Heck, most 41-year-old pitchers aren't pitchers. The closest parallels are Cy Young, who posted a 1.26 ERA (LERA of 2.39) in 299 innings for the 1908 Red Sox, Ted Lyons' wonderful "Sunday Pitcher" performance of 1942, Warren Spahn's last hurrah in 1963, and, most appropriately, Nolan Ryan, who struck out 301 batters in 1989 at the age of 42. None of them had quite the year the Rocket has had to this point... There's a moment in "Bonnie and Clyde" where Clyde says: "Hi! We're Bunny and Claude. We steal carrots." Houston version: "Hi! We're the Houston Astros. We blow saves." GRADE: B-

I had the privilege of meeting Doug on a number of occasions and enjoyed his intelligence, knowledge and wit, and like so many I learned more than MLB would have cared for me for to by reading his many writings on the business of the game. However, the memory of Doug that I will cherish most is an e-mail I received about a run-of-the-mill installment of the Pinstriped Bible. I had made a reference to an obscure old radio show, "Vic and Sade." Doug was the only one who caught it. I knew then that we would be friends.

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BALTIMORE ORIOLES This year's Yankees are an exception to the unrecognized truth that bullpens aren't bought or made, but found. In any given season there are about 12 actual closers, relievers who are consistent enough to earn their pay, and a bunch of other guys who earn their share of saves by virtue of the way their managers use them. Add in the 20 or so really reliable middle relievers and you have the total population of relievers worth building around. At present, the Orioles don't have any of those guys--even the indefatigable Buddy Groom generally gets smacked around, not that that's anything new. The O's have an aggregation of no-names who happen to be pitching well at the moment. This may or may not continue, but it had better, as the starting rotation looks like something that was dreamed up by Wile E. Coyote. Meanwhile, all bets on offense have panned out with the exception of Luis Matos. That's about to change as Lee Mazzilli makes Jerry Hairston Jr. the DH, a huge misapplication of baseball's version of Free Parking. "Sometimes you look for the prototypical DH who's a power-type guy, but with our lineup and the way I like to run the guys, Jerry fits in fine for me," said Mazzilli, who doesn't quite recognize he's giving up the initiative to teams with DHs who can hit for power--that is, the teams in front of and behind him. In a productivity contest in which the winner gets to eat the loser's DH, it's going to be a barbecued Hairston every time. Then again, it could be a showcase. If this fustian writing leads to Custian time/ you'll forgive the bad writing, and even this rhyme. There's a better chance of hell freezing over, on both counts. GRADE: B

AMERICAN LEAGUE

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April 23, 2004 12:00 am

Teams: A Critical Guide: The Branch Rickey Edition

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Steven Goldman

Two weeks in, the sample sizes are still small but nearly 1/10th of the season is in the bag and some undeniable trends have emerged. The race now belongs to the quick, to those teams that spot their problems early and attacks them aggressively. As the iconic GM Branch Rickey said, "A man who isn't alert is usually in the second division, and that's where he belongs." Have at it, boys.

AMERICAN LEAGUE EAST

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April 13, 2004 12:00 am

Teams: A Critical Guide: April 5-11

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Steven Goldman

This week's grades are based on getaways, fast, slow, or N/A, with a healthy allowance for the biases that a small sample size encourages. In other words, we can call Victor Zambrano the Cy Young award winner after just three starts and excuse it as a moment of vernally-inspired hormonal exuberance. Still, with just one week in the bag every team on this list has been possessed by Chicken Little-style paranoia or Pollyannaish optimism, and their plans are being altered accordingly. Maybe you can't trust TEAMS this week, but you can't trust teams either. Caveat lector, caveat emptor, and laissez les bon temps rouler!

This week's grades are based on getaways, fast, slow, or N/A, with a healthy allowance for the biases that a small sample size encourages. In other words, we can call Victor Zambrano the Cy Young award winner after just three starts and excuse it as a moment of vernally-inspired hormonal exuberance. Still, with just one week in the bag every team on this list has been possessed by Chicken Little-style paranoia or Pollyannaish optimism, and their plans are being altered accordingly. Maybe you can't trust TEAMS this week, but you can't trust teams either. Caveat lector, caveat emptor, and laissez les bon temps rouler!

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The threshold for changing managers varies from team to team. In Boston, an obviously wrongheaded move with Pedro Martinez was enough the get Grady Little handed his hat, whereas in Houston a more sustained failure of critical thinking (rather than a failure of intelligence, which means a whole different thing these days) gets overlooked. As Billy Joel sang, it's a matter of trust, though not in the "Will Billy Martin come to the park sober tonight?" sense, but rather the "Would you trust this doctor to prescribe you a Band-Aid?" aspect. Among the many underpublicized acts of suicide by a manager last year was Jimy Williams' overfondness for Geoff Blum, Orlando Merced, and a host of other fill-ins; plate appearances were thrown away with an alarming profligacy, more than enough to make the difference in a close race. This time around, the big question is not only if Williams will repeat the same mistakes with his Orlando Palmeiro, his Jose Vizcaino, and his Mike Lamb ("Sometimes, when you have nothing to do," says Sbirro in Stanley Ellin's classic 1948 short story, "The Specialty of the House," "you must turn your thoughts a little to the significance of the Lamb in religion. It will be so interesting." ) but if, when the time comes, the organization will forcibly divorce the team from its favorite crutches by trading for a real catcher or center fielder.

NATIONAL LEAGUE EAST

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