As Mariano Rivera leaves his 1,000th appearance behind, see how he stacks up according to Nate's standards.
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Before Goose Gossage got into the Hall of Fame and Mariano Rivera reeled off another six superb seasons, Nate turned his statistical eye on the bullpen in the following article, which originally ran as a "Lies, Damned Lies" column on January 6, 2005.
It's a special time of year...particularly if you're Johan Santana.
"It's like when you're waiting for Christmas. You know how the anticipation builds? That's the way he is when he's waiting for spring training. He gets so excited. When you're going to spring training, all things are possible." --Carol Garner, wife of Houston manager Phil Garner, on how her husband feels about spring training (Houston Chronicle)
Goose Gossage's failure to make it into Cooperstown got Nate thinking, how do you decide which relievers are Hall of Famers?
Truth be told, as much as I like Jay's work, I also think there is something to be said for gut-feel. A metric like JAWS tells you a lot about a guy's value, but it doesn't tell you quite as much about the shape of his career. JAWS applies what I would call the sausage method for assessing player value: you mush everything together into a nice, cylindrical package, add appropriate seasoning, and come out with what is hoped to be a tasty product. JAWS is, indeed, a very tasty sausage, and it's a heck of a lot more worthwhile than the spoiled cold cuts that most of the press is munching on. But it's still a sausage.
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As the Reds engage in a Cubs-like June swoon, the injuries keep kicking them down. D'Angelo Jimenez was once considered the equal of Alfonso Soriano, and at times this season he's shown why. The Reds have him benched, hoping a slight oblique strain won't turn into anything more. With Barry Larkin slowed and Brandon Larson being...well, Brandon Larson, the Reds are shorthanded up the middle. Austin Kearns is expected back on Thursday. His return won't stop the team's decline or the inevitable trade of some Reds players.
I've heard everything from a rib injury to a groin strain, but something is clearly not right with Roy Oswalt. One e-mailer said that Oswalt appeared to strain his groin in his last start, but the Astros deny that Oswalt has had any problems since his off-season surgery. Last night Rick Sutcliffe picked up the "rib injury" baton and ran with it. I'm not sure exactly what it means, but I'll guess it's an oblique strain. If so, with Oswalt's delivery, he'd be cringing on every pitch, which isn't the case. I'm not sure what the problem is, but until we get better evidence, it's best to just note the result and watch the performances.
In the ongoing debate about pitch counts, there's some interesting questions that just aren't making it into the debate. Is it about a macho attitude or risk management? Do you want an honest pitcher or a "bulldog"? At what point is your ace fatigued enough that even the worst reliever in a major league bullpen becomes a better option? Jake Peavy is one of the young players quickly developing a bulldog reputation. After missing only a couple weeks with a forearm injury, Peavy is back out throwing. His first bullpen session went 30 pitches, reporting no problems and no pain. He'll have two more bullpen sessions this week, but Friday's session is the most important. That's where he'll first try breaking balls. His slider is the pitch that causes pain. If all goes well, Peavy is about two weeks away, and will have one rehab start before rejoining the Pads rotation.
One of the other cool things about having a knuckleballer--because, let's face it, we all think knuckleball pitchers are cool--is that you can slate them for relief between turns, and then can usually roll with it when you do what the Sox just did in activating Kim and re-shuffling their rotation. It covered them through the doubleheader against Tampa, and their rotation is prepped to run in turn from Saturday on, after getting Arroyo one last start before he heads back to the pen. Add in that Kim's a pretty good pitcher, and you've got the first of what ought to be a trio of important reactivations in the weeks to come that ought to help the Red Sox make tracks in the AL East. Plus, Kim gets his first two turns against the D-Rays and the Tribe, and past transgressions might even be forgotten. Well, you can always hope. I don't think New Englanders have learned to turn the other cheek since Cotton Mather started wondering whether that whole innocence-guilt thing was crimping the justice of good ol'fashioned witch-burnings. Not that that stopped people where Dan Duquette was concerned.
Every March, there's some college basketball team that climbs on the back of some player and makes a run deep into the tournament. It happens nearly every year and probably always has, but it's burned into my memory with the Kansas Jayhawks' championship run behind Danny Manning. Now known as "Danny and the Miracles," Manning simply carried an inferior team to the top. Baseball has similar runs from time to time--Orel Hershiser's amazing run through the 1988 season comes to mind. But as the Giants essay in BP04 shows, General Manager Brian Sabean and Assistant General Manager Ned Colletti are expecting more from Barry Bonds, even as he becomes less likely to be able to deliver. Bonds' homers may defy gravity, but there's a point where his body will no longer be able to defy age.
In Monday's column, I picked on Keith Foulke a bit, expressing the opinion that I didn't think he'd sustain his performance throughout the life of his new four-year contract. Buried in that criticism was the following: I haven't looked too deeply at this yet, but I don't think you can find a lot of relievers who stayed at Foulke's recent level for a seven- or eight-year period. I think the best relievers in the modern era have short, high peaks before slipping. Mariano Rivera is the exception to this, but when you look around at the best relievers in baseball, by any standard, there just aren't guys who are worth five or more WARP a year for most of a decade.