As Fox added about three mph to every pitch in last night’s game, I’m glad that the radar readings don’t count. I’m also glad that the “automatic” closer types are anything but automatic, and that the shiny closer tag really doesn’t make someone any better a pitcher when it counts. I thought that using Keith Foulke as the AL closer just had to burn Kenny Williams’ butt.
I’m most happy, however, that my instincts were wrong and that no one managed to injure themselves. The last thing anyone wants to see in an All-Star Game is one of their heroes leave the game on a stretcher. Despite the best efforts of Bud’s Boys, the All-Star Game was a great exhibition.
Just to reiterate: “This Time it Counts” is a fraudulent notion being shoved down our throats by an administration known for disinformation and a cowed media without the courage to call a spade a spade. I’m not surprised to see Kevin Kennedy sell the idea; after all, he works for Fox, and this is Fox’s baby. I am disappointed to see the ESPN staff climb aboard so willingly. I just wish I’d see one person on television with the temerity to suggest that tying World Series home-field advantage to the All-Star Game is a worthless gimmick, and moreover, point out that the real problem with the All-Star Game is interleague play, a worthless gimmick in and of itself.
The Orioles would do well to sell high on their first-half performers. Charles Johnson and Juan Uribe have been disappointments for the Rockies. The Mets remain in shopping mode after dealing Alomar and Burnitz.
The BP Staff weighs in with their mid-season ballots, showing who they think deserves an MVP, Cy Young Award, and Rookie of the Year.
Bill Mueller has done more than anyone in Boston dared hope. Jose Guillen’s shocking first-half success has helped make up for Felipe Lopez’s struggles in Cinicinnati. Rondell White and Mark Loretta could fetch some intriguing young talent for San Diego before the trade deadline. These and other news notes from the Red Sox, Reds, and Padres in this edition of Prospectus Triple Play.
Well, we’ve made it through the Futures Game and Home Run Derby without anyone getting injured. There’s still tomorrow’s game–the one that “counts”–however, and I’m halfway expecting somebody to go all Pete Rose on some catcher. Let’s just hope that the players aren’t buying into the hype as much as the entire Fox network seems to be.
That said, as expected, it was a quiet day on Monday, which gave people more time to check out the archive of Baseball Prospectus Radio and email me. People were equally divided on whether it was good interview with Jim Palmer or a blindside hatchet job. Let me assure you the truth lies somewhere in the middle, and that Mr. Palmer had more than one opportunity to speak for himself, and he declined each opportunity. I’ve given his agent the message that he has an open invitation for a full hour on BPR to discuss the game in whatever format he wishes, so I’ve done all I can to be fair despite my desire to go Paul Teutel on him. Let’s hope he does all he can to educate himself about the game he played so well.
I say this every year, but only because the thought dominates my brain for 72 hours each July: I hate the All-Star break. Two days with no games sandwiched around an exhibition contest. Yuck. Anyway, here are my midseason awards ballots, which missed the deadline to be included in the BP staff balloting by a hair or dozen. If you’re new to this column, welcome to my biases: I favor performance at up-the-middle positions, and I try to strip what a player has done from the context in which he did it as much as I can.
Randall Simon pleads his case; Phil Nevin sounds off against the All-Star Game finally “counting” for something; Barry Bonds tells why he’s not competing in the Home Run Derby this year; and Dontrelle Willis is just happy to be invited. All this and many more quips in the newest edition of The Week In Quotes.
Randy Johnson will have one more rehab start–this time at Class-A (oh, those poor kids)–before returning to Arizona. His knee has been problematic, but not so much that he’s been behind. The plan is to use him normally, but to spot him some extra rest when possible. The D’backs have found that they had more pitching depth than anyone expected, so some creative roster moves will help. Keeping Johnson balanced between useage and health will be a big test for Bob Brenly, Paul Lessard, and Chuck Kniffin. (And no, Curt Schilling’s first start performance has nothing to do with either his injury or Questec. As with Barry Zito, some pitchers just have bad days, weeks, and even years.)
The Brewers have problems all over the diamond as well as up and down the organization, but one of the brighter spots is Ben Sheets. Sheets has been effective, but he’s always had a tender back. Taking a swing in his last start appears to have aggravated his back. He’s in the Miller Park training room getting treatment twice a day and might not make his scheduled Thursday start. It’s not serious yet, but it bears watching for a team with no other options.
Kazuhiro Sasaki is finally off the stairs, has his luggage (or whatever) put away, and he’s back on the mound. While a mini-session in the pen is a long way from a return to closer duties in Seattle, it’s a good first step. Sasaki is still a minimum of three weeks from returning to games and Bob Melvin will continue to drive Derek Zumsteg nuts for the full three weeks.
Over the next two weeks, Prospectus Triple Play will cover the first halves of all 30 teams and look ahead to see what we can expect for the second half. Today, PTP examines the Marlins, Yankees, and Pirates.
The Angels are back to their old tricks. They scored eight runs on seven singles, two doubles, one home run and two walks. For the second day in a row, they bunched their hits, putting together a four-run inning late in the game. It looked a lot like last year’s team, actually: runners in motion, guys scoring on hard-hit singles, no double plays. The Angels are just eighth in the AL in run scoring (and seventh in EqA) after finishing fourth in runs (and fifth in EqA) last year. Just as they did last year, they’re scoring more runs than you would expect given what they’ve done at the plate, with 450 as opposed to a “projected” total of 437. One of the big differences between last year’s team and this one has been their propensity for hitting into double plays. Using (1B+BB+HBP-SBA-SAC) as an estimate of runners on first base, the Angels hit into a double play every 13.7 opportunities in 2002; in 2003, that figure is one every 10.0 opportunities. A team dependent on putting the ball in play has to avoid making two outs when it does. The other key element for the Angels is their defense. They have a flyball staff that needs good outfield defense to succeed, and for almost two months, they played without center fielder Darin Erstad. Erstad is largely overrated for his good batting averages and “intangibles,” but he may be the best defensive center fielder around. The Angels’ run prevention works because of him, and they missed him badly while he was out. In his absence from April 20 through June 8, they allowed 189 runs in 42 games, an average of 4.5 runs per game. The rest of the season, they’ve allowed 198 runs in 50 games, or just 4.0 runs per game. That’s the difference between being disappointing and being a contender, and a big part of that improvement is directly attributable to Erstad’s range in center field.
This Sunday at 5:30 p.m. EST, Major League Baseball will present the fifth annual showcase of the premier minor league talents in the game. It receives an ESPN2 time slot usually reserved for reruns of the 1976 World Strongest Man competition and gets about the same amount of national attention, but you’d be hard pressed to find a better place to watch talent assemble. There are eight major league All-Stars this year who have participated in one of the four Futures Game contests, and that number will only rise as improving players like Lance Berkman, Joel Pineiro, and Brett Myers find their way to the big stage in the coming years. However, since the game doesn’t receive much in the way of promotion (shocking, I know), people still ask questions. So, here are some answers.