The fifth installment of the series tours the majors’ largest division, the NL Central. Four of the six clubs in the division have moved into new ballparks since 2000, yet the one that’s virtually sold out for the season is the one that plays in a 90-year-old park built for the Federal League. The Reds, Brewers and Pirates are Exhibits A, B and C for the proposition that a new ballpark doesn’t ensure on-field success.
Once again, I shopped the clubs’ Web sites on MLB.com to see which seats a fan could hope to buy two or three weeks in advance, and how much a typical fan, or a typical family could expect to pay. That didn’t work for the Cubs, who were sold out three months in advance, but everywhere else, typical fans are likely to pay less than Team Marketing Report’s Fan Cost Index suggests they would.
Ben Sheets has a big day against the Braves. Tony LaRussa has some pretty strong opinions on when to pull the plug on starters. Terry Francona is a big believer in using data. Jose Vidro decides to stick around Montreal for the next four seasons. Sandy Alderson doesn’t think MLB needs to change the IBB rule; he thinks the Giants just need better hitters. And Julian Tavarez thinks teams are prejudiced against his disgusting hat. All this and many more quips in your Monday edition of The Week In Quotes.
The closer role developed over a period of years, evolving out of the 1970s
role of ace reliever, a guy who would pitch 120 innings a year in chunks of up
to three at a time. Herman Franks ratcheted down Bruce
Sutter’s workload for the Cubs in the late 1970s, using him solely to
protect leads late in games, and Tony La Russa went even further by
eliminating multiple-inning outings for Dennis Eckersley in
1988. With Eckersley, a new meme took hold: a team’s best reliever had to be
used to get outs 25 through 27 if those outs coincided with a lead of less than four runs. It was the ultimate triumph of statistics–the convoluted save rule–over logic.
At its core, the closer myth holds that those last three outs are the most
important, and therefore the ones you want your best pitcher throwing. If the
closercentric bullpen is to go the way of pullover jerseys and flying-saucer
ballparks, convincing people within the game that there are other, more
important outs will be a good place to start.
Barry Bonds is carrying the Giants, but it seems the load might be wearing on him. Bonds missed Sunday’s game with minor back spasms. Brian Sabean’s “10 instead of one” strategy is unraveling, but losing Bonds for any significant amount of time would be a step beyond devastating. With Bonds in the lineup (using a normal eight-man formation), the team’s MLVr is 0.782. Without Bonds, using the ‘best available’ replacement, Jeffrey Hammonds, the Giants descend to a lineup that is worth less than replacement level, at -0.234.
The Giants may have the best medical staff in baseball, but even they seem to be at a loss with Robb Nen. Nen’s rehab continues to fail as he comes up with pain after any normal throwing session. Labrum tears are notoriously difficult to come back from. According to the best data I have available, only one of 36 players has been able to return to their previous level after labrum surgery. These data are a bit shaky, since there may be some shoulder surgeries that also repaired the labrum, but only listed the primary repair. Nen will continue to try to return, but things look increasingly bleak.