Thursday, September 30, 2010

SweetSpot Roundup: September 30

Capitol Avenue Club (Braves): Wednesday Notes
"Not that it’s a given, but a playoff berth seems very likely at this point.  That’s something I didn’t think I’d have to make clear a month and a half ago."

The View from the Bleachers (Cubs): As We Come Down to the Wire
Chet makes an excellent decision (adopts the Twins as his postseason team) and then asks five awfully interesting questions.

Redleg Nation: Best. Night. Ever.
Chad impulsively made the long trip to take in the Tuesday night Reds game, and was rewarded with a walk-off home run and a Reds clincher. And now he's written about it, so we're rewarded, too.

Austin's Astros 290 Blog: Lessons from Chris Johnson
Thoughts about a moving article about the Astros' Chris Johnson. I hope Austin's right that Johnson (nearly 26, .399 BABIP) is a "rising star."

Dodger Thoughts: Dodgers Finish Series Sweep of Rockies
The game/series recap includes the "Bottom Standings," with the note that the Dodgers are "close to being mathematically eliminated from the race" for baseball's worst second-half record.

Mets Today: Mets Game 157: Loss to Brewers; Mets Game 158: Loss to Brewers
The Brewers come from behind in doubleheader game one, and then beat the lackluster Mets in game two. "Not much else to say, other than, thank goodness we have only four more games to suffer through."

Ducksnorts (Padres): Axis: Cold as Glove
I'm not smart enough to grasp the meaning of the title. "I prefer to remember the 2010 Padres in their glory, when they possessed the finest attributes of our heroes’ youth. The team I saw Tuesday night (likely for the last time in person this year; playoff tickets arrived on Monday, but those just seem cruel right now — I may not even open the envelope) bore no resemblance to the team I watched for five months."

Bay City Ball (Giants): Wednesday Graph: Where Did Rowand Go?
Aaron Rowand has been getting less and less playing time lately, and it's not that hard to figure out why. What is hard is figuring out what to do with a guy you still owe $24 million to who doesn't really play baseball all that well anymore.

Fungoes (Cardinals): Rethinking Pujols' demands in light of 2010 playoff teams' payrolls
"None of this is to say Pujols isn’t a hugely valuable player or hasn’t been worth his salary to-date. But if the goal is to win championships — or, as we propose, simply make it to the crapshoot tournament — will having an albatross of Albert’s contract over the next five to seven years make that more or less likely?" I think my answer to that question is very, very different from Pip's, but he makes good points.

Nationals Baseball: What if the Nats do Nothing?
"The Nats could do nothing. It's always possible. Doing nothing though, would be a sign of a team giving up on 2011, surrendering already to another 100 loss season."

B-List Indians Blog: B-List Lite
Armando Galarraga, Luke Carlin, and Charles Nagy.

Pro Ball NW (Mariners): Well That Was Original
The Mariners keep finding new and creative ways to disappoint M’s fans and amaze the rest of us. Would you believe a walk-off strikeout?

Baseball Time in Arlington (Rangers): The Rangers Playoff Dump Truck
All that’s left is to figure out who’s in the pen and on 1B.

The Ray Area: The Maturation of David Price and Evan Longoria
"It struck me last night that perhaps Price and Longoria engaged in something of a coordinated effort to spark the Rays fan base that was hatched in the dugout during Monday night’s game.  If they did, we may always remember Monday, September 27, 2010 as the day that the Evan Longoria and David Price era began."

Fire Brand of the American League (Red Sox): Felipe Lopez and How the Red Sox Stole a Draft Pick
"Lopez is a malcontent, a problem child and has played for seven teams in his career, but he’s going to be converted into a potential impact player via a draft pick and I applaud this move by the front office."

Royals Authority: Seeking Answers to the Remaining Questions of 2010
Royals bloggers are talking about the attendance problems in other cities?  Now I've seen everything.

The Daily Fungo (Tigers): Tigers Today
Happy Birthday to TCM's favorite Tiger of all time: Rob Deer!

Nick's Twins Blog:  The "Overlooked MVP" Ballot
Nick thinks the most underappreciated Twin is not someone you'd think of.

Sox Machine (White Sox): It's Not Me, It's You
Breaking up with the 2010 White Sox

It's About the Money, Stupid (Yankees): RIP, Javier Vazquez' Yankee Career
"No matter what you want to look at, Javy Vazquez has been drinking copiously from the Fountain of Suck."


Wednesday, September 29, 2010

The Common Musings

By The Common Man

Busy day on tap for The Common Man, so you get a random collection of his thoughts and links.

Nickname stuff…
Can we all just agree to call Angels CF Peter Bourjos "Gorgeous Bourjos?" Done? Done. Nickname approved.

Also, TCM hereby nominates RA Dickey as The Lion.

The Red Menace strikes!

Speaking of terrific nicknames, TCM was just introduced to Matt Kemp’s awesome moniker: The Bison. Get your t-shirts now!

Placido Polanco doesn’t have/need a nickname, as his given name is terrific. That said, he probably should be a tenor somewhere, not a 3B.

Beer stuff…
Friend of the blog, Lar of knows that TCM loves a good Oktoberfest brew, and recommended Staghorn by the New Glarus Brewery. TCM’s happy to report that it’s excellent (full and malty) and bound to be the subject of a Beer Leaguer before the week is out.

Other terrific Oktoberfests TCM’s stumbled into and loved in the last month: Bell’s and Berghoff. Ranking the three TCM would probably go Staghorn, Berhoff, Bell’s, but all three are excellent and offer something slightly different.

Documentary stuff…
Speaking of Lar, he caught the same thing TCM did last night on the Ken Burns’ Tenth Inning documentary on PBS, when Thomas Boswell mentioned that he saw a current Hall of Famer mixing something the player referred to as a “Jose Canseco Milkshake.” Lar tries to figure out who it is.

Bill’s going to have a formal review of the whole four hour production later this week, but here are a couple stray observations from TCM:

Burns has a relatively unflattering portrayal of Willie Mays, saying he taught Bobby Bonds “Don’t trust anybody,” and “Look out for number one.”

Counter to what TCM expected, Burns has a very realistic and even-handed portrayal of steroid use and a frank and sympathetic explanation of why players use/d PEDs. He spreads the blame around to players, reporters, ownership/team admin, clueless commissioners, and even fans. Virtually everyone wanted to turn a blind eye. And did.

While Donald Fehr may have been a good negotiator, strong union leader, and fierce protector of player rights, his inability to articulate the reasons for the ’94 Strike to the general public cemented the players’ status as villains, and severely slowed baseball’s comeback.

TCM’s favorite quote of the night, however, was from Pedro Martinez, who talked about his reverence for Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa in 1998: “Innocence is beautiful sometimes.” You say potato, TCM says willful ignorance.

TV stuff…
Come on, America. The Common Man knows you love bigamy, you watch True Love and the atrocious-sounding new reality show Sister Wives. He knows you love con men, as you’re watching White Collar and Psych. He knows you love anti-heroes because you watch House and The Sopranos. And he knows you love hot, naked and partially-naked women because you watch…well, everything. How can you not love Lone Star, which combines all of these things into a seriously well-paced, well-acted, and well-plotted show? Seriously, America, sometimes you disappoint The Common Man.

If you’re not watching Community, you’re not TCM’s friend anymore. The funniest show on TV? The funniest show on TV. Even if you don’t get all the jokes, just stare at Alison Brie for a half-hour and thank TCM later.

Terriers is pretty damn good too. And it’s on a network that will give it a chance. Catch up now, on Hulu.

Tampa attendance stuff…
Yesterday, TCM wrote about how the Rays’ attendance woes in 2010 mirror the struggles of the Twins as they emerged from almost a decade in the wilderness. There was a Twitter argument that followed with a Twins-centric blogger who essentially called out Tampa fans for not supporting their team, and said they were garbage compared to Twins fans. TCM thinks that it’s very easy to forget how hard it is to root for a team that has routinely destroyed the fans’ trust in its competence. And when that team gets back to contending, it’s very hard to regain that trust. It’s also hard to get back in the habit of going to the ballpark for casual fans, after several years spent cultivating other hobbies. The Rays’ attendance is actually ahead of the Twins’ pace when they started competing again in the early ‘00s, so let’s not cast stones. Good luck to the Rays, unless they’re up against the Twins. Their fans deserve to see a winner just as much as anyone else’s.

Twins stuff…
Speaking of the Twins…The Common Man is slightly concerned about their finish to 2010, as they’ve lost their last five games by a combined score of 46-21, allowing 10 or more runs in four of those games. That said, as Shawn Berg* points out, there’s actually no real connection between how a team performs at the very end of the season and how it performs in the postseason tournament. And, indeed, the ’87 team lost its last five games before it won the World Series. All the Twins are playing for at the moment is home field advantage throughout the playoffs, but the difference is really only one extra game if the ALCS stretches to seven. That’s not worth pulling out all the stops for, and the Twins are better served by getting everyone healthy and rested for next week.

*Shawn’s got an excellent Twins-centric blog, On the road with..., that you should really be reading if you're a Twins fan.

SweetSpot Roundup: September 29

Fire Brand of the American League (Red Sox): Does Buchholz Deserve Cy Young Votes?
Starting with the observation that Clay Buchholz is entering the final week battling Felix Hernandez for the league ERA crown, Charlie launches into a broader discussion of who should win the AL Cy Young Award.

Sox Machine (White Sox): White Sox brain trust to return in 2011
"It took a summit with Jerry Reinsdorf, but Ozzie Guillen will be returning to the White Sox in 2011, without an extension in hand, and without an airtight endorsement from Kenny Williams."

The B-List Indians Blog: The B-List Lite: 9/27
Cleveland takes the opener from Detroit, and Carlos Carrasco draws comparisons to Charles Nagy.

Royals Authority: Even Losing Baseball Is Interesting (sometimes)
Some reasons to stay interested in the waning Royals season.

Nick's Twins Blog: Top Ten Prospects: Season Rundown
Nick reviews the 2010 progress of his preseason top ten team prospects list.

It's About the Money, Stupid (Yankees): Tampa Bay Plans A Step Backwards (More On Why Revenue Sharing Is Dead)
Larry with a harsh dose of reality about the Rays (certain to perk up a good share of his own audience). And this: "Instead, the revenue sharing system will allow the Rays to sink back into mediocrity.  This is by design: revenue sharing provides the greatest rewards to teams that are losers and continue to be losers.  Ownership of teams like the Pirates[...], teams that finish near the bottom of the standings year after year, make healthy profits as a result."

Pro Ball NW (Mariners): Zduriencik Given Vote Of Confidence
Conor is understandably skeptical. "Zduriencik has become a very important piece of this organization, and it would be a shame, to say the least, to see his work be undone before it has a chance to show its results."

The Ray Area: It's Just Business
"But, the more I thought about it, the more my anger abated.  Longoria and Price are children.  Not children in age (although they are both young) but children in life experience.  They have been pampered through an athlete-centric culture that has protected them from the realities of the outside world, in particular the business world."

Baseball Time in Arlington (Rangers): How TV Made the Rangers Rich(er)
Discussing the Rangers' huge (or possibly still-huge-but-not-quite-as-huge-as-reported) new television deal.

Capitol Avenue Club (Braves): Bravo!
“Come to think of it, what is there to say about the medical staff that hasn’t already been said about the Caligula administration?”

Disciples of Uecker (Brewers): Yovani Gallardo, MVP Candidate?
Gallardo’s prowess on the mound and at the plate has Jack thinking he might be in the MVP discussion.

Fungoes (Cardinals): Was baserunning a factor in Cardinals’ demise?
“As the Reds have shown, if you want to be a careless baserunning team and still win, you’d better get on base a lot.”

The View From the Bleachers (Cubs): Tuesday Trivia
“Q. Since 1960, there have been five players who have thrown at least 200 innings, struck out at least 200 batters and have failed to win more than 10 games. Name them.”

Dodger Thoughts: Ken Burns “Tenth Inning” hits and misses at the plate
“I think that "The Tenth Inning" will be appreciated more by the casual fan than the dedicated fan (and, of course, enjoyed much more by fans of the teams depicted than the teams ignored).”

Bay City Ball (Giants): Madison’s Historic Rookie Season
Chris has been very impressed by Madison Bumgarner.

Mets Today: Should we be curious about Jose Bautista?
Joe walks a very fine line here between curiosity and baseless speculation. TCM’s take: It’s ok to be curious about how he hit 52. It’s not ok to make accusations or discuss PEDs without some kind of hint he’s done anything wrong.

Ducksnorts (Padres): How to let a pitcher off the hook
The Pads had the Cubs right where they wanted them, and let them wriggle off the hook.

Crashburn Alley (Phillies): Should Doc get MVP consideration?
Halladay’s WAR is off the charts, and Bill thinks the Phillies’ ace deserves some MVP love.

Redleg Nation: Vote for Joe Nuxhall, but HURRY!
Greg stumps for Nuxhall to win the Ford C. Frick Award for broadcasters, and urges you to vote accordingly.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Empty Seats and Empty Heads

By The Common Man

The Common Man wants to tell you a story.

Once upon a time, there was a baseball team emerging from several seasons of dismal failure and establishing a new tradition of winning baseball. The club had several exciting young players who had grown up in the organization together, and who had come to love being teammates. The baseball team played in an abhorrent indoor stadium that seemed to actively make watching baseball less fun, if such a thing were even possible. Late in September, with the team all but assured of making the postseason, the team played a weekday game in their domed monstrosity and drew just a handful over 12,400 fans.

That team is, of course...

I Was Right, Rob Was Wrong, Neener Neener

By Bill

It was just a little over a year ago now that I shared my opinion that, while strikeouts are not generally any worse than any other out, the historic, unparalleled rate at which Mark Reynolds was striking out was going to present significant obstacles to this third baseman's future value.

At the time, he was hitting .266/.357/.560, with 43 home runs. He'd peaked on August 10, though, at .290/.378/.611, and then hit just .191/.291/.397 in the month and a half or so since. My point (clarified the next day, here) was that even considering how hard he hits the ball, and even assuming all that added home run power was real, it was going to be very difficult for Reynolds to continue playing at an All-Star level while striking out as often as he had been. Homers are great, but it's just very hard to be a productive player if you're cutting off 40% of your at-bats at the root and not even giving yourself a chance to get on base via the occasional bloop hit or bounder up the middle.

It was one of the first times that Rob Neyer had taken notice of my little old blog, and he wrote up a whole piece on the topic, in which he essentially tore mine to bits. A taste:

Mark Reynolds, in 1,450 career at-bats, has batted .345 on balls in play. Which doesn't even include home runs. As it happens, he's also batted .345 on balls in play this season.
Can he continue to do that? My gut tells me that it's a difficult number to maintain. But Reynolds' performance doesn't hinge on strikeouts; it hinges on home runs. When Reynolds hits 25 or 30 homers, he's a pretty good player. When he hits 40 homers, he's better than pretty good.
Reynolds played the team's last nine games, and hit .154/.216/.273, with 1 HR. This season, in 142 games entering play tonight, Reynolds has hit .199/.320/.437. Since the (arbitrary endpoint alert!) highwater mark on August 11, 2009, then, he's hit .197/.317/.424. In 2010, he's hitting just .255 on balls in play, third-worst in the National League, dropping that lofty career BABIP all the way back down to .322. He's still got 32 homers, but even that is way off the pace of 2009's 44.

SweetSpot Roundup 9/28

The B-List Indians Blog: B-List Lite
A treatise on cut fastballs.

Pro Ball NW (Mariners): Prospect Performance in the Majors
Conor is thoroughly underwhelmed at the performance of the youngsters the M's have brought up this season.

Baseball Time in Arlington (Rangers): Grant and the Gut
Everybody's got the FJM spirit after the crew's inspiring turn on Deadspin last week.  Joey looks at a yet another anti-stats article by a columnist who doesn't get how stats inform, but don't replace, decision making.

The Ray Area: One last word on attendance...
Mark compares the meteoric rise of the Rays with the steady build of the Buccaneers as an explanation as to why Tampa can't seem to draw a crowd.  That said, TCM's money is on a) the increased availability of games on TV and b) people being very careful about spending their discretionary income.  TCM's had his current job for almost two years, but he's still clipping coupons and looking for free stuff to do on the weekends with The Uncommon Wife and The Boy.  Plus, with everything we've read recently, it sounds like The Trop Experience is truly dreadful aside from the baseball.

Fire Brand of the American League (Red Sox): Ryan Kalish and the 2011 club
The conundrum of Ryan Kalish: "Forcing him onto the big league roster could stunt his development, keeping him from reaching his sky-high potential. Therefore, both the Sox and Kalish would be best served by sending him to AAA and where he could take a half- or a full-season to develop at the plate." but "With Cameron and Ellsbury’s well-documented injury problems, the Sox will need to employ a reliable fourth outfielder who can fill in quite regularly — much like a 6th man in basketball; an extension of the starting lineup."  Tough choice.

Royals Authority: Mike Aviles Stakes His Claim
Mike Aviles can't get any love in Kansas City, but should probably be the 2011 2B anyway.

Nick's Twins Blog: Obvious Priorities
The eternal question: go all out to secure home field advantage or rest everyone to ensure they're ready to go in October?  Nick's got the right answer.

Sox Machine (White Sox): White Sox improve road results...but how?
Jim digs into the Sox' success on the road and finds the reason for it might be the Sox much-maligned bullpen.

It's About the Money, Stupid: In Which I Defend the Steinbrenner Memorial
"The bottom line is that Steinbrenner was different than those guys, in that he wasn’t a player or a manager. So giving him his own monument, in a distinct style, is a sort of fitting tribute. And at the end of the day, that’s probably what this is; not really a monument, certainly not a plaque, but a tribute. It’s ok if you don’t like it, but it would be nice if some of the national “debate” over it would acknowledge a bit more that there are people, Yankees fans, that do like it."

View from the Bleachers (Cubs): Good Call -- Part II
The second of a series celebrating trades that actually worked out for the Cubs. This one features something I'd forgotten about perhaps my all-time favorite player, The Rat (and my all-time favorite photo of said player).

Redleg Nation: This Day in Reds History: It's September...
Even if you couldn't possibly care less about the Reds, it's worth making Redleg Nation a daily read for these "this day in history" posts. Steve comes up with some pretty obscure stuff, which (for a real baseball history geek like me) is the best kind of stuff there is.

Austin's Astros 290 Blog: Astros stay put in power rankings after horrible week
Austin accuses the ESPN voters of phoning it in, but (as per usual) saves his harshest criticism for Brad Mills.

Dodger Thoughts: Ten things to watch for in the Dodgers' final week
And yeah, they really are pretty interesting: Kershaw's pursuit of (sub-)3.00, Torre's pursuit of (sub-)2,000, and more!

Disciples of Uecker (Brewers): Brewers bring back DiFelice
"This may not be the most exciting move ever, but it does mean that there could be one more important piece in the 2011 Brewers bullpen."

Mets Today: Bark In The Park Tonight
"Your dog probably has no idea how bad the Mets are this year, and unlike most fans would therefore be overjoyed to go to the ballgame tonight vs. the Brewers."

Crashburn Alley (Phillies): Time to worry about Polly?
Placido Polanco has been struggling mightily, is probably hurt, and Bill thinks it's time to give him a little break.

Ducksnorts (Padres): Fourth and inches
"Ludwick seems like a good guy, but his 'I’ll get there when I get there' approach to playing right field doesn’t work at Petco Park." Also, various other Padres notes.

Nationals Baseball: It's the best day of the week, Nats fans!
Lannan day! Just a teeeeeensy bit less exciting than Strasmas. Also, this week's Lannan Day went like this: 5.2 IP, 4 ER. But I'm a big fan of any reason for a Nats fan to get even a little bit excited, this time of year.

Monday, September 27, 2010

SweetSpot Weekend Roundup September 27

Capitol Avenue Club (Braves): Attention Paid
Reactions to prospect Brandon Beachy's second major league start.

The View from the Bleachers (Cubs): GirlieView (09/24/2010)
Lizzie with her fun notes and observations from the week that was.

Redleg Nation: Titanic Struggle Recap: Reds clinch NL Central tie; magic number is ONE
The struggling contender beats up on the struggling-er contender -- the Padres -- and the Central, which has been over for several weeks now, is finally almost officially over.

Dodger Thoughts: Uncomfortably numb: Bullpen wastes Billingsley's 13 Ks
"Chad Billingsley tied a career high with 13 strikeouts today while allowing five baserunners and one run in seven innings. His only problem: It's 2010, the Year Without a Reliable Bullpen."

Disciples of Uecker (Brewers): What a long, injured trip it's been
Mark Rodgers has had a whole career of troubles, and is only 24. Leading up to his Friday night debut, Jack takes a look at how he got here. (Postscript: he threw just three innings and 56 pitches, but didn't give up a hit while walking two and striking out four.)

Mets Today: Mets Game 155: Win Over Phillies
You know, MLB probably just couldn't wait for this past weekend when they came out with the schedule. Yankees and Red Sox? Mets and Phillies? Late September? Um...well...yeah.

Ducksnorts (Padres): Ice in My Shorts
Excited notes from the Pads' Saturday victory over the Reds that put them, however temporarily, back in first place.

Bay City Ball (Giants): So, I Really Don't Like Coors Field
"Oh, what’s that? That’s Troy Tulowitzk hitting a game-winning single into LF — just outside the reach of our portly SS — that’s then hilariously fielded by defensive specialist Pat Burrell."

Fungoes (Cardinals): United Cardinal Bloggers: Cards' top prospects, aggregated
The results of a survey of Cards bloggers ranking the Cards' top prospects. Even if you don't particularly care about Cardinal prospects, it's worth noting (at least by other team bloggers) that there's a thing called United Cardinal Bloggers.

Nationals Baseball: A weak, non-commital opinion on Stan's leaving
Reactions and theories on the sudden departure of "Stan 'the Plan' Kasten."

Fire Brand of the American League (Red Sox): Things Were Different Then
Red Sox fans try to come to grips with a pennant race-less September and a virtually baseball-less October.

Sox Machine (White Sox): Contract talks lead to contradiction for Guillen
Jim has some questions about all this talk about Ozzie's contract extension.

The Daily Fungo (Tigers): Video: Tigers 1984 Season Recap (Part 1, Part 2, Part 3)
The title says it all; great video from the greatest Tiger season anyone around today is likely to remember.

Royals Authority: Avoiding 100
"It’s come to this.  A celebration of avoiding 100 losses.

Nick's Twins Blog: Francisco Liriano and BABIP
Two of my favorite topics! Nick has a bit of a (well-deserved) I-told-you-so for people who didn't believe Liriano was much better than he looked when he had a .361 BABIP in July.

It's About the Money, Stupid (Yankees): The Human Element
"I often hear people say/write (something to the effect of), “See. [Player X] did fine despite [sabermetric statistic that stated otherwise].The game isn’t played on a computer screen.” Like most of the arguments in the debate over newer statistics, it comes from a misunderstanding of what is actually happening and what the purpose of sabermetrics is. So, let’s talk about it."

Pro Ball NW (Mariners): Death to Maple Bats (As They Are, Anyway)
"Baseball knows how to change things to make their game safer, and now it’s time for it to happen again.  We just hope it happens soon, and before anyone else gets hurt."

The Ray Area: The reports of [the Rays'] death have been greatly exaggerated

"Why can’t anyone break this team’s spirit?  Because Joe Maddon has created an environment that focuses on the next play."

Baseball Time in Arlington (Rangers): Paying Tribute to the Champions
The Rangers' division title, which had been a foregone conclusion for months, was finally made official over the weekend, and Joey has some words of appreciation.

Friday, September 24, 2010

SweetSpot Roundup 9/24

Pro Ball NW (Mariners): Look Ahead to the Offseason, Part 2
"All in all, the potential roster for 2011 looks like it could be another long year.  Next season looks like a rebuilding year for sure, and in all honesty it could wind up being even worse from a wins and losses perspective than 2010 has been."

The Ray Area: It's Just Too Bad
Mark with some perspective on Carl Crawford's imminent departure.

Fire Brand of the American League (Red Sox): Coveroo Trivia
Trivia. Prizes. Fun.

Royals Authority: Extending Billy Butler
"Now is the time, I think, for the Royals to enter into negotiations to lock up Butler to a fair, but reasonable long-term deal.   Something along the lines of four years and $26 million might get the job done."

Nick's Twins Blog: Fourth Starter in the Playoffs
I'm not going to lie; that Twins fans can write articles like this right now, makes me pretty damn happy:  "Right now, the choice appears to be between Nick Blackburn, Kevin Slowey, Scott Baker or the Game 1 starter on short rest. None of those options seem all that unappealing, which is a good sort of conundrum to face."

Sox Machine (White Sox): Flowers can build off first start
"I don’t think he’ll get enough of an opportunity to start planning on him, but they still have to keep him as a big part of the picture. One bad season shouldn’t sink a guy like Flowers, especially at such a tough position."

It's About the Money, Stupid (Yankees): Deep diving on AJ Burnett
More than you ever wanted to know about AJ Burnett using some wicked cool (and pretty) heat charts.  Check this out.

Austin's Astros 290 Blog: Wandy Rodriguez gets hosed again
"How many times in a year can one possibly be forced to write the same story?  Wandy Rodriguez has been hung out to dry time and time again by his teammates.  He’s putting up some of the best numbers in baseball and has a horrible record to show for it."

Capitol Avenue Club (Braves): Off Day Notes
"I think it’s about time to try something else in the lead off spot.  Omar Infante simply doesn’t get on base enough to warrant hitting in the top-half of the order, much less the lead off spot....Infante’s season .367 on base average (falling fast, BTW) is entirely a product of his .330 batting average, which is entirely a product of his .368 BABIP, which isn’t sustainable in the least bit."

Disciples of Uecker (Brewers): I Miss Ben Sheets
Jack waxes nostalgic about one of his favorite pitchers.  This is the kind of article you point assinine sportswriters and fans to who say that statheads can't be real fans.

The View from the Bleachers (Cubs): Drinking With George Wendt (A Book Review)
"At some point, as I was reading the book, I looked closely at the cover photo of George Wendt and I thought: 'Holy Moly – He looks bloated and puffy and fat and terrible. Like he’s been out drinking all night and then, at 6:00 am, they told him to sit at the bar and have his picture taken.' Then I looked in the mirror and realized: Hey, he looks just like me!!"

Dodger Thoughts: Jamey Carroll Wins Roy Campanella Award
Obviously, this is not for hitting.  It's for "most inspirational Dodger."  Given James Loney's comments on Tuesday, it doesn't sound like it was a crowded field.

Mets Today: Marlins 7, Mets 3
"The Fish swept the Mets, but at least the pain was quick. A two-game sweep is less painful than a three-game sweep, isn’t it?"

Ducksnorts (Padres): Seat Belts Fastened, Tray Tables in an Upright and Locked Position
"I can’t say enough good things about Tim Stauffer. He has done whatever was asked of him this year and done it well. I think I’ve mentioned this before, but to my way of thinking, Stauffer has become a viable mid- to long-term option in the rotation."

Crashburn Alley (Phillies):  Jack McCaffery Wears Bad Idea Jeans
Jack McCaffery thinks Wilson Valdez might make Jimmie Rollins expendable.  Bill (deservedly) gives him the FJM treatment.

Redleg Nation: Not-So-Random Thoughts
Chad channels his inner Kanye:  "Yo St. Louis Cardinals, I’m really happy for you and Imma let you finish, but Richard Nixon was the greatest quitter of all time."

Thursday, September 23, 2010

A Very Special Podcast in which Blossom becomes a woman

The Common Man has good news for you if you, like him, enjoy the sound of his voice.  TCM podcasted last night with Lar of and Joe Tetreault of  Bill, sadly, could not join us, as he was buried under a pile of old newpapers and dribbling a basketball with his one free hand to keep his sanity.  He made a game of it.

Anyway, in his absence, we talked about Tyler Colvin and exploding bats, the MVP races that are wrapping up, and how injuries may seriously compromise playoff bound teams.  Enjoy.

Listen to internet radio with TheCommonMan on Blog Talk Radio

SweetSpot Roundup 9/23

Austin's Astros 290 Blog: Turnabout's Fair Play
"The Astros now have to go 8-3 in their remaining games to reach .500.  They can still afford one loss in every series, just so long as they don’t lose either of the next two games with the mighty Natinals."

Disciples of Uecker (Brewers): An Updated Look at the Rotation
The Brewers' rotation has been looking better recently, and Jack looks at CHONE projects to gauge their chances next year.

Fungoes (Cardinals): A Changing of the Cards' WAR Guard
Color me shocked:  "Don’t look now, but when the season ends, someone other than Albert Pujols may lead the Cardinals in wins above replacement for the first time since 2004."

Dodger Thoughts: Dodgers might have to pay Ted Lilly more than he's worth this offseason
"Everything depends on cost, but based on what Lilly figures to command on the free agent market, if the Dodgers sign him, it could turn out to be a deal that looks good at first and not good at all in the end. The thing is, given the pitching vacancies the Dodgers are facing for 2011, that kind of fate with Lilly, Hiroki Kuroda or whomever might be unavoidable."

Bay City Ball (Giants): Buster's Missing Walks
Chris wonders if we should be concerned by Buster Posey's low walk rate.

Mets Today: Marlins 5, Mets 2
"The battle for third place did not go well for the Mets."

Nationals Baseball: The Rebirth of John Lannan 
"Since he came back on the first of August, John has easily been the Nats best starter. It's not even close."

Ducksnorts (Padres): It's the Most Improbable Time of the Year
"The Padres are in a pennant race. I still don’t understand how that’s even possible, but no complaints."

Crashburn Alley (Phillies): The Genius of Charlie Manuel
"In the comments below (or in your own blog entry, or Twitter/Facebook, etc.), make as objective and logical a case for Manuel as you can. Be as specific and scientific as possible. What are Manuel’s strengths and weaknesses? Where does he rank among MLB managers, currently and historically? Where would the Phillies be without him?"

Redleg Nation: Will the 2010 Astros finish 2nd?
Holy crap, this is actually possible. How the hell did this happen?

The B-List Indians Blog: B-List Lite
"I will point you to the recap with the caveat that last night's loss squashed what little sense of hope I had about this team next season.  Yes, a meaningless (to Cleveland) late-inning road loss to a superior team has emotionally wiped out the entire concept of 2011 success.  This is probably an overreaction.  I do not care." Whoa, dude.

Pro Ball NW (Mariners): Carp, Halman, Mangini, Varvero called up
The bigger story is who is not called up: Dustin Ackley and Josh Lueke.  For very different reasons.

Weaver's Tantrum (Orioles): First Innings
"I have to confess that my work schedule often forces me to miss the first inning or two of every game. Right now, who cares?  On the year the Orioles have been outscored 102-61 in the first innings."

Baseball Time in Arlington (Rangers): When the frustration boils over
"This has been one uniquely strange season all the way around."

The Ray Area: That stings
"Before last night’s game, Rays owner/New York resident Stuart Sternberg visited with the local media and promptly threw a wet blanket over Rays fans everywhere by reminding the media that the Rays have to get to $50MM in payroll next summer — no matter what."

Royals Authority: The Early Start to the Greinke Rumor Mill
"Just be prepared.  The Greinke rumor mill is just now firing up.  There’s going to be a ton of talk on this topic over the next 12 to 24 months."

Nick's Twins Blog: The Minnesota Twins, Your 2010 AL Central Champion
"I write this post celebrating the Twins' 2010 AL Central title on September 22nd. That's a full 14 days earlier than I did so last year, a fact that gives these Twins a distinct advantage over the '09 group -- beyond the more meaningful edges in talent and depth."

Sox Machine (White Sox): Flag half-mast, White Sox coaching staff half-hearted
"Most people have to see their contracts all the way through before getting another one, unless you’re Mark Teahen. But Guillen wants more than a contract, I reckon. He wants to know if he’s winning the fight against Kenny Williams, and I’m not sure that’s the behavior of somebody who deserves a commitment."

It's About the Money, Stupid (Yankees): Debate Over, Bring on Texas!
"Some fans want the Yankees to win the division for home field advantage. Others just think it should be part of the Yankee ethos to win. Me, I just want the Yankees to play the Rangers."

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

SweetSpot Roundup 9/22

By The Common Man and Bill

The B-List Indians Blog: B-List Lite
"The purpose of September."  What is it?  I think it's to keep August away from October after that big blowout at the reunion last year.

Baseball Time in Arlington (Rangers): Six, Six, Six
"can you begin to imagine the fury that would ensue if the Rangers clinched the division on Saturday ... and nobody actually saw it due to Major League Baseball's arcane blackout restrictions?"  No, no I can't.

The Ray Area: Sometimes the matchups don't work out the way you...wait?  What?
"I don’t know what to say.  I guess I will give Maddon some credit for admitting his mistake and not trying to justify the decision in hindsight.  But not too much credit.  I am really at a loss here."

Fire Brand of the American League (Red Sox): Fixing Dice-K
"The most frustrating thing to watch as a fan is when a pitcher simply refuses to throw strikes. There are some pitchers that just don’t have control. Then there are some that just don’t have command. Dice-K has all the pure “stuff” in the world, but no ability to hit his spots with any sort of consistency."

Royals Authority: The Other Big Three
A sequal to yesterday's post, here are the three biggest hitting prospects in the Royals' system.

The Daily Fungo: Sweeping Away Bad Karma in Chicago
"I don’t care what the standings say, a sweep of the White Sox is delicious in any flavor. When that sweep comes at a time of the year when Chicago is clinging for dear life to their playoff hopes, does it get any better?  No. It does not."

Sox Machine (White Sox): Magazines and batting issues
So what if the Twins are on the cover of sports illustrated. Jim's found a magazine the Sox are on the cover of.

It's About the Money Stupid (Yankees): Presenting both sides of the BatGlove Debate
You know what, just go back and read everything the IIATMS team has written in the last two days about the dangers of shattered bats.

The View from the Bleachers (Cubs): In the News: The Final Edition (for Now)
Daver is stepping down for a while after this one, Tyler Colvin is recovering, and Geovany Soto is going (or, went) under the knife. Also, Cubs next manager power rankings, which is very cool.

Redleg Nation: This Day in Reds History: Dramatic Wins
Plenty of great content on RN yesterday, but I'm a big fan of these types of "this day in history" posts. Plus, a Tony Tarasco mention!

Austin's Astros 290 Blog: Let's Hear It for the Boys. Of Summer. Arnie and Baggy.
Austin's had enough of ripping on Brad Mills, so now he gives some credit to the folks he thinks are responsible for the Astros' turnaround: pitching coach Brad Arnsberg and hitting coach Jeff Bagwell.

Dodger Thoughts: Pivotal moment could turn trial against Frank McCourt
This trial is right out of Law & Order or something. Now there's apparently an altered prenup...which could lead to the sale of the team.

Disciples of Uecker (Brewers): An Updated Look at the Rotation
Jack looks at CHONE projections and recent performance to take stock of the starting five.

Bay Area Ball (Giants): Buster's Missing Walks
Chris' timing was a bit unfortunate--Posey drew three walks on Sunday, while this piece was being written--but his walk rate is still a lot lower than his minor league numbers would lead one to expect. Which at this point is sort of like picking on Babe Ruth for his stolen base percentage, but it's worth keeping an eye on.

Fungoes (Cardinals): A changing of the Cards' WAR guard?
"Don’t look now, but when the season ends, someone other than Albert Pujols may lead the Cardinals in wins above replacement for the first time since 2004." (My first thought, of course: they spelled "2000" wrong. But, sure enough, Albert finished behind both Rolen and Edmonds in '04.)

Nationals Baseball: Milestones or Millstones
The news isn't good for the Nats, either at the gates or in the standings.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

The 40 Greatest "First Losers"

By The Common Man

Friend of the Blog, and Godfather of baseball blogging, Aaron Gleeman started a project back in 2006 where he would count down the top 40 Twins of all time. Since then, Aaron’s started, stopped, and restarted and restopped his project, though he has made noises recently about getting going again this off-season. The Common Man hopes he does, because he provided some of the most detailed and well researched material on the central Twins cast members ever put together. In the meantime, as a sort of homage to Aaron’s efforts, and because people like lists of things, The Common Man is going to start his own Top 40 lists. Of what? you ask. Of darn near anything. The 40 Greatest St. Louis Browns? Sure. The 40 Greatest mustaches of all time? Why not? The 40 Greatest fluke seasons? We’ll get to that.

So last week, The Common Man enjoying watching the Twins sweep the White Sox out of playoff contention, when he began to wonder about the best teams to not make the postseason. As we get down to the final two weeks of the regular season, more and more 2010 squads are beginning to become eligible for the honor. Alas, because of the Wild Card, most of the great teams to not make it to October hail from a much earlier era. Indeed, the most recent team to make the list is the 1993 Giants, who won 103 games, and finished one game back of the Braves. The reason for this is simple; the wild card has allowed the really great also-rans another way into the playoffs, making it far less likely to have a team with 95 wins or more who can’t get in somehow. There simply aren’t enough great teams out there to realize this scenario. Likewise, there are fewer teams from the division era (1969-1993) than in the era where there were simply two leagues and no playoffs.

The criteria was relatively simple.  TCM looked at wins, of course, and winning percentage, but he also looked at how far back the teams finished, and how far they were ahead of the next club to get a sense of what the overall strength of the league was.  And sometimes, it's just a subjective feeling.

Finally, The Common Man should note that 1994 teams are only eligible if they would not have made the playoffs on the day the season ended. Ditto for 1904 teams, since there was no World Series. And now, on with the show, Casey Cassem style.  Remember, second place is first loser.

SweetSpot Roundup 9/21

B-List Indians Blog: The B-List Lite
Fausto Carmona's newfound command.

Pro Ball NW (Mariners): Rainiers Gunning for AAA Title
Take heart, Mariner fans, just replace your MLB club next year (sans Felix Hernandez) with the AAA squad.  It's not like it could get any worse.

Baseball Time in Arlington (Rangers): Framing the Rangers' Criticisms
"I guess I'm trying to say two things: (a) don't spend too much time overreacting to the non-injury events in any one game between now and the ALDS, because it's time better spent doing something else; and (b) don't extrapolate this weekend's situational-hitting problems."

The Ray Area: AL-H?-S
Mark thinks this upcoming series against the Yankees may not end up mattering much:  "Take away the division crown, which the Yankees apparently don’t care about, and homefield advantage, which the Twins may steal, and this week feels like four more games for the Rays to figure which 25 men to take with them to October."

Fire Brand of the American League (Red Sox): A Reason to Stay in the Game, Prince Felix' 2010
Red Sox fans are apparently checking out early in 2010.  Hey, it's Pats season, right?  Wicked.

Royals Authority: The Next Big Three?
"Congratulations to the Northwest Arkansas Naturals on winning the Texas League Championship.   The Naturals won with a roster full of intriguing prospects, not the least of which were a trio of young arms with upsides through the roof."

Nick's Twins Blog: Four Questions About the Playoff Roster
With the AL Central crown all but wrapped up, Nick's got big questions about the post-season rotation and Justin Morneau.

Sox Machine (White Sox): Skid (re)Marks
I love Ozzie Guillen.  You love Ozzie Guillen. Ozzie Guillen just committed sacrilege, in commenting on the departure of the White Sox' beloved organist, Nancy Faust: "Guillen compared Faust’s music to the vuvuzela, the South African horn. 'At the beginning of the season, it’s fun,' he said. 'Now in June or July, it gets old.'"

It's About the Money, Stupid (Yankees): Honoring the Boss
"I’m too young to remember anything other than the good years, the post-banishment Steinbrenner who took more of a backseat to his baseball people, giving them the resources and space to create a dynasty...and became a benevolent dictator of sorts. It’s my firm belief that this version of George Steinbrenner is the greatest owner is the history of American professional sports, and no matter what anyone tells you, any fan would give his left arm to have that guy owning his favorite team."

Also, IIATMS has been all over the shattered bat almost-tragedy from Sunday, as it's been a cause Jason has railed about for more than a year.  They were on point all day yesterday, so do yourself a favor and read up.

Austin's Astros 290 Blog: Mills Continues to Garner it Up
"Right now, Brad Mills is getting a lot of credit for turning the Astros around, even though he is making many of the same horrible Garner-esque and Cooper-ish decisions that have led to the Astros being a perennial loser in the immediate aftermath of going to the World Series."

Capitol Avenue Club (Braves):  Rotationgate 2010
CAC goes through the strange conflicting reports yesterday about who would be pitching for the Braves on Monday night.  The upshot: "Given the choice between a healthy Brandon Beachy and a hurt Jair Jurrjens, the choice is equally automatic, it’s Brandon Beachy every time.  When players play hurt, they play poorly."

Disciples of Uecker (Brewers): The 2010 Season, Graphically
With the Brewers mathematically eliminated from contention, Jack looks at how depressing the season was for the Brew Crew in graph form.

Fungoes (Cardinals):  Are Injuries a Valid Excuse for the Cardinals' Demise
Fungoes has a fun new stat (for me, at least) with an awesome acronym: "So although the Cardinals have certainly experienced more than their share of PAIN, losing at least 4.0 wins above replacement to injuries, it’s true that other teams, especially the Phillies, have persevered and, either through trades or internal replacement, addressed their injuries and overcome."

The View From the Bleachers: Book Reviews
Somebody's been using their library card!  Reviews of We Might as Well Win! and Parables from the Diamond.

Dodger Thoughts: Selfish Good News
Jon Weisman is very pleased that Logan White and De Jon Watson will not get the GM job in Arizona, "For all the talk about Joe Torre and Don Mattingly, keeping the hope alive in the farm system is probably more important for the Dodgers' future."

Mets Today: DJ Kitty Spins Rays Into First Place
"Mr. Met will forever have our heart. But there is a new mascot who’s a big beat blaster, dropping dope beats cuz he knows he has to."

Nationals Baseball: Stop Being So Unlucky
"It's bad enough that the Nats are bad, but do they have to be unlucky, too? They've lost their last 4 one-run games and more "impressively" 10 of their last 11."

Ducksnorts (Padres): Twenty-four
Geoff's got advice for the Padres: score more, get scored on less.  Things aren't looking good in S.D.

Crashburn Alley (Phillies): Braves-Phillies Series Preview
Exactly what it sounds like except that Capitol Avenue Club's Peter Hjort stops by to answer some Braves questions.

Redleg Nation: Something's Wrong with Brandon Phillips
"It’s quite clear that Brandon Phillips has not been right since being hit on the hand with a pitch on August 25, out in San Francisco. This morning, I wondered how bad it has been. The answer: worse than I thought."

Monday, September 20, 2010

SweetSpot Weekend Roundup September 20

By The Common Man and Bill

Capitol Avenue Club (Braves): Braves will not make the playoffs
Before you jump to the conclusion that CAC had come to his senses and given up on the Bravos, you should know he's talking about the Gulf Coast League Braves.

Disciples of Uecker (Brewers): The Sabathia Trade
Jack looks back on the deal that brought CC Sabathia to Milwaukee and, years later, thinks the Brewers are looking even better.

Fungoes (Cardinals): How's that Luwick Trade Working Out?
"When the tale is told of the enigmatic 2010 Cardinals, one clear and unequivocal bright spot will be the Ludwick for Westbrook trade. Whatever emotional pain it caused Cardinal Nation, it has only helped on the field."

The View From the Bleachers (Cubs): GirlieView
Lizzie wants to know how you think should managed the Cubs in 2011.

Dodger Thoughts: The Future of Remembering Joe Torre
"Joe Torre conducted himself with a level of class and warmth that will probably be the standard future Dodger managers are measured by ... until there's a Dodger manager who succeeds in a different style."

Bay City Ball (Giants): Oh, That Sanchez
Chris is glad that the Giants never sold low on Jonathan Sanchez, who is having a hell of a season.

Mets Today: Braves 6, Mets 3
Encapsulating a season: "I realize the Mets stink, but I was hoping they’d win at least one of these."

Nationals Baseball: Ladson and Lannan
Should the Nats resign Adam Dunn? Harper thinks maybe the fans should have a say.

Ducksnorts (Padres): Cleanup on Aisle 14-4
In light of Mat Latos' recent struggles, Geoff thinks maybe the Cardinals should have gone after Jake Westbrook at the deadline.

Crashburn Alley (Phillies): What I learned from today's game
Bill takes issue with Charlie Manuel's in game strategy. Manuel promises to "give that punk what for" the next time he sees him.

Redleg Nation: Higher Attendance=More Wins?
Would the Reds have won more if they had bigger crowds? Color me skeptical.

Fire Brand of the American League (Red Sox): Lowell Says Goodbye to Boston
Thoughts on the impending retirement of erstwhile fan favorite Mike Lowell.

Sox Machine (White Sox): What to watch as the White Sox play out the string
The postseason is out of reach, but Jim finds a number of interesting storylines and stat lines to keep an eye on for these final games.

Royals Authority: Final Off-Day Ramblings
Royals news and notes, including an update on Royals who have left us (for other teams) during this season.

Nick's Twins Blog: Hudson's September Disappearance
The man Vin Scully used to delightfully and repeatedly refer to as O-Dog has been awful this month...just as he was 12 months ago. That gets Nick wondering.

It's About the Money, Stupid (Yankees): Colvin hit by shattered bat, pierces chest inches from heart
Lots of info and commentary about the incident and the danger of maple bats in general. That thing everybody said needed to happen before they woke up and made a change? Well, it's happened, and everyone is just very lucky it appears not to have cost someone's life or career. Now, if they don't actually do anything...

Pro Ball NW (Mariners): Smoak & Cortes Called Up
As a quasi-Mariner fan and one who really, really liked the Cliff Lee trade at the time, I'm hoping Smoak hits about .600/1.000/2.000 over these last couple weeks. That'd put just a tiny little bit of a glimmer in the distance during what promises to be a dreadfully depressing offseason.

The Ray Area: We all know what's coming
Some perspective on the Rays' attendance woes: "So, spare me your platitudes about the importance of filling the Trop.  People are struggling to feed themselves and their families.  It is distasteful, at best, to chastise those people for not dropping $100 on a night at the ballpark."

Baseball Time in Arlington (Rangers): Sunday Morning Open Thread: Five Questions
Five things for Rangers fans to ponder, including a hypothetical Cliff Lee re-signing.

Friday, September 17, 2010

October Ain't May

By The Common Man

With the Twins sweeping the White Sox out of the pennant race yesterday, it’s time to look forward to the coming postseason and the Twins chances of advancing to the World Series. The Twins have a winning record against the Texas Rangers (7-3 with a +15 run differential), but would not be eligible to face the Rangers in the first round, since the Wild Card winner is coming out of the AL East.

Unfortunately, the Twins have fared poorly against both the Yankees (2-4 with a -3 differential) and the Rays (3-5 with a -6 differential). So, on the surface at least, the Twins and their fans should be concerned about getting through the Division Series. But are the Twins that the Yankees and Rays will face in October the same Twins they played in May, June, and July? And are the Yankees and Rays the same clubs they were?

Let’s look at the Twins starters through six games with the Yankees. The bad news is that the Yankees had to go up against Justin Morneau six times and still beat the Twins this year. Morneau, obviously, is unlikely to contribute much in the postseason, even if he is added to the roster. More likely, the Yankees will face off against Michael Cuddyer at 1B, which is a huge defensive downgrade. The good news is that Cuddyer’s shift opens up additional playing time for Jason Kubel (who played only 4 games against the Bombers, Delmon Young (who also played 4). This, and the fact that Drew Butera should remain stapled to the bench throughout the postseason (meaning Joe Mauer won’t have to DH), will provide additional opportunities for Jim Thome (who only got into 2 games). That lineup shifting may not be enough to make up for the run differential itself though, especially with Morneau sitting out.

However, the Yankees faced off against just three of the Twins starters, facing Francisco Liriano, Scott Baker, and Nick Blackburn twice each. They met little success against Liriano, who limited them to 5 runs in 13 innings, while striking out 14. They teed off Scott Baker in their first meeting (5 runs in 6 innings), but he shut them down for five innings in his second start. And Blackburn also proved largely stymieing (5 runs in 13 innings). The Yankees are not likely, however, to face Baker. It may face Blackburn, who has a 1.71 ERA in 31 innings since being recalled from the minors, but only in a game 4. New York is more likely to have to go against Liriano, Carl Pavano, and Brian Duensing in games 1-3.

The main problem for the Twins was their bullpen performance. In 14 innings, the Twins relievers gave up five home runs, and allowed 5 of 6 inherited runners to score, in addition to allowing 9 runs of their own. It was a miserable performance. And this is where the Twins may have made up significant ground on the Yankees, as they have significantly bolstered their bullpen with the additions of Matt Capps and Brian Fuentes, and with the reemergence of Jesse Crain. Their success pushes Jon Rauch, Matt Guerrier, and Jose Mijares into lower-leverage roles. And other relievers like Alex Burnett and Ron Mahay will not be part of the post-season pen.

The Yankees, meanwhile, are dealing with a hobbled Alex Rodriguez, a concussed Jorge Posada, a brittle Andy Pettitte, a slumping Robinson Cano, and an ineffective Derek Jeter. And when the teams played earlier this year, the only players likely to play in the playoffs who did not get a crack at the Twins were Posada (who played in 2 games) and Curtis Granderson (who did not play at all). In all, the teams look well-matched.

Similarly, the Twins who faced the Rays are vastly different from who Tampa will see now that the Twins’ lineup and rotation have stabilized. Drew Butera caught 4 of the 8 contests between the teams. Alexi Casilla got into 4 games at 2B with Orlando Hudson out. Michael Cuddyer got 3 starts at 3B, significantly weakening the left side IF defense. Nick Punto and Trevor Plouffe split 3 starts at SS. And Jim Thome only got four starts at DH. Here, the damage caused by Morneau’s absence in the final analysis is mitigated somewhat because he only started four games against the Rays before his concussion knocked him to the sidelines.

The Twins’ rotation will also be significantly different from the arms Tampa faced in the regular season. The Rays got Pavano twice (6 runs in 12.1 innings), Liriano once (and were thoroughly dominated), and Duensing once (6 innings, 3 runs), but also got two cracks at Baker (but failed, as Baker dominated them), one at Slowey, and one at Blackburn (who was bombed). And again, the relief core proved unreliable, with 15 runs allowed (and 10 runners inherited scored) in 20.2 innings. But, as before, much of that damage was done without Capps or Fuentes available.

Unfortunately, it’s difficult to tell what the Rays’ postseason lineup is going to look like, given their roster flexibility. Where, for instance, does Ben Zobrist play? He’s manened CF and 1B versus the Twins, but could also play RF or 2B. Does Brandon Jennings make the postseason roster? Which struggling hitter, Carlos Pena or Manny Aybar, sits? Will lefty-hitting catcher be allowed to play against Liriano and Duensing, or will the disappointing Kelly Shoppach platoon?

Perhaps even more interesting is the pitching staff. Lefty David Price would undoubtedly pitch twice in a five game series against the lefty-heavy Twins. Then, what do the Rays do with former stalwart James Shields and his 4.86 ERA? Conceivably, he could be entirely left off in favor of Wade Davis, Jeff Niemann, and Matt Garza, but will the Rays feel they can afford to bench the franchise leader in victories, even though he's been their worst starter?

Again, despite the Twins’ record against the Rays, they look like they could be evenly matched. But there are probably too many questions surrounding the team’s playoff construction to answer definitively.

What we do know, however, is that the Twins’ record against both teams is deceiving. They were not significantly outscored in either case, and their reconstituted roster and newfound health (Morneau withstanding) means that either opponent is in for more than they got during the regular season.

SweetSpot Roundup 9/17

B-List Indians Blog: B-List Lite
"Jeanmar Gomez' inability to win without stuff"

Most of you have heard the disturbing story of Josh Lueke and the Mariners' front office's supposed ignorance of his past.  He's got nothing more to prove against minor league hitters, and Jon wonders whether we'll see the prospect in Seattle before the season is up. I certainly hope not.  I don't care how repentent he supposedly is.

Baseball Time in Arlington (Rangers):  Thursday Morning Notes
The news is not good for Rangers fans regarding Josh Hamilton's hip injury.  Recovery has stalled.  This puts the Rangers at a severe disadvantage come October.

The Ray Area: When Is It Cheating?
Mark wonders, in light of Cap'n Jetes' acting job last night, where the line is between gamesmanship and cheating.

Fire Brand of the American League (Red Sox): State of the Rotation
The starting rotation was supposed to be a huge assett for the Sox this year, but injuries have left the team scrambling.  How do things look for 2011?

"The truth is [Gil Meche] is going to make $12 million next year no matter what.... Let’s all get over the ‘$12 million set-up guy quips’ and focus on what is salvageable on the back half of this contract."

The Daily Fungo (Tigers): Three for Thursday
"Between now and October 3, Miguel Cabrera will probably blow past the American League record for intentional walks. He has 30 now and Ted Williams’ mark of 34 during the 1957 season doesn’t stand a chance."

Nick's Twins Blog: The Bullpen Ace
"It's quite clear that Crain is the Twins' best reliever at this point, and that has some folks wondering why the team acquired Matt Capps to fill the closer role when they could have simply had Crain and Jon Rauch swap roles."

"If a tree fell in a Minnesota forest and Ozzie Guillen saw it, would he start advocating for mass deforestation?"

It's About the Money, Stupid (Yankees): Robbie Cano, where'd you go?
"A lot of things have gone wrong for the Yankees lately....  Somewhat unremarked upon in all of this though is that Robinson Cano has cooled down quite a bit lately, and is downright slumping now."

Capitol Avenue Club (Braves): Thursday Notes of Doom 
"Starting pitching has gone from the team’s strength to their weakness in a little under a year.  I have no doubt that Mike Minor will have a successful major league career if he stays healthy and will pitch very well for the Braves in years to come, but yesterday was the last straw."

The View from the Bleachers (Cubs): Joe's Big Important Question of the Day
What to do with Big Z?

Drew Stubbs is awfully streaky. He's also awfully good, and pretty young.

The second-worst kind of loss, I think, right after the huge early lead that slowly melts away throughout the rest of the game. 

Meet the old boss, not a big fan of the new boss. Also, several other Dodger notes.

"Ironically, Davidoff could be right when he states that Bobby Valentine’s salary could be too rich for the Wilpons’ taste. It’s funny that the owners wouldn’t blink at approving $36M for Oliver Perez or $25M for Luis Castillo, yet have serious reservations about spending $3M on Bobby Valentine. Makes one wonder."

Crashburn Alley (Phillies): More on Ryan Howard's WAR 
Bill responds to some lingering questions following his excellent explanatory post from the other day.

Ducksnorts (Padres): Rocky Mountain Anvil
Thoughts after the Padres' huge series win at Coors.

Sounds like the story of Francisco Liriano's season: Wainwright comes up with 8 K, 1 BB and no HR...but a one-game BABIP of .469 against the Cubs.