Tuesday, May 31, 2011

The TPA Personality Test

By Mark Smith

My roommate and I were sitting around a week ago or so, and he asked, “If you were in the majors, what type of player would you be?” He didn’t mean it in a Road to the Show way in which you can choose your position, change your attributes, and cover your weaknesses. He meant it as a mental exercise in which you considered your physical and mental abilities and applied it to baseball. It was a fun exercise, but I didn’t really have anything to go off of because I didn’t have a list of what each position would need. Because I know you’ve definitely had this problem, I’ve put together the list for you. You can thank me later. On to the list … 

Catcher: You’re a quirky individual. For the most part, you’re a great leader and very intelligent, but your insistence on calling the shots leads some to believe you’re a little stubborn. You’re also somewhat of a masochist and have a penchant for wearing costumes. This leads some to wonder about you, but they are willing to ignore it because of your importance to the team and the funny sayings you have that don’t make sense but kind of do once you think about it for a little bit. Physically, you’re about 6 feet tall and a little pudgy, and you have or will have chronic knee problems.

First Base: You’re a social butterfly and always willing to talk around the watercooler. While there’s really only one thing you’re good at, you’re really good at it, and you are handsomely paid to do it because that skill is really important to the company. Despite your large stature, you’re quite nimble and constantly surprise people with your dance skills.

SweetSpot Roundup 5/31

In today's roundup, the Astros are selling, the Brewers are running, Lizzie is leaving, Bartolo Colon is dealing, Jose Bautista is kvetching.  Also, take a moment to remember Paul Splitorff, RIP.

Monday, May 30, 2011

Power Rankings Comments Explained: The Torii Hunter Problem

Torii Hunter: .240/.322/.375. He has a below-average bat for right field, with average defense. And he's still owed about $30 million through next season.

Seeing as how the Angels are the same team who knowingly, inexplicably took on the Vernon Wells albatross and the obligation to pay him $81 million over the next four years -- and actually gave value for the privilege -- it's easy to forget that they've committed $36 million for 2011 and 2012 to a remarkably similar albatross. Right-handed rather than switch hitting, but: some power, below-average on-base skills, declining speed, no longer possessing the range to play center.

NL Power Rankings Comments Explained

Happy Memorial Day everyone.  Here's our post commemorating the day and the reason we are free to blog and call Bill Smith a terrible general manager.  It's Power Rankings day again on ESPN, so TCM is expanding on his comments on the Mothership this morning.  So without further ado, here's a few extra words on the unexpected success of the Pirates and Marlins.

This Week in 2001 (Week 8)

Once again, the regular Friday morning event is pushed to Monday. Still, here's what happened ten years ago, ending last Friday:

Monday, May 21: It's another slow Monday -- six games this time, more than last week's three, but still, not a whole lot happens. Curt Schilling nets his complete game, though, leading the Diamondbacks over the Giants 4-2. In ten starts, he's 7-1 with a 2.99 ERA and 84 Ks in 75.1 innings.

Tuesday, May 22: In a battle of two of the hottest teams of the season to date, the Twins just squeak one past the amazing Mariners. The Twins, who had scored 8 in the third, add four insurance runs in the eighth to go up 12-7. The M's then proceed to score four off of Eddie Guardado and Latroy Hawkins in the top of the ninth, and the game ends, 12-11, when Mark MacLemore strikes out with Tom Lampkin representing the tying run at second base. The Mariners (32-12) now lead the AL West by 10 full games, while the Twins (30-13) take a 1.5-game lead over Cleveland in the Central.

Re-Post: Memory

(Note: The Common Man originally wrote this back in May of 2009, but it's still applicable.  Happy Memorial Day to our nation's veterans, and TCM hopes you spare a moment to think about those who have protected our Constitution, our country, and our lives over the years.)

Understandably, when Memorial Day rolls around every year, baseball fans think of the Ted Williamses, Cecil Travises, and Bob Fellers, stars who saw combat in World War II and risked their lives for the United States and their fellow soldiers. These men are genuine heroes, and any amount of praise and attention they get will not be enough. That said, their heroism and service tends to overshadow the contributions of other ballplayers in other wars both because of the epic nature of the larger struggle and their legendary status as players. Here are a few of those players:

John Titus (OF, 1903-1913, Spanish-American War)

Titus was one of the best hitters on a decent string of Philadelphia Phillies teams in the early 20th century. Playing the outfield corners, Titus hit .282/.373/.385 in the Deadball Era, good for a 127 OPS+. At the time, Titus was probably one of the 15 most valuable hitters in the league. His mustache (he was supposedly the last man in the league to sport a handlebar mustache) was in the top five all by itself. Titus was considered a veteran of the Spanish-American War in 1898, in which the United States gained control of Cuba, Guam, the Philippines, and Puerto Rico.

Friday, May 27, 2011

SweetSpot Roundup 5/27

Capitol Avenue Club (Braves): The Importance of David Ross
Buster Posey's injury reminds Ben Duronio about why having good backup catcher is so important.

Disciples of Uecker (Brewers): Breaking News - Brewers Have Really Good Starting Pitchers
"We have to give Doug Melvin a heck of a lot of credit for making this team’s glaring weakness into an overwhelming strength. This team is on a roll, just think how good it will be when those ERAs start to match up a little more closely with those fielding independent numbers. Congratulations, Doug. Now go get us a shortstop!"

Dodger Thoughts: Cogs and Dogs 2011
Jon ranks the Dodgers players based on who exasperates him least.

Bay City Ball (Giants): Disaster Game Leaves Fans Looking Around For Something to Hit
In the wake of Buster Posey, Otis is looking for someone to blame.

Nationals Baseball: So What Needs to Change?
Jason Werth wants "things" to change, but wasn't specific. Harper speculates on what he meant.

Ducksnorts (Padres): Clouds or Snow?
Geoff's saga continues at the Four Corners with Mat Latos, Roberto Pena, and Steve Carlton.

Crashburn Alley (Phillies): A Reminder - JC Romero Not As Bad As He Seems
"Romero’s poor performance thus far can be blamed solely on Manuel’s usage. The Phillies front office knew going in what Romero’s strengths and weaknesses were; no one should be surprised when he fails after being put in statistically unfavorable positions."

Ghostrunner on First (Blue Jays): Defense Matters Question Mark
Drew checks out the Jays' defense, and has the best nickname ever for Jose Bautista: One Man Gang.

It's Pronounced Laj-a-way (Indians): No time for a second cup, I have to catch the (Colum)bus
Like Todd Frazier yesterday, Ezequiel Carrera didn't even have time to unpack.

Pro Ball NW (Mariners): The Missing Inspector
Patrick Dubuque tales the tale of Bill Caudill, ancient Mariner and prankster extraordinaire.

Camden Depot (Orioles): The Merits of Bone Crunching Play
Jon Shepherd's got a radical proposal to eliminate colisions at the plate.

Baseball Time in Arlington (Rangers): The End of John Rhadigan
"This was probably the right decision on the whole, but...the anger felt on this issue was best directed towards the Rangers for putting Rhadigan in a position to fail, and towards the media types that so vigorously defended Rhadigan even though they didn't necessarily watch the games on television."

The Ray Area: Faster Than a Speeding Bandwagon
Mark on an important point about fandom: "I generally make fun of bandwagon fans — particularly the pink hatted legions that showed up around Fenway starting win that first World Series title.... But maybe I am giving them a raw deal.  At some point, we all had to be bandwagon fans before we became more dedicated."

Fire Brand of the American League (Red Sox): Trade Target - Francisco Liriano
"Given Liriano’s struggles this season, it may seem like a risky move to add him to the rotation, but there is still a ton of upside in his numbers that may translate to more in-game success should a team fix his mechanics and/or rebuild his mental game."

Royals Authority: Time Is On Melky's Side
"The Royals, who did a remarkable job of promoting the supposed prowess of Yuniesky Betancourt (with a straight face and everything, mind you), need to play Melky Cabrera every day and rave about his clutch hitting, solid defense and general overall good attitude and great shape.    Somebody might find that intriguing.

Nick's Twins Blog: The Wrong Call
Nick thinks it's not to late to put Duensing in the bullpen and Slowey in the rotation.  I wish he was right, but that ship has probably sailed.

It's About the Money, Stupid (Yankees): Too Many Homeruns? Surely you jest!
Sadly, Yankees related media does not jest.  And don't call them Shirley.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Long Games Lead to Wandering Thoughts

Over the past week or so, I’ve been helping my brother with his new house. First, we had to install some insulation in the house he’s building because he wanted extra in there in order to avoid hearing the garage door open and close, hearing the TV in the bedroom while he's trying to sleep, and having his wife hear his gaseous releases from the bathroom (after being together for 10+ years, I think she's got the idea by now). Second, we have to move his stuff from the old house to a number of spots because, of course, he sold his house before his new one was finished. So I’ve spent the better part of the past week helping him, and if you’ve ever helped move people, it’s a little tiring. Anyway, I finally got home last night and was predictably exhausted, but my roommate was watching the Reds game. I haven’t hung out with him in a while, so I was like, “I’ll stay up for the Reds game and hang out with him.” Because whatever deity you choose to worship hates me, the game went 19 innings, and just to prove how much that deity hates me, I gave up right after the 18th ended and went to bed, thus missing Wilson “Exxon” Valdez (roommate’s nickname for him, which I think is hilarious) pitching.

Moving past my #$%^&ing and moaning, the game got me to thinking about the longest games (by innings) in baseball history, so I went to Baseball-Reference’s Play Index to find out.

The Slowey Train Out of Town

By The Common Man

In early March, amid the rumors that the Twins were looking to move Francisco Liriano, The Common Man wrote this:

“The Twins remain an organization driven by emotion. They lack the ability to keep dissatisfaction in-house (a problem they’ve had since Tom Kelly was managing, actually), and actively seem to antagonize and marginalize talented players. They also overreact to perceived needs and slights without considering alternatives that do not fit with their preconceived notions of what players should be and what roles they can fill. The Twins are, in short, not rational or logical actors. You cannot count of them to make reasonable and sound decisions in the face of high emotion and mounting pressure."

Well, they held on to Liriano, in spite of The Common Man’s concerns that they would trade him for pennies on the dollar. That decision, which The Common Man would have been elated about at the time, has not turned out well thusfar. Liriano is 3-5 with a 5.73 ERA. His strikeouts are way down and his walks are way, way up. He’s allowing more flyballs than he did last year, has seen his fastball velocity dip, and is not throwing his slider as often. The Twins clearly monkeyed with his head during Spring Training and the early part of 2011, telling their only strikeout pitcher that it was important for him to “pitch to contact.” But it’s difficult to tell how much of his struggles are based on this tinkering. Indeed, there is evidence that Liriano may be hiding an injury or have changed his mechanics. The Twins have recently backed off their coaching and encouraged Liriano to just pitch however he wants, and the results have been mixed. It’s unclear what the exact problem is at this point or how it’s going to be resolved.

The one thing that is apparent, however, is that the Twins could not help criticizing, tweaking, and tinkering with him for much of this season because they were dissatisfied with how he did not fit into the “Twins mold.” They cannot leave well enough alone when it runs counter to their organizational sensibilities.  They continue to be base coaching and personnel decisions not on evidence, but on gut feelings, personal animosities, and irrationality. Take Exhibit B: Kevin Slowey.

SweetSpot Roundup 5/26

In today's roundup, the Orioles are gearing up for the draft, Dice-K disappears, Joakim Soria might be hurt, Kevin Slowey is not wanted, Joe Girardi just can't help himself, Carlos Gomez gets hot, and Todd Frazier leaves before he can even get unpacked.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Caught Stealing

By The Common Man

This story comes to us from former MLB reliever, OG blogger, and Twitter superstar CJ Nitkowski, who heard it from Tom Paciorek.  It's about how Rick Dempsey and Robin Yount's older brother, Larry (who would get injured warming up for his first MLB game, and never play again, which is another awesome story) played Little League together and went to the Little League World Series.  Their team, as it turned out, was being coached by a professional bank robber. 

TCM can't find the original June 30, 2002 article in the Baltimore Sun online archives, but Mr. Nitkowski pointed The Common Man to this reprint here, and here's a snippet:

Greg Maddux Had Rough Nights, Too

Normally, Vin Mazzaro doesn’t inspire comparisons with Greg Maddux. Greg Maddux was one of the best pitchers of all-time. He won 4 Cy Youngs, 18 Gold Gloves (13 straight from 1990-2002), and made 8 All-Star teams (that seems light, doesn’t it?). His 132 ERA+ (3.16 ERA) is 26th all-time among starting pitchers. His 3.37 K/BB is 17th. His 96.8 bWAR places him 9th among all pitchers. Vin Mazzaro has a career 5.24 ERA (84 ERA+), and I won’t embarrass him by trying to figure out where that ranks.

And normally, a performance like the one Mazzaro had on May 16th (2.1 IP, 11 H, 14 ER, 3 BB, 2 K) won’t inspire images of Greg Maddux, either. But I’m a weird guy, and that game made me wonder what Maddux’s worst game ever was. I mean, if he can have an epically bad night, then Mazzaro can rebound from that one, right? Well, maybe not. Maddux had an excellent repertoire, impeccable command, and a pedigree, and Mazzaro has a repertoire, some command, and probably bought Pedigree for his dog. But I thought it would be fun to see what Maddux’s worst performance was, so let’s take a look.

SweetSpot Roundup 5/25

Today's roundup features Alexi Ogando, cool new baserunning stats, a cookbook, Jorge de la Rosa, and the clearest, most impressive .gif of a curveball ever.  Also, George Dzundza for some reason.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

John Harper's Hypocrisy

By The Common Man

As Craig reminds us this morning, in 2009, Jerod Morris wrote an article on fantasy baseball that pondered a fast start by Raul Ibanez, and went through a few of the possible causes for that start. After running through various explanations, Morris wrote,
“It’s time for me to begrudgingly acknowledge the elephant in the room: any aging hitter who puts up numbers this much better than his career averages is going to immediately generate suspicion that the numbers are not natural, that perhaps he is under the influence of some sort of performance enhancer. And since I was not able to draw any absolute parallels between his prodigously improved HR rate and his new ballpark’s hitter-friendliness, it would be foolish to dismiss the possibility that “other” performance enhancers could be part of the equation.
Sorry Raul Ibanez and Major League Baseball, that’s just the era that we are in — testing or no testing.”
Morris was excoriated by the mainstream press.  Somehow, his article got picked up by the Philadelphia Inquirer, who called it a “cheap shot,” and took it to Raul Ibanez. Ibanez vehemently denied using PEDs. Geoff Baker (a writer TCM has come to respect though he still believes Baker to be ridiculously pompous and out to lunch in this particular article), wrote about the differences between “basement bloggers” and “real journalists.” And various ESPN talents weighed in on the controversy.

Fast forward to 2011, and John Harper of the New York Daily News, a “real journalist” by Baker’s (and any others’) definition, speculates on the causes for Jose Bautista’s increase in offense and writes,

“Let's hope he's clean.

Sorry, but even in this drug-testing era, it's impossible not to be suspicious when someone suddenly starts hitting the ball to the moon in his late 20s. Unfortunately, steroids forever hardened us to the romance of a late-bloomer like Bautista, especially when baseball still has no test for human growth hormone.”

SweetSpot Roundup 5/24

In today's roundup, Colby Rasmus makes history by not really doing anything, Chase Utley comes back, closers Papelbon and Feliz struggle, and bunts still kind of suck.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Don't Walk This Way

After checking out Baseball Reference's Play Index, it looks like there are three remaining players who have

A) been on the 25 man roster all season and
B) have yet to draw a single walk.

In reverse order, those three are:

Power Rankings Explained: Why the Diamondbacks Still Stink

By Bill

I don't do this often, because I think my comments to the ESPN Power Rankings more or less speak for themselves. But when I rip on a team coming off a 6-0 week, I suppose it's worth an explanation. Here's what I had to say about the Diamondbacks:

A six-game winning streak like the one the Diamondbacks are currently riding is always nice, but it's worth noting that four of the those six wins were by one run, and three of the six came against the Twins. Their stay at .500 may be a short one.

And here, in addition to the good luck and bad opponents they've faced this week, is why they're no good:

Power Rankings Comments Explained: American League

By The Common Man

It’s time for another round of ESPN Power Rankings, which means it’s time for TCM to expand on the comments he submitted for the uncovered AL squads in Los Angeles and Chicago. As a quick primer, TCM wants to reiterate that he does not have anything to do with the actual rankings as presented by the ESPN overlords. If your problem is with where your team ranks (and really, why would anyone actually care about that?), complain elsewhere. If you want to complain about the comments, brother, you’re in the right place. OK, on to the Angels and White Sox:

Friday, May 20, 2011

The Offensive Downturn and Our Perceptions

By The Common Man

As you’ve undoubtedly heard, this is THE YEAR OF THE PITCHER 2.0!!!!11!!1!, which is actually more of a return to the offensive levels that pervaded the game in the early 1990s. An era where Fred McGriff could lead the NL in homers with 35. An era where the league leader in OPS could regularly finish below 1.000. An era where a 4.00 ERA could get you bounced from the rotation. The game is hueing closer to historical norms.  But we have lived in the homerun era for almost a generation now, and The Common Man’s sense is that this has warped our perceptions somewhat. Indeed, we expect that players who can’t get on base more than 35% of the time are a drag on a team’s offense, or that a pitcher who can simply give you a quality start (6 innings, 3 runs) is worth keeping around. But frankly, that may not be the world we live in anymore. So here are some secretly excellent and horrible starts you may not have noticed because of the depressed scoring environment:

Jimmy Rollins (.266/.344/.358, 94 OPS+)
Don’t be fooled by the low batting average and slugging. Major Leaguers as a whole have a .320 OBP this year, and shortstops are just at .314. Rolins has shown good patience, walking in 10.8% of his plate appearances and seems to have nicely recovered from the leg injuries that sapped his effectiveness in 2009 and 2010. He’s also stolen 9 bases already against one caught stealing, and his defense is as strong as ever. While the Phillies as a whole are having a tough time scoring, Rollins is definitely not the problem.

Peter Bourjos (.252/.305/.397, 99 OPS+)
Bourjos has shown terrific offensive growth in 2011, going from an elite defender at a crucial defensive position to an elite defender at a crucial defensive polition with a league average bat. The big A depresses offense somewhat, as does Oakland Collisseum and Safeco Field, so Bourjos is likely to see his numbers penalized even more by the downturn than most players. He looks poised to contribute significant value for the next several seasons in Anaheim, and to do so cheaply. Which is important since Vernon Wells continues to be an expensive millstone.

This Week in 2001 (Week 7)

Lots more interesting stuff happened this week ten years ago. Lots of homers, lots of runs, a couple milestones, a couple records. Enjoy!

Monday, May 14: And I thought Mondays were boring now. There are only three games on this one (and not for the first time). But there's at least one interesting thing: a young relief pitcher named Roy Oswalt, making his third career appearance, picks up his first career win, going 3.2 innings (1 hit, 4 strikeouts) as the Astros score three in the seventh to come back and beat the Reds, 6-4.

Tuesday, May 15: Javier Vazquez throws a two-hit shutout for the Expos at home (2 hits, no walks, 9 strikeouts), beating Chan Ho Park and the Dodgers 2-0. In Toronto's 9-3 win over the Angels, Carlos Delgado hits homers 15 and 16; it's already his fifth multi-homer game of the year.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Quick Hits and Links

By The Common Man

Because of the West Coast road trip the Twins are on and his recent forrays into single parenting while The Uncommon Wife has been away, The Common Man admits that he fell asleep several times during last night’s Twins game. And it wasn’t just nodding off. TCM consciously chose to lay down on the couch during the game, knowing what would probably happen. And he dropped off for a half-hour at one point (waking up for the top of the 9th) and then falling asleep again after Plouffe’s sac fly in the 10th and staying that way until 2:00. As such, TCM is tired and in no mood to write a long column today. Instead, you get this:

Burroughs, Back

By Bill

I'm not a prospect guy. I like reading all the top prospects lists and all that, but it's not something I pay attention to on any kind of regular basis. I enjoy minor league games, but because they're cheap and fun. I tend not to watch all that much baseball (especially, I discovered last weekend, if one of my companions is my three year old).

There might be only one time in my life that I've gone to a minor-league game specifically interested in watching one player play. It was fully nine years ago now, and that player was Sean Burroughs.

Taken by the Padres with the ninth overall pick in 1998 (11 spots ahead of C.C. Sabathia), Burroughs was destined for stardom basically from birth (he is the son of a former MVP, after all). His minors page on Baseball-Reference says that he peaked in 2002 as Baseball America's #4 prospect, but I remember him as even higher than that. Maybe because he had been a top-ten prospect three years in a row.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Harmon Killebrew Roundup

By Bill

I initially wanted to come up with some clever new angle on Harmon Killebrew this morning, but really, I already kind of said my piece over on Getting Blanked the other day. I read an awful lot about him yesterday, though, and I wanted to share with you some of the best of all the Killebrew writing from the last couple days:

Jim Caple: Harmon Killebrew was a treasure
Caple covered the Twins for years, before moving on to Seattle and then to ESPN, and I think what makes this my very favorite of all the pieces I've seen today is that he's writing from personal knowledge, but doesn't get wrapped up in his own personal experiences with the man, instead using that knowledge to color the more wide-ranging discussion about the man and his life.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Tuesday Trade Tree: The Curse of Tony Ferreira

By The Common Man

As you may have noticed, the Kansas City Royals jumped out to a very fast start in 2011, and while they’ve fallen off recently and are at 20-20, they finally seem poised to take a big step forward. There is a sense of optimism in Kansas City again, a sense that the future really will be brighter. And that’s crucial for a team that hasn’t made the postseason since their World Series win in 1985.

Some will point to the bevy of young prospects the Royals are on the verge of graduating to the Big Leagues. Some will point to surprisingly cagey free agent pickups like Jeff Francoeur, Melky Cabrera, and Bruce Chen. Some may even point to improved chemistry with Zack Greinke gone. But they would be wrong. For The Common Man has uncovered the real reason the spectre of 25 seasons of futility has been lifted from Royals’ shoulders. Rejoice! For the Curse of Tony Ferreira has been lifted! Observe:

Vin Mazzaro's Historically Bad Night

By Bill

The amazing thing is that it didn't start out badly at all for Vin Mazzaro. Making just his second appearance of the year -- the first was a start, five days ago, in which he gave up two earned runs in four innings -- Mazzaro was already the third pitcher called on by the Royals yesterday, even though they were trailing just 3-0 in the third. He had to know he'd be counted on to get a bunch of outs.

And like I said, it went well at first. He inherited a runner on first, and retired all three batters he faced in the third without permitting the runner to score (he did uncork a wild pitch in there, but no harm done). Then he came back out in the fourth and completely lost his way, giving up ten runs in the inning...and then the Royals sent him back out there for the fifth. Five batters and one out later, they finally pulled him for Jeremy Jeffress...who promptly allowed all three inherited runners to score, giving Mazzaro the following final line:

2.1 IP, 11 H, 14 R, 14 ER, 3 BB, 2 SO, 1 HR, 1 WP

If that 14-run performance sounds like some sort of record...well, it kind of is.

Monday, May 16, 2011

NL Power Rankings Comments Explained

By The Common Man

When the ESPN Power Rankings come out, we're restricted to just a couple of quick sentences with each team. TCM's a lot more long-winded than that, so he's compelled to expand on those comments some more, and provide some context.  So, without further ado, here are the Diamondbacks, Pirates, and Marlins.

This Week in 2001 (Week 6)

Well, last week in 2001, really. Blogger went down last week at the time that I usually write this thing. Pretend it's Friday morning, except that you still have to work for four more days after this one.

Sunday, May 7: Making his first start of the season after missing the first month-plus with an injury, the Marlins' A.J. Burnett puts together an awfully nice debut against the Dodgers, allowing just three hits and one run while striking out seven (but walking five) in six innings. The great Kevin Brown does him one better, though, shutting out the Marlins for eight innings (two hits, two walks, 10 strikeouts). Jeff Shaw finishes the 1-0 win.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Awesome Photos of Target Field in Severe Weather

By The Common Man

Things are a bit crazy with The Platoon Advantage at the moment with various family emergencies.  We're going to keep posting original content at our regular rate, but probably going to take some time away from the regular SweetSpot Roundups we've been doing.  As pennance, The Common Man offers you these gorgeous photos his brother took last night at Target Field:

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Tuesday Trade Tree: The Mystery of Mitch Talbot

By The Common Man

Due to his wonky elbow, Mitch Talbot has only had two starts, and has thus not contributed much to the Indians’ suprising success in 2011. But, when healthy, he’s a very usable mid-rotation starter who will easily push Jeannmar Gomez back to the minors or the bullpen, where he’ll do much less damage. Having a healthy Talbot is going to be essential if Cleveland is going to hold on to its early division lead. Talbot is the last in a long line of Indians acquisitions that are left over from the heydays of Alomar, Vizquel, Thome, Nagy and Ramirez. The last vestige of the last Indians dynasty, and hopefully part of the foundation for a new one. A legacy that stretches back for who knows how long, and whose formation is clouded in mystery. Observe:

SweetSpot Roundup 5/10

In today's roundup Jesse Litsch gets a new fan, Milton Bradley gets his walking papers, Joe Mauer gets moved, and Brooklyn Dodgers fans get scolded.

Monday, May 9, 2011

Joe West's Crew

By The Common Man

Tonight, Joe West ejected Ron Gardenhire in the 8th inning for arguing that Danny Valencia did not foul off a pitch.  Much has been made about West's incompetence and confrontational nature (including by TCM here).  But his attitude seems to have rubbed off on his fellow umps.  The following is a list of all the ejections TCM was able to find that have been made by Joe West and his crew in 2011:

AL Power Rankings Comments Explained

By The Common Man

It’s Power Rankings day again, so The Common Man is back to expand upon his thoughts within the rankings, this week on three AL teams, the Angels, White Sox, and Orioles.

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Jimenez still in search of the strike zone

By Bill

I wrote this for the SweetSpot blog on ESPN.com today, but due to an unlikely combination of unfortunate circumstances, it's not going to be able to be run over there. I'd hate to miss a chance to get Rockies fans mad at me again, though, so I'm running it here.

Friday, May 6, 2011

This Week in 2001 (Week 5)

So, readers, I have a confession to make. I was traveling and doing other things this week, and I kind of let the "10 years ago" tweets slide, for the most part. It won't happen again until the next time it happens. But here's a kind of abbreviated rundown of what happened this week, a decade ago:

Two Moves, Two Reactions

By The Common Man

The Common Man hasn't really had a reason to praise the Royals for a lot of years. For one thing, they're a division rival of TCM's beloved Twins, and who really likes to praise the competition? And, even if TCM were inclined to stroke the enemy's ego, since the early 1990s, they've made terrible move after terrible move, locking up mid-range players at expensive prices, selling off good players for pennies on the dollar, chasing low-probability players in the draft. It was a cavalcade of errors that bottomed out with 106 losses in 2005 and that has had just one winning season since 1995.

So, imagine how impressed TCM must be to say, the Royals are finally getting it right and calling up Eric Hosmer. After a strong start that sees them 17-14 to start 2011, Kansas City targeted 1B as a spot where they were struggling and could quickly improve, and did not feel constrained by the need to save a few million dollars in the long run.

Despite how he started the season (.195/.295/.317), Kila Ka'aihue is not a bad player. His minor league track record is strong, and he'd almost certainly improve over the course of the season, and hit along the lines of his projected rates. But Hosmer, pretty clearly, is already a better hitter and has been smacking around the Pacific Coast League to the tune of .439/.525/.582 over his first 26 games. He's shown excellent control of the strike zone (19 BB against 16 Ks) and is considered a good fielder around the bag. Also, he's only 21 years old, meaning he is clearly a better long-term solution to 1B in Kansas City than the 27 year old Ka'aihue. TCM also got the chance to check out Hosmer up close in Spring Training, and came away very impressed by his size and by the way the ball carries off his bat.  The dude just screams ballplayer.  Quite simply, for now and for the future, the Royals are making the right move for their organization.

It will be a shame if this is the last opportunity that Ka'aihue gets, because he's clearly paid his dues and would probably make a decent and cheap DH for someone. But that chance is not going to come in Kansas City, and it's time for the club to move forward. Finally.

The Twins, on the other hand, who have been an abject disappointment this year, have essentially been forced to call up prospects Ben Revere and Rene Tosoni as they struggle to replace the production of Joe Mauer, Tsuyoshi Nishioka, Jim Thome, and Delmon Young. Revere, in particular is interesteing. Keith Law is actually very high on Revere, and suggested to TCM that his defense in centerfield is roughly a 70 on the 20-80 scale (elite level), and that with even below-average offensive skills, he can be a positive contributor to the Major League club.

Revere does have significant holes in his game. He has absolutely no power, and very little patience. But he does have excellent speeed, and is, as Klaw pointed out, an excellent defender. Staunchly refusing to take advantage of these strengths, the Twins are reportedly planning to use him at a corner outfield spot while letting Denard Span continue to roam CF. Span has, according to Fangraphs, aquitted himself relatively well in CF, but he is four years older than Revere and probably still better suited to a corner spot, where he could play Carl Crawford level defense.

It's not likely that Revere is up for good. When Delmon Young comes back, he's almost certainly going to reclaim the LF job. And keeping Revere around as a 4th or 5th outfielder won't help his development at all. But playing well in this limited exposure will do a lot to convince the Twins whether Revere might be able to hold down a spot next year when and if Jason Kubel and Michael Cuddyer are allowed to walk.  Let's hope he makes good

Thursday, May 5, 2011

SweetSpot Roundup 5/5

Ghostrunner on First (Blue Jays): Ferrell's Favorite Toys
Using some pretty awesome graphics, Drew breaks down the Blue Jays as only he can.

It's Pronounced "Lajaway" (Indians): Underrated, Under the Influence
"Yes, players are human. Yes, we’ve all made mistakes. But putting aside any concern for the potential injury or harm you might bring upon another person if you drive while drunk...if your livelihood depends upon you being at your physical peak, why would you risk serious injury by driving while under the influence?"

Baseball Time in Arlington (Rangers): When It Rains, It Pours
"In the last three and a half weeks, any and all delusions of .600-plus winning percentage grandeur have been thoroughly shattered, the body count on the disabled list has piled up alarmingly fast, and public sentiment has devolved from complete and utter joy into something that more closely resembles a brew of concern, disgust, and perhaps even mild panic."

The Ray Area (Rays): Tampa Bay-Generation 3.0
"This feels like the point marking a new era in Tampa Bay sports.  For the first time, all three of the area’s major professional teams are contenders.  That is especially sweet for the newest generation of local sports fans who, like my daughters, will grow up knowing this community only as a major sports epicenter."

Fire Brand of the American League (Red Sox): The Struggling Bobby Jenks
"I’ve been hearing a lot of people compare Jenks to Eric Gagne over the last few days.  While that’s understandable given his recent performance, the comparison is neither fair nor one that fits.  Do people have cause for concern with respect to Jenks?"

Royals Authority: Frency Wins It While Yost Naps
Jeff Francoeur claims another victim: "So I’m thinking of just giving up and joining the French Quarter section in right field and becoming a member of the Jeff Francoeur Fan Club.  Why not? The guy continues to rake."  Don't go upstairs alone with him!

Nick's Twins Blog: The First Step
Ah, optimism.  Sweet, blissful, naive optimism: "A dreadful start to the season has had just about everyone in the clubhouse on edge. Last night, Liriano and the Twins finally got to smile. Remembering how to do that could be the first step toward getting things turned around."

It's About the Money Stupid (Yankees): In Which I (sort of) Defend Jeter
Brien Jackson disagrees with the Blogfather, Rob Neyer, who thinks Jeter should grab some pine, and gets practical: "Putting Jeter aside, who replaces him if you take him out of the lineup? Ramiro Pena?"

Capitol Avenue Club (Braves): Braves 8, Brewers 3; Braves 8, Brewers 0
Recaps of an awfully nice day for the Braves against Milwaukee.

Disciples of Uecker (Brewers): Let's Get This Out Of The Way
"At this point, it seems that almost everything surrounding Zack Greinke will lead back to his social anxiety disorder. But over the past three or four years, Greinke has overcome his anxiety issues to become one of the best pitchers in the game."

Fungoes (Cardinals): Liriano's no-hitter one of worst in history
I agree. Pip uses a fancy stat called fielding independent game score to come up with a list that, at the top, looks not too terribly unlike mine.

View from the Bleachers (Cubs): Game 30: Cubs take two out of three in L.A.
Recap of the Cubs' 5-1 win over a Dodger lineup that, without Ethier, looks hardly capable of scoring even that one run.

Dodger Thoughts: Maury Wills, Pete Gray, Chicken elected to Shrine of the Eternals
The Dodger shortstop, the one-armed outfielder and the guy who was the San Diego Chicken were elected to Baseball Reliquary's Shrine of the Eternals, a thing I don't come close to understanding but would really like to.

Mets Today: Mets Game 30: Loss to Giants
"This was sort of reminiscent of a game from the 1970s; it could have been John Montefusco and Jon Matlack on the mound facing lineups that include “hitters” like Chris Speier, Ken Reitz, Marc Hill, Roy Staiger, Mike Phillips, and Del Unser."

Nationals Baseball: .235
That's the highest batting average any National in Tuesday's lineup ended the night with. Harper seems rightly perturbed.

Ducksnorts (Padres): "Still Kicking" Isn't Just a Metaphor, It's Also Annoying
The Padres are still kicking, in the way your kid might kick the back of your seat when you're driving. This is a great, great metaphor. Man, do I hate that.

Redleg Nation: Following the Reds
With 14 different start times in their first 38 games, the Reds are making that pretty hard to do.

Blake Street Bulletin (Rockies): First-Place Rockies Need to Plug Giant Leak at Third
Between Jose Lopez and Ty Wigginton has been one big pile of stink. Logan thinks the return of Ian Stewart should help.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

The Worst No-Hitters, Ever

By Bill

Last night, I watched Francisco Liriano throw the first no-hitter of 2011 as the Twins beat the White Sox, 1-0. As a Twins fan, I've seen probably a dozen games, maybe more, in which Liriano has looked better than he did in this one. He threw 123 pitches, and missed the strike zone with 57 of them (plus however many the Sox hitters chased). He walked six batters, tying his career high. He struck out only two -- a career low for any start in which he's gone more than six and a third -- and was bailed out by a stunning running catch by Denard Span in left-center early in the game, as well as several other uncharacteristically good defensive plays.

Don't get me wrong, I was very happy to see it -- after pitching as well as anyone in 2010 and getting only a 3.62 ERA and 14 wins to show for it, it was exactly the sort of thing he deserved -- but there's just no way around the fact that Liriano was much, much more lucky than good last night.

It got me wondering: what were the "worst" no-hitters in history?

SweetSpot Roundup 5/4

In today's roundup, Frank McCourt seems less than trustworthy, Yovani Gallardo seems to have slipped, at least Raul Ibanez seems to be trying, and the SweetSpot Network seems to have grown by a couple blogs.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

The Jon Matlack Trade Tree and His Legacy on the 2011 Mets

By The Commmon Man

This went over very well last week, when The Common Man put up the transactional family trees of Chuck Knoblauch and Glenn Davis, so it’s going to become a regular feature here on The Platoon Advantage. Today, we reach far back into baseball history to find a Mets draft pick that is still incredibly important to the team today.

In 1967, with the 4th overall pick in the amateur draft, the Mets chose a big, 17-year old, Pennsylvania lefty named Jon Matlack. Matlack worked his way up through the system and debuted in July of 1971, throwing seven innings of two-run ball in a Mets loss. That was the first of 199 starts that Matlack would ultimately make for the Mets, for whom he’d win 82 games with a 3.03 ERA and 27.0 Wins Above Replacement. That’s good value. But Matlack wasn’t done.

The Mets slowly deteriorated through the mid-1970s, until they finally caved in to a proper rebuilding effort and sent away Tom Seaver and Dave Kingman on June 15, 1977, in what became known as the Midnight Massacre. As The Common Man has previously written, it actually wasn’t all that bad of a day for the Mets in the long run. After the season was over, the Mets continued to purge, and dealt away their only real remaining players of value in Matlack and John Milner in a complicated four-team deal. They really didn’t get back a lot. Willie Montanez was a former Wunderkind who was a pretty bad 1B, Ken Henderson was a former star on his last legs, and Tom Grieve (Ben’s father) was a decent 4th outfielder. But from that deal would spring forth an abundance of players, some of whom would lead the Mets to glory, some to ruin, and one of whom is still leading the team today. Observe:

SweetSpot Roundup 5/3

In today's Roundup, the following things are causing the downfall of your favorite team: the manager, injuries, excessive travel, injuries, luck, injuries, poor planning, and injuries.

Monday, May 2, 2011

NL Power Rankings Comments Explained

By The Common Man

Once again, ESPN’s Power Rankings are up, and The Common Man contributed the comments for the four NL clubs that are not currently covered in the SweetSpot Network. And as before, TCM wants to expand on the comments he provided for each club, the Rockies, Marlins, Pirates, and Diamondbacks:

SweetSpot Roundup 5/2

Today's SweetSpot Roundup recognizes that you have more important things than baseball to read about and obsess over this morning, and humbly submits that when you are ready, the Roundup will be here.