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June 30, 2003

by Larry Mahnken

It hasn't been pretty, it hasn't been against good teams, but a seven game winning streak is no mean feat.

Jeff Weaver finally got hit lucky, as only 2 of 19 BIP fell in for hits, and the Yankees hit three home runs in the third to negate a rough first inning. Hideki Matsui hit HR number nine, his overall numbers are finally looking respectable, he's 16th in the AL in EqRuns, and in the middle of the pack among LFs in EqA, but more importantly, since the last game in Cincinnati, he's been as good a player as anyone in baseball. He might bring home the AL Player of the Month next week, and is the frontrunner for AL Rookie of the Year. Which will of course lead to the whole "Japanese players shouldn't win the ROY!" argument, but I'll write about that in October, when the mediots jump on that bandwagon.

Speaking of mediots, my local newspaper features Bob Matthews. Matthews writes a semi-daily column where he shoots off his opinions about happenings in the world of sports. It's an opinion column, and as someone who tries to maintain a weblog daily, I can understand how it's difficult to find something fresh and interesting to talk about, particularly something that you have a well thought out opinion about.

The problem is, Bob Matthews doesn't seem to have well thought out opinions about anything. He just writes, and doesn't do any type of research to see if his opinions have any connection to the reality of the situations he writes about. Usually, if I'm not too tired, I'll check out my opinions to see if the facts support them, or at least don't refute them, and many times I've deleted entire paragraphs before posting just because what I wrote was more of a free write than a serious analysis, and isn't supported by the facts. That's not to say that I don't publish opinions that are unsupported, but I try to avoid it, and most importantly, I'm not getting paid to present myself as an expert on sports.

Bob Matthews is getting paid to do that--although most of the people in the area have figured out he's an idiot by now. That doesn't excuse him, though.

The strongest example of Matthews' idiocy is when he wrote after the Super Bowl last year that the NFL has it all over MLB because the 27th lowest paid team (the Patriots) won the championship. "Darryl Strawberry has a better chance of making another comeback with the Yankees than the 27th lowest paid team in baseball winning the World Series." I pointed out to him that the A's were the 27th lowest paid team in baseball, he said that they hadn't won the World Series, totally missing the point.

Now, today, Bob wrote about the current playoff system and Barry Bonds. About the playoffs, he wrote:
One thing Major League Baseball commissioner Bud Selig’s many critics can’t knock him for is the expanded playoff system.

It has worked to perfection.

The potential for six division races plus battles for a wild-card playoff berth in each league makes for exciting competition in the final weeks of the regular season.

Of course, there seldom are tight races in all six divisions and there probably won’t be this season, but there figure to be plenty of meaningful games in September thanks to the expanded playoffs.
Actually, there figure to be plenty of meaningless games in September thanks to system in place. The reason is that, while more teams contend for playoff spots, there are fewer pennant races. Five times since the system was implemented, two teams finished within five games of each other for first, but the second place team won the Wild Card handily. The 6-division/Wild Card system has put more teams in postseason contention, but it's also rendered September fairly meaningless and ruined some great pennant races. It's easy to bash Selig for this one.

Also, Matthews writes:
AL WEST -- Seattle might be the most balanced team in baseball and figures to hold off Oakland for the division title. The A’s should be fighting it out with two teams from the AL East for the league’s wild-card berth.
The A's are 6 games back today. One year ago today they were also six games back. They finished 10 games ahead of Seattle. Aside from the fact that Miguel Tejada is playing at well below his established level, Billy Beane has always been able to make key trades that help the A's in the second half. Even if he doesn't, the team if fully capable of being in first place by the end of July, but he almost certainly will. Does that mean the A's will win the division? No, but it's WAY too early to being saying that Seattle "figures to hold off Oakland". They have a good shot to do it, but that's about as far as you can go.

The main subject of the column was Barry Bonds' 500/500 achievement. Bob writes:
Being the only member of the 500-500 and 400-400 Clubs stamps Barry Bonds as a great and extremely gifted player, but it doesn’t mean he is the “All-Time Best All-Around Offensive Baseball Player”. That’s still Willie Mays in my book. Had Mays not lost two full seasons in military service and had he played two-thirds of his career in a different era in a cozier home stadium than Candlestick Park, he might have been baseball’s only 800-600 Man.
And if Robert E. Lee had a Panzer division, he might have won at Gettysburg.

Barry Bonds played a couple of games in Candlestick himself, and PacBell ain't exactly a hitters' paradise. Besides, who knows how Mays would have done in a different era? Maybe he would hit 100 HRs a year now, maybe he would hit 15. We don't know. All we know, all we can measure him by, is by what he did do.

Barry Bonds' lifetime Park Adjusted OPS+ through 2002 is 177. Mays was 156. Barry's five best seasons *OPS+: 275, 262, 206, 205, 191. Mays: 185, 176, 175, 175, 173.

If you're trying to find the best All-Time Best All-Around Offensive Baseball Player, you have to look at how many runs he creates for his teams, not how he does it. Home Runs and walks are vastly more important than steals. If you weigh the ability to steal bases equally with power and discipline, you have ot weigh other stuff, like going first to third, and sliding, and tagging up equally, too. They're all skills on offense. Perhaps if he had phrased it, "Most Multi-Talented Offensive Baseball Player of All Time", he'd have a case with Mays, but Bonds has been a better offensive player than the Say Hey Kid. As an all-around player, Mays is possibly better than Bonds, though. Both played fantastic defense, but Mays played the much more difficult position.

And, of course, neither is the All-Time Best All-Around Offensive Baseball Player, anyway. 207 Career *OPS+, 255, 239, 239, 227, 226 five best seasons. Babe Ruth was one bad mother-shut your mouth!

June 29, 2003

by Larry Mahnken

I really hate Blogger. If I had the money to buy some webspace, I'd switch to something else, but I'm going to be late with my rent as it is, and this blog, while I enjoy doing it, isn't that important yet. Now, if you buy some books, maybe...

So, earlier this week, I couldn't log into Blogger to make an entry, because they were updating the software. I haven't noticed much difference yet, but it's only been a couple of days.

Last night, though, I spent two hours typing an entry. I posted...and poof! It's all gone. Gahrgh! Having to work today, I said to hell with it, left it as is, and waited until now to fix it. But I ain't retyping all that. I'll just go at the deleted topic again later this season.

Today, I worked and went to my cousin Chris's graduation party, so I didn't catch much of either game. I heard Matsui's Grand Slam on the radio, and I turned on the second game just after Giambi's Home Run, though I didn't really get to watch any of the game until the eighth. My timing is exsquisite.

One of the things I wrote last night was that it was probably a bad thing that Dan Miceli got a save last night, because it might encourage Joe Torre to use him too often in high leverage situations, and might cause them to send Jason Anderson to Columbus yet again. Miceli is an acceptable stopgap in the back of the pen, but he's not going to be a stopper, and nobody should mistake him for one.

Today's game showed two things: the Yankees' future, and the reason they might waste that future. Brandon Claussen was everything that was advertised, going 6.1 innings, striking out five, walking one, and giving up only one earned run. Any calls to leave him in the majors are out of line, he's good, but he still needs time to fully recover from T.J. surgery, but it's good to know that if they need a starter again, Claussen is capable of getting the job done.

And then they went to the bullpen. I think I read a Steven King novel about the Yankees' bullpen once. They did their thing, and they had to bring Mo in for two innings.

So instead of looking at Claussen as their ace of the future, the Yankees might be preparing to send him to Texas for Ugie, or the Mets for Benitez, or the Padres for Witasick. It would have almost been better if he had gotten bombed, because then maybe nobody would want him. Keeping Claussen would be a smart move, because the guy they trade him for will likely be not worth giving him up for, and he's got the potential to be an ace in the coming years. Unfortunately, the corportate mentality of Yankees' management leads to "safe" decisions. The safe decision is to give up a prospect for a proven player, who may not have a high ceiling, but you know what you're going to get, which is more than you can say for the prospect, who might end up being nothing. The Yankees' retention of Bernie, Jeter and Pettitte was very much a result of Gene Michael's strong leadership in the mid-nineties, as he was able to keep the Yankees from trading away their top prospects for anything less than good players. In recent year's they've tended to pass up on the prospect or undervalued AAA player for the mediocre veteran (*COUGH*ZEILE*COUGH*).

The Game Chatter streak is up to six, so we'll see you tomorrow night here, and not the posted Chatter. Leiter vs. Weaver... all good things must pass away.

Okay, Weaver might get some luck this time around. Keep the faith. DIPS taketh away, DIPS giveth.

June 27, 2003

by Larry Mahnken

MLB All-Star Ballot

1st Base C. DELGADO
2nd Base B. BOONE
3rd Base C. KOSKIE
Catcher J. POSADA
Outfield M. BRADLEY
Outfield M. RAMIREZ
Outfield M. MORA

1st Base T. HELTON
2nd Base J. VIDRO
Shortstop E. RENTERIA
3rd Base S. ROLEN
Catcher J. LOPEZ
Outfield B. BONDS
Outfield A. PUJOLS

June 26, 2003

by Larry Mahnken

At first glance, it appears that the Yankees have turned it around. Since being humiliated by the Astros, the Yankees have gone 11-2, 2½ games better than the Red Sox, and opened up a little breathing room in the AL East.

A closer look shows that the Yankees have benefitted more from an easy schedule than anything else. You can't discount their wins versus the Astros and Cardinals, all of which were hard-earned and well deserved, but the last nine games have been against the D-Rays and Mets. Their performance in these games has left much to be desired, to say the least. Victor Zambrano, who is not Carlos Zambrano, kept Clemens from winning 301 twice, beating the Rocket on Monday; Jeff Weaver got knocked around by the D-Rays twice in eight days, eliminating any chance of his keeping his rotation spot once Contreras comes back from the DL, and if the Mets and Devil Rays hadn't handed out walks like they were facing Barry Bonds every at bat, they would have lost Sunday, Tuesday and Wednesday. As I said the other day, wins are wins, but the way they've won lately shows that this team needs to improve if they want to beat the good teams.

Pipe-dream Giles trades included, nothing will improve this team more than replacing Zeile and Rivera with Nick and Bernie. The types of trades they should be thinking of making are ones that improve the bullpen and bench, not the lineup. The lineup will be fine.

For those of you who don't know, BP forgot to create a Game Chatter for yesterday's game, so we gathered in Tuesday's Chatter, and they won again.

Never fuck with a winning streak.

So, we took the Chatter to Tuesday's thread again. 3-0. So, until they lose, Yankee Chatter will be here. Be there, or it's your fault if they lose.

June 24, 2003

by Larry Mahnken

Juan Rivera got the goat horns tonight as he grounded into this rally-killing double play in the ninth... Hmm?  No, you're fucking with me, he didn't do that!  Yeah, right! ... Well, whaddya know?  All right, Juan!  Way to not suck!An individual game can be both great and awful; full of excitement and joy, but at the same time frustration and forboding. For the poor teams, the former is what matters, but for a team like the Yankees, that is trying to win a pennant, it is the latter. Tonight, the Yankees won, and they won in exciting fashion, but the win was due more to the quality of their opponent, not their play. They did all they could to lose, and had it not been for the ineptness of Tampa Bay's pitching staff, they likely would have.

It started out well enough. After Jeff Weaver gave up a leadoff Home Run to Rocco Baldelli, the Yankees scored four runs in the second off of Brazelton and Sosa, who came in when Piniella showed a decidedly short hook to Brazleton, who had barely escaped a first inning bases-loaded jam. But Weaver was unable to hold the Devil Rays down, and they crept back into the game, forcing Torre to life Weaver in the sixth.

Jeff Weaver is a strange case. Not only is he tremendously talented, he pitched quite well for the first part of the season, although it didn't show up in the results. He's been victimized by poor run support and even poorer defense, but most of all, he's been unlucky. Balls have fallen in against him at an even higher rate than would be expected by the Yankees' horrific defense, while his DIPS peripherals have remained strong. This is not a Juan Acevedo situation, where he might bounce back, or there might be something wrong with him, this is completely different. There is nothing wrong with Jeff Weaver, he has pitched fine. Or, rather, there was nothing wrong with Weaver.

See, Jeff Weaver knows he's been unlucky, and he knows that the defense behind him is crap, and it's getting in his head. You can see it in his demeanor on the mound and his attitude towards the press. He knows that not only is he better than he's pitched, he's pitched better than he's looked.

Not that the press understands that. I'm not even sure if Joe and Mel quite understand that. The press has accused him of trying to blame his teammates for his failings, when the fault lies with him. But the fault did not lie with him, it was nobody's fault, really. Jeff Weaver was, more than anything else, a victim of bad luck.

But rather than accept that eventually the breaks will even out, he's letting the frustration get to him. He's no longer pitching as well as he did in the beginning of the season. Whether he's trying to do too much, or giving up when the frustration becomes too great, I can't tell, but far too often lately he has left a pitch too high in the zone, and has been crushed. As Mel Stottlemyre has been saying, it's not mechanical, it's not physical, it's mental. Unfortunately, knowing what ails him does not make it any easier to cure. What Jeff Weaver needs is something to restore his confidence in himself as a pitcher; a shutout, or maybe just seven great innings. He needs to leave to a standing ovation at The Stadium. Unfortunately, there's nothing Joe or Mel or George can do about that. Only Jeff can do that.

He might not get the chance. As his struggles have continued, the Yankees have been willing to deal Weaver. A recent rumor has Weaver going to Pittsburgh for Brian Giles, a deal that I think is extremely unlikely to ever happen, and was probably never even discussed. But it is likely that the Yankees are shopping Weaver while he still has value.

Weaver did leave with the lead, though. It was a still a precarious lead, though, and one that the bullpen and defense promptly squandered. Going into the ninth, the Yankees trailed 9-6, and were headed for a humiliating, and well deserved loss.

But something funny happened on the way to the loss column. Lance Carter remembered that he's a Devil Ray, and promptly gave up a double to Raul Mondesi and an infield single to John Flaherty--who apparently only has value against Tampa Bay. Representing the tying run was Juan Rivera, who has seemed so far this season as though someone needs to remind him that he's a very talented ballplayer, and perhaps give him a cookie for encouragement. Fans watching the game had already scribbled "DP 4-6-3" on their scorecards, in Tampa Bay the scoreboard read 2 Outs, Karl Ravetch had already reported the score as 9-7 with the bases empty, and I had already set my couch on fire. But Rivera made fools of all of us except Ravetch. For the first time that I can remember, Juan-Two-Gone came through, hitting a three-run home run to dead center field. It seemed almost surreal, like Bucky Dent's home run, only more improbable. The game was tied.

The rest seemed almost a formality. Jeter was hit by a pitch and scored on Todd Zeile's double, and Rivera came in and closed it out. The Yankees won.

And a win is a win. But this was not a good win. Sometimes, you win games you shouldn't win, and you feel good, as well you should. Sunday's game was probably one of those games. Today was a game they won, but simply didn't deserve to. They were supposed to win, but they didn't deserve it. They failed to capitalize on opportunities early, allowing the D-Rays to stay close, and played sloppy baseball in the late innings, allowing them to take the lead. This was not a game to feel good about.

Something that is worth feeling good about is the Yankees' decision to start Brandon Claussen in the nightcap of Saturday's home-and-home doubleheader. Claussen is being called up so that the Yankees can avoid starting Hitchcock or a starter on short rest, and another motivation might be to showcase him to possible trade partners. Hopefully, if Claussen is impressive, they'll keep him in their future plans, let Pettitte leave in the offseason, and not sign someone else. Even if they use him in a trade anyway, a good start might raise his value enough that they can accquire someone useful for him, rather than Urbina.

June 22, 2003

by Larry Mahnken

Now here's some unnecessary bitching.

What's the point of having a pinch-runner who gets picked off? Does Charles Gipson have any value doing anything? Not only did he get picked off, he was a little too eager to get out of the way of the pitch that went between his legs. Would it kill you to take one for the team, Chucky? Makes me think that he's still getting paid by the Mariners.

I'm not on the Fire Joe Torre bandwagon (current occupancy: 1), but he does make some really stupid roster moves, and terrible tactical decisions. Kind of like Dusty Baker, but you take the good with the bad, and Joe Torre is a great clubhouse manager.

Still, Torre makes some awful decisons when assembling his roster, and worse ones when drawing up a lineup. Bill James found that there is little difference between the best lineup and worst lineup, but Joe Torre has assembled about as bad a lineup as he can. Alfonso Soriano is one of the worst players on the roster at getting on base, and one of the best power hitters, so of course he bats him leadoff. Torre has said he bats him there because he has no other options. Um, Joe, ANYONE would be better batting leadoff than Torre. Even Giambi.

My proposed ideal lineup:


But that's just me.

With the Red Sox loss and the Blue Jays' win, the Yankees are now...still 2 games up in the East, but they're 3 games in front of Boston, who I still think are the real competition. It's looking really good for being in first place when Bernie and Nick come back, and if they are when they do, I don't think they'll relinquish first again this year.

June 21, 2003

by Larry Mahnken


1st Base C. DELGADO
2nd Base B. BOONE
3rd Base H. BLALOCK
Catcher J. POSADA
Outfield M. BRADLEY
Outfield M. RAMIREZ
Outfield M. MORA

1st Base T. HELTON
2nd Base J. VIDRO
Shortstop E. RENTERIA
3rd Base M. LOWELL
Catcher J. LOPEZ
Outfield B. BONDS
Outfield A. PUJOLS

Next weekend I will cast the rest of my votes at once.

by Larry Mahnken

I hate rain. If snow is what evil looks like...rain is what evil looks like when it's melted. Today's game was rained out, but it wasn't all bad. First of all, we got to see some of the best game this season, as Philadelphia came back to beat the Red Sox 6-5 after trailing 5-3 in bottom of the 13th. It was kind of like Game 6 of the '86 series, only not nearly as cool.

But the really cool thing is that because of the rainout, we get to see another home and home doubleheader next Saturday. Unfortunately, my cousin's graduation party is that day, so I only get to see the second game. Also, doubleheaders always have seemed tougher to win than two seperate games to me, although this game wasn't really an assured win anyway. Moose didn't have his best stuff, and had allowed a few hard hit balls just before the tarp came out. I'm sure Soriano's not too happy with the rainout, either, as it cost him three hits, although, since I have $30 riding on his failure, I'm thrilled about it.

by Larry Mahnken

Interleague play is a gimmick, and as such, its luster was bound to wear off quickly.

And so it has. Does anybody feel any different about these games against the Mets than they do about, say, the Indians or Rangers? Part of that is the result of the 2000 Subway Series, which settled the issue of bragging rights in NYC until they meet again in another October, and I think the end of the Clemens/Piazza saga put the final nail in the coffin. But in the end, overkill destroyed the appeal of interleague play. The Yankees have played the Mets six times a year since 1997. It's just another game on the schedule now. MLB finally got the sense last season to start rotating the divisions that meet in interleague play, but they kept the "regional rivalries" alive, so the Yankees and Mets still play two series. Because of that, the matchup against the Cubs felt much more exciting than this weekend's Mets series, although much of that is likely due to the fact that the Mets aren't a very good team.

You wouldn't think that such a poor team could be assembled for so much money, but there you go. Last night, it looked for an inning like they might beat the Yankees anyway, Andy Pettitte struggled with his control and a flat breaking ball, loaded the bases, and then got out of it. Alfonso Soriano and Derek Jeter got much-needed HRs, and Soriano was robbed by Shinjo of a second one, but neither is likely out of their funk. Soriano went 1 for 5 again, and Jeter's other two hits were in the infield. A Giambi homer off Benitez capped it, and the Yankees ended up with a relatively easy win--their seventh in eight games since the no-no.

Good news and bad news on the injury front. Bad news: Antonio Osuna went back on the DL with a groin injury, and the Yankees recalled Mike Thurman. I have no idea why they recalled Thurman. They do seem to prefer going with veteran arms they know will be mediocre rather than youngsters who might be great and might be awful.

The good news is that Nick Johnson took a huge step towards returning yesterday. The cast was removed, a bone scan revealed that the break is healed, so he should be back in two weeks or so. Bernie Williams is also making good progress, and should be back around the break. Soon enough, the team will be healthy, on track, and all this crap about firing Torre will be forgotten. Unless they lose in the first round again, that is.

by Larry Mahnken

Derek Jeter Revisited - Baseball Primer
Although I certainly don’t think one can draw a definitive conclusion from half a season’s worth of data, and there are likely biases in the data for which I haven’t tried to account (quality of opposition, for one), I think the evidence so far suggests that Jeter’s defense has slipped a notch. It might be, as one Yankee fan on a discussion list that I frequent has suggested, that Jeter has become tentative in the field in an effort to prevent reinjury to the shoulder. Or it might really be that he’s starting to slide to the point to which his defensive performance will indeed match the reputation for terrible fielding that he has achieved among the statistical analytical community.
Or maybe the ball hates him.

June 19, 2003

by Larry Mahnken

At least we don't have to worry who starts on short rest Saturday anymore.

There has been a lot of talk lately about who the Yankees might trade for, although a lot of those trades sound like wishful thinking. The Yankees aren't getting Brian Giles, unless they're willing to give up Nick Johnson, Claussen, Rivera, and then it's still just a maybe. Carlos Beltran and Mike Lowell are pipe dreams, too.

Most of the trades being discussed for good players would probably require Johnson to get done, and I don't think the Yankees are that stupid. The time to steal Johnson was last winter; now he looks too good to part with, injuries nonwithstanding. If they can get a young third baseman in return--a Teixeira or Blalock, for example--or a fantastic player like Giles, it would be okay to part with Nick, but a half-season from an overpriced reliever is not worth giving up a player of Johnson's caliber. Cashman was wise to end talks with the Rangers when Johnson for Urbina came up. John Hart has some big balls for making that request.

The Yankees really shouldn't be in a hurry to make a trade right now. Nick and Bernie will be back in a few weeks, which will be a bigger boost to the offense than any trade the team is likely to pull off. Even if they're slow in returning to form, they're replacing Todd Zeile and Juan Rivera, whose combined offensive contributions are less than either Bernie or Nick. Unless Nick leaves in a trade, whoever they accquire would be squeezed out of the lineup when those two return. Now that Matsui is hitting well, there doesn't appear to be any holes in the lineup where you could fit anything less than a star player; Unless you count Right Field, where, after a hot start, Raul Mondesi has reverted back to being more or less the same player he has been the past few years--something that probably won't become clear from a quick glance at his stats until August.

The holes that need filling are, of course, the bullpen and bench, as I've said again and again and again. Too much focus has been placed by the media on Ugueth Urbina and Armando Benitez, who are effective but unspectacular relievers. They would both be good additions to the Yankees' pen, but the price for them would likely be too high. Accquiring a lesser-known, but equally effective reliever would be a much better idea, as would waiting until the end of July for the asking price for the Proven Closers™ to go down.

As for the bench, the biggest problem is the lack of any hitters (though Ruben Sierra at least used to be one), but the lack of anyone who can play great defense isn't helping, either. While the Red Sox collected slugging 1B/LF/DH types on the cheap, the Yankees wasted roster spots on Todd Zeile and Charles Gipson, whose role as a pinch-runner has been useful in only one game so far, when the Yankees had come back to within one run with two outs in the ninth inning, and Gipson pinch-ran for Posada at first. You know the rest. Bringing back John Vander Wal to assume his natural position of PH might not be a bad idea, they simply need someone who can hit.

Other rumors have included the Yankees trading Jeff Weaver for bullpen help, which would be a collosally stupid move, in my opinion. Not only is Weaver likely to be an effective arm out of the pen himself, he's the only young starter the Yankees have. If the Yankees want to move an inconsistent starter, they might want to consider Andy Pettitte, who costs more and might fetch more return on the trade market anyway (sorry Caitlaegn).

The Yankees have a very good team, but an aging one. If they want to stay competitive for years to come, they can't trade their young talent for replaceable pieces. They will probably win the division without adding anything, but Boston and Toronto are going to be much better next season, and even better the year after that. Nick Johnson for Urbina might mean the difference between a first round exit and a World Championship this season, but not having Johnson for the next four years might also mean 2003 is the last postseason the Yankees will play in for a while. If they've got their priorities in order, they won't do it. But don't count on it, George is still in charge.

by Larry Mahnken

Digging In The AstroDirt - June 17, 2003 - Baseball Primer

If you haven't read Dan Werr's latest entry at Primer, do so now. This week, he measures "hustle".

Derek Jeter only gave 89.8% last season. I guess The Boss was right.

June 18, 2003

by Larry Mahnken

Okay, today I'm going to write a completely positive post! Honest!

The Yankees won today, and with the Red Sox loss, they've stretched their lead in the AL East to 1½ games over Boston. Clemens took a no-hitter into the eighth, and Alfonso Soriano got a big hit to win the game in the tenth. Juan Rivera got a couple of doubles, and maybe he'll start hitting some. A win is a win, and after tonight, they have a 7-2 record in the last nine games. And every day is another day closer to Bernie's return, as well as Nick's--although that's kind of like saying every day is another day closer to death. You know it's going to happen eventually, but you have no idea when.

Damn it, it's easier to be negative! Must...resist...urge to bitch...

In pure talent, the Yankees are the best team in the American League East, and one of the very best in baseball. When healthy, they have as good a lineup as any team, and their rotation is deep and talented. Mike Mussina is probably the only "ace" on the staff, but Clemens and Wells will give good efforts most of the times, and can shut a team down on a good day. We don't really know what we're going to get out of Contreras yet. The weak links in the rotation are Pettitte and Weaver, who have been inconsistent, at best. I'm not sure why Pettitte is so inconsistent, but it seems to me that Weaver is just really unlucky. He gets no run support, and balls in play fall in at an alarming rate. Unfortunately, he seems to be getting frustrated by his bad luck, and it affected his pitching yesterday. If he keeps his head on straight, that luck should turn around, and he'll get better results.

The Yankees' problem is in the fringes--the bullpen, bench and defense. The first two are easier to fix than a hole in the lineup or starting pitching, although the injuries to Bernie and Nick have made those weaknesses from the bench weaknesses in the lineup. That won't be the case in the postseason, hopefully, and I feel confident that if the offense comes through in October and the starters pitch well, those weaknesses can be overcome in the games that count.

I'm not very good at being optimistic. Maybe they'll lose tomorrow, and I can yell and scream.

June 17, 2003

by Larry Mahnken

I miss doubleheaders. I mean, real doubleheaders. Play a game, take half an hour off, play another game. It's a rare treat when the Yankees play one of those, much better than these day-night doubleheaders. Still, two games in one day is better than one.

In the 2000 season, the Yankees played the Mets in a day-night doubleheader, one at Shea, one at The Stadium. The evening game is of course remembered for what happened to Mike Piazza, but I've always thought the two park doubleheader was a fantastic idea, and one that should be scheduled every season with the Yankees & Mets, and the Cubs/Sox, Dodgers/Angels and Giants/A's if feasable. Maybe it's not feasable, and maybe the novelty will wear off after a couple of seasons, but when it does, you won't have offended your fan base by trying it.

That's the kind of thing Baseball should be trying to improve interest. Who the hell is going to be interested in a Devil Rays-Tigers game? But if it's a doubleheader--a real doubleheader--you'll likely more than double the attendance. Of course, the MLBPA will be opposed to this, because no player wants to play two games in one day. But if MLB were to give them more off days in exchange, they might come around.

Instead, MLB tries idiotic things. They expand the playoffs, eliminating pennant races between great teams to create pennant races between lesser teams. They turn the leagues into conferences in all but name, and start interleague play, making schedules unbalanced, destroying the last real appeal of the All-Star Game. They then try to make people interested in the All-Star Game by giving home-field advantage in the World Series to the league that wins the exhibition, which will almost certainly have no effect on interest, but an effect on the outcome of the championship. And, of course, they've forced several work stoppages by trying to get the MLBPA to accept massive restraints on their salaries, costing them millions of fans.

Time and again they've tried to fix percieved problems with drastic changes, gaining a short-term benefit at the expense of offending their most loyal fans. It's all about money with MLB, and they want it now, not later. And so, they destroy their future to gain the most benefit out of their present.

And that's why the Yankees lost the first game today.

Okay, it isn't, but I had to segue back to the game somehow. I didn't watch most of the game because I had to work until 3:30, but it looked to me like it was a pathetic effort. Only two hits until the ninth inning (oh, by the way, was it just me, or did Jim Kaat actually say that Derek Jeter would have turned the ball up the middle that Lugo didn't reach into a double play? Has he been paying attention to Jeter the last three seasons?). Matsui did get another hit, Giambi did get another Home Run, Soriano did get another 0-4. Weaver only walked one, but he only struck out one and gave up two homers. Not really much to cheer about.

When the heck is this team going to start playing with any consistency? Do they really need Bernie and Nick back that badly? Good God, you'd think that they'd have enough talent to beat the Devil Rays without those two. Yes, Boomer's pitching tonight, so they've got a great chance to win, but should we really be depending on our pitchers to hold them down? Jeremi Gonzalez has a 3.00 ERA, but his DIPS ERA is 4.70--he's has a .200 BABIP against, so he's been a bit hit lucky, to say the least. The Yankees should really have pounded him.

Well, at least the Mahnken Jinx is kaput, so I can post on Primer again. All I have to do now is come up with something worth saying.

June 16, 2003

by Larry Mahnken

Hat Trick

Roger Clemens finally won his 300th game Friday night, after his first three attempts were thwarted by Boston's batters' fouling off his pitches, lousy defense against Detroit, and a three-run home run launched off Juan Aceve-DOH! in Chicago (though it was a small sample size, so he may not have really given it up). In the process, he recorded his 4000th career strikeout, and was able to accomplish both at Yankee Stadium.

eric, who does not own a television, emailed me yesterday and asked what I thought about 300. Really, I don't feel any different about 300 than I did about 299. Numbers like 300 wins, 3000 hits, 500 Home Runs, have no inherent significance beyond being one better than 299, 2999, or 499. They are aesthetically pleasing numbers, and if we didn't use the decimal system, they would have no special significance.

But all that aside, congratulations to Roger Clemens on reaching these two somewhat arbitrary milestones. He is truly one of the greatest pitchers that has ever lived.

Of course, that's not all Clemens has been getting press for this past weekend. On Saturday, Rocket restated his desire to enter the Hall of Fame with a Yankees cap on his plaque, rather than a Red Sox cap. He then said that if the Hall refused, he just wouldn't show up for his induction.

Before I go any further, I'll have to make a disclaimer. I'm a Yankees fan, and thus inherently biased. Red Sox fans are also inherently biased on this issue. Actually, because it's Roger Clemens, everyone has a bias, because a lot of people really hate him. So keep that in mind, but I will try to be objective.

Roger Clemens absolutely should go into the Hall of Fame with a Red Sox cap on. It's where he had his best years, he won 3 Cy Young Awards there and an MVP. He won nearly two-thirds of his games there, and recorded nearly two-thirds of his strikeouts there. His ERA was nearly a run and a half lower there than when he was with New York. His two 20 strikeout games were with Boston. Clemens said that he became a Hall of Famer in New York. Bullshit. He could have retired after the '96 season and would have been a first-ballot Hall of Famer.

But Clemens shouldn't be forced to go into the Hall of Fame with a Red Sox cap on. If he wants to go in as a Yankee, let him go in as a Yankee. Nobody's going to look at his plaque and say, "Wow, I didn't know Clemens played for the Yankees." If he wanted to go in as a Blue Jay, that would be a different matter, but he's played five seasons in New York, won a Cy Young, three pennants, two World Series, and pitched one of the greatest games in postseason history as a Yankee. It's not an unreasonable request. And let's not overlook the most important aspect:

It's just a cap. It's not like he's asking to have "Boston (1984-1996)" removed from the plaque, or dictating what the plaque says. It's just a logo. Yes, Clemens is going overboard with his threat to not attend the ceremony, but for the Hall of Fame, it's not really a fight worth fighting. Keeping Rose out is the right decision, keeping Tim Robbins and Susan Sarandon out was the wrong one. Forcing Clemens to wear a cap he doesn't want on principle is a justified decision, but not one worth the trouble it causes. Yes, it sets a dangerous precedent, future inductees might boycott their ceremony in order to be able to auction off their cap, but that could be avoided by changing the rules of how the cap is chosen, perhaps giving the player a choice if he's played at least five seasons with two or more teams. The Hall can't risk Clemens being the only inductee in five years, and not attending the ceremony. Let him have his Yankees cap, if it's really that big a deal to him, and get over it. It's just a freaking cap.

by Larry Mahnken

Mega site of Bible studies and information

How is this related to the Yankees?

Check out the address.

I think someone should tell him that I'm getting less than 100 hits a day. Is he trying to get traffic from my site by mistake, or am I getting traffic from his site by mistake? If it's the former, I don't think the traffic is worth the cost of the domain name.

Coincidentally, I'm an atheist. It's not quite ironic, unfortunately.

Thanks to eric, who does not own a television.

June 15, 2003

by Larry Mahnken

Good news, bad news.

Good news: The Yankees have been 4-0 since getting no-hit by the Astros last Wednesday, and have looked impressive in all four games against two very good teams.

Bad news: The Yankees have been 4-0 since I last posted to Baseball Primer. Being the extremely superstitious person that I am, I simply can't bring myself to post there anymore. Well, maybe that's not bad news for everyone else, but it sucks for me. It was sad enough spending every night on the computer talking about baseball, now I'm just going to be spending every night on the computer watching other people talk about baseball.

As APNY pointed out in the Chatter today:
Next 16 games: 7 vs TB, 6 vs NYM, 3 vs Bal

When will we see Larry again?
I think they'll lose at least one of those four games against Tampa. But hopefully you'll never see me again. ;-)

Today was pretty close to a perfect game for the Yanks. The defense wasn't bad, but the plays by Jeter and Matsui were more aesthetically pleasing than they were skillful. Mussina was efficient and effective, holding down the Cards except for one rough inning. The Yankees offense did something they used to do with regularity, wearing down the starter, Woody Williams, until they were able to push four across in the bottom of the 6th. For the first time in weeks, the Yankees look like the team that nobody wanted to come to town, and for probably the first time all year, they looked like that at home.

But let's not go overboard here. The '98 Yankees considered a four game winning streak a slump. If they win 3 of 4 against Tampa Bay, we can start talking about how they're really out of this funk.

Soriano went 0-4 today, and his OPS (.871) dropped below last year's (.879) for the first time. He's been in an awful, awful slump, and it really looks to me like he's returning to his hacktastic ways. Consider: After May 7, his BB Rate was .090, about three times his rate last season. His strikeout to walk ratio was 1.67. His OPS was 1.012. He was on a pace to hit .336 with 49 HRs, with 74 BBs and 123 Ks. Yes, about a third of his walks were intentional, but he was still walking at a greatly improved rate, and striking out much less. Simply put, he had stopped swinging at pitches he couldn't hit, with predictable results. He was awesome.

In the 35 games since? His walk rate is .036, just barely above last season's, his K/BB ratio is 6.33, just barely below last season's, and his OPS has been .734. Just watching his at bats shows the problem, he's swinging at pitches he can't hit, and consequently getting more pitches that he can't hit. The more desperate he gets, the more he hacks. It's more or less what happened to Shea Hillenbrand last season, once he went into a prolonged slump, he went away from what was working for him early, and back to what he thought had worked before. And it's a damned shame.

Does Soriano deserve to be on the All-Star team? Of course. An .871 OPS from a second baseman is still fantastic. But he doesn't deserve to start.

Speaking of the All-Star team, here's my ballot:

1st Base C. DELGADO
2nd Base B. BOONE (and leaving FoSo in the dust)
Shortstop N. GARCIAPARRA (Probably just for this week, though)
3rd Base T. GLAUS
Catcher J. POSADA
Outfield M. BRADLEY
Outfield M. RAMIREZ
Outfield M. MORA

1st Base T. HELTON
2nd Base M. GILES
Shortstop E. RENTERIA
3rd Base S. ROLEN
Catcher J. LOPEZ
Outfield B. BONDS
Outfield A. PUJOLS

It would be interesting to see one of those guys in center. Of course, Barry won't be there, as he will be (and should be) with his father. But it would be fun to watch for three innings.

by Larry Mahnken

Hey everybody, I'm back. Happy Father's Day to all of you with kids, and happy Sunday to the rest of you. Go make some kids.

When last we met, the Yankees had just bounced back from being no-hit by the Houston Astros. That was a couple of days ago, but I haven't been able to post since then, so there's a couple of things I want to talk about.

The first is about me. Early in the game on Wednesday, Alfonso Soriano hit a ball to third that was ruled an error, but could conceivable have been ruled a hit. It really shouldn't have been ruled a hit, but it could have been. In 1996, I served for about 15 games as the Official Scorer for the Independent League Newark Barge Bandits. In that role, I had a personal policy on the first hit of the game. The first hit of the game always had to be a clean hit, one that could not possibly be ruled an error. That might sound kind of cheap, but I figured that I could change my ruling to a hit after the game anyway, and I didn't want someone to end up with a one-hitter because of a decision I made. I could change a hit to an error after the game, too, but then the pitcher wouldn't get his moment in the spotlight. In the spotlight in front of 50 people or so, but still a spotlight.

The other was about Jimy Williams' use of pitchers in the later innings of that came, particularly Octavio Dotel and Billy Wagner. With the game already out of reach for the Yankees, Williams brought in his two best relief pitchers for no other purpose than to get a no-hitter. He was attempting to (and succeeded in) humiliating the Yankees in their own ballpark, in front of a nationally televised game. Aside from being a bush league move, it may have cost the Astros the game on Thursday, as the Yankees were able to get some good hits off Dotel to beat him in the eighth inning. That's a comforting thought, that Williams got what was coming to him. He uses his two best relief pitcher to embarrass the Yankees, and then goes off and loses three straight.

Don't look now, but the Yanks have won three straight games, four of five, and have won two series against two very good teams. The Cardinals' bullpen has been in tatters for the first two games of this series after the Boston Marathon, but the Yanks did push four runs across against Matt Morris yesterday, so they've still earned these victories. Unfortunately, Boston decided to start winning games the same day the Yankees do, and are still just ½ game out of first, which, as I've said several times, is about seven games back of where they should be. Toronto is still hanging on like a pit bull, only 2 games back, but I still don't think they'll be there in the end, no matter how nice a guy Keith Law was to me.

Jason Giambi apparently woke up a couple of weeks ago, saw that he was inexplicably leading the All-Star balloting for first basemen, and figured he needed to start playing like it. Hideki Matsui has remained en fuego, as well. If these two remain on a tear, they can carry the Yankees' offense by themselves, but on the other hand, Alfonso Soriano and Derek Jeter are doing whatever they can to drag it back down again. Fortunately, today's game brings an end the toughest part of their schedule. On Tuesday, they open up with Tampa Bay, beginning the cakewalk part of their schedule--the Devil Rays, the Mets, the Indians, the Red Sox.

The Yankees have gotten through this incredibly difficult portion of the season, at least until now, in first place, despite losing two of their best players to injuries, and in the end that's all that really matters.

June 13, 2003

by Larry Mahnken

That's just great. I have the single highest traffic day yet for my site, and I'm unable to update it. I'm still unable to get online at home (I'm at the public library...whee.). So, I don't know when I'll be updating next. How frustrating.

I was impressed with how the Yankees bounced back yesterday afternoon from getting no-hit, coming back in the late innings for the first time this year, against one of the top bullpens in the majors (and beating perhaps the best reliever, Octavio Dotel). Godzilla was right back into the swing of things with a couple of hits, and got a birthday present error from Jeff Bagwell that led to his scoring the winning run. Of course, had he not pulled a boner in the first, soft tossing to Jeter rather than throwing home, the Yankees might have taken the lead before that point. But let's not be picky, Matsui has been hitting the ball well for a week now.

The no-hitter was perhaps the ultimate wake-up call. The team has played a very difficult schedule the past month and a half, but their level of play has been so poor that they would not likely beat the Devil Rays and Brewers. The god-awful Tigers, in fact, played the Yankees tough a couple of weeks ago, nearly winning the three game series. Getting no-hit by the Astros was a humiliation of the highest order, in front of their home crowd, on a nationally televised game. I won't say that it necessarily took effect yesterday, after all, they did put up a mediocre offensive effort early against an inferior starting pitcher, but they didn't give in, and came away with the victory and the series. Hopefully Wednesday's humilation will stay with them all season, and remain as a motivation to try their hardest in every contest to come, so that it never happens again.

Well, the library is closing now, so I have to finish, even though I had more to say. Hopefully Roger Clemens will finally win tonight, and I'll be able to get online and talk about it.

June 11, 2003

by Larry Mahnken

Five men who did something no living man has ever done.Wow. THAT sucked. This is the low point of the season. The low point of the last ten years. One of the lowest points of all my years as a baseball fan.

I'm talking, of course, about Hideki Matsui's 0-4 performance today, a tremendous letdown after such a hot five games.

I kid of course. Today was the inevitable result for a team that's been playing well below it's talent for the past month and a half. As Derek Jeter pointed out, these Yankees haven't won anything, but yet they seem to act like they have. If you include Bernie, there's only seven players left from the 2000 team, and only five left from the '96 team. This team still needs to earn it's place in history, they can't rest on laurels won by other players.

Before I go any further, I have to tip my worn, misshapen, sweat-stained Yankees cap to the Astros for doing something that hasn't been done in 45 years, no-hitting the New York Yankees. A no-hitter is a great feat, and to do it, you need to be lucky, but you also need to pitch well. Tonight, the Astros pitched well, and deserve their accomplishment. Kudos.

But, goddamnit, the Yankees really need to pull their heads out of their asses NOW. George may think that money will solve all the problems the Yankees might have, and even dream that he can somehow accquire Vlad Guerrero, Brian Giles and Curt Schilling with the total lack of talent they have in the upper minors, but it's just not so. The Yankees have made so many short-sighted trades in the past few years, lost so many draft picks signing free agents, and misused the ones they had, that they are forced to rely on free agency and salary dump trades. Someday soon, it's going to all come crashing down, and the Yankees will have a $170 million second division team.

I don't think that's happened yet. This team is much better than they've played lately, although nowhere near as good as they played in the first 24 games. I think that they'll win the division, but unless they get real help for the bullpen--which means NOT anybody with the initials UUU--and at least one decent hitter on their bench, it'll be a short postseason again.

If the Yankees start losing, and the Jays, Sox and A's win, it might lead to a hardcore sabermetric movement in the Bronx. Stop overpaying players, stop wasting draft picks, stop wasting roster spots on no-hit backup catchers, and the Clay Bellinger types. Field a consistently excellent team with a payroll below the luxury tax threshold, and have enough money and prospects to accquire star players to fill holes.

Okay, I think I scared a few people there. Don't worry, it'll never happen, not while George is in charge. His ego is far too big.

Now I have to go find some new furniture, dammit.

June 10, 2003

by Larry Mahnken

Good things happen when you hit the ball in the airI'd like to apologize for my behavior tonight on the Game Chatter, allowing my superstitions to get the better of me, and trying that "reverse jinx" stuff all game. I'll stop that now.

Today was a fun day. Not only did the Yankees win and Red Sox lose, but Godzilla got three more hits. The past five games Matsui has been on fire, and while it's only five games, a tiny, tiny sample size, it's been one hell of a five games. Godzilla's batted .706/.762/1.353--a 2.115 OPS! I really think he's turning into the slugger the Yankees thought they were getting. I actually picked up on this after Thursday's game, when I wrote:
Godzilla had a great game today, four hits, three doubles and a homer. I think that he's going to go off on a tear, something like .706/.762/1.353, but that's just a guess.
I got lucky I guess.

Of course, I didn't really predict anything, but I did point out that Matsui might have turned it around, and have been repeating that belief all weekend. When you're a former 50 HR hitter, and you're hitting everything on the ground, there's definitely something wrong with your mechanics, not necessarily your talent. I hope he's really turned it around.

Earlier, the Yankees released Juan Acevedo's sorry ass. There was a great deal of discussion the past couple of days about Acevedo over on Primer. The point of contention was Acevedo's quality, and whether he should really have been in that game Saturday in that situation. Acevedo's "supporters" pointed out that statistically, Acevedo has been an average or above average pitcher in the past, and well above average the past few years. They further pointed out that 23 innings is a very small sample size, and not enough to draw a conclusion about his pitching ability going forward this season. They do have a point here, but I still don't think he should have been put on the mound in that situation.

For those that don't have much understanding of statistics...well, I probably won't be much help, because I don't understand them completely, either. To the best of my understanding, here's the relevant idea: A player has a definite level of talent, and if you took an infinite number of at bats or innings, you'll get a true, accurate picture of their talent from the statistics. Since you can't take an infinite number of anything, you have to take a smaller number--a sample. The smaller the size of the sample taken, the less accurate the statistics are, the larger the sample, the more accurate. For example, as you flip a coin an infinite number of times, it is likely land on heads 50% of the time, and on tails 50% of the time. But if you flip the coin ten times, it can land heads ten times--but the likelihood of it landing on tails is still 50%, and as you approach infinity, the rate at which it lands heads or tails will approach 50/50. That is the basis for regression to the mean. (Thanks to eric, who does not own a television, for correcting me).

So, what this means is that Acevedo's true talent is far better than how the statistics show he's pitched this season. He will pitch better, and if given the ball enough times, he will pitch at the level he has pitched in past seasons, which is above average. Nobody knows when he'll do it, but eventually he is bound to. Looking at the problem in this manner would indicate that putting Acevedo in the game was not a bad idea, and also a better idea than putting in a pitcher who has performed well this season but not as well in the long term.

But I don't think that in a real world situation it's a good idea. Juan Acevedo is not a coin, he's a human being. There may be some specific reason that he has performed poorly that we cannot perceive, we cannot simply assume that it has to be a result of small sample size. If there's nothing wrong with him, or if he corrects the problem, he will regress to the mean, I won't dispute that. But he should demonstrate that he is capable of pitching well again before he is placed in a high-leverage situation when there are other acceptable options. Should he have been released? He refused an assignment to Columbus, and I don't think they should have kept him in the bullpen, so I think yes, they should have released him.

I think regression to the mean should be taken heed of much more when looking at a player who has performed at well above their established level, and understand that they're likely to regress to their previous level--I'm looking at you Chris Hammond. There are many more reasons for a player to suddenly decline than there are for a player to suddenly improve, and as Branch Rickey said, it's better to give up on a player one year too soon than one year too late.

The highlight of my day was when I got an unexpected email from Keith Law, a consultant on baseball operations for Toronto GM J.P. Riccardi, responding to a comment I made on Primer. I took the opportunity to ask the former Baseball Prospectus writer and Riccardi's right hand man what he thought about Alfonso Soriano, who has continued to excel (well not the past month and a half, but you know, sample size) despite lousy plate discipline. Is he a Freak of Nature, as Aaron Gleeman said, or what? He was kind enough to reply:
I figured the same thing you did - that his performance would slip given enough reps. But I do think that he's a freak of nature (Aaron's not the first to say that, I believe JP was quoted as saying it last year in a Gammons column), kind of like Vlad was early in his career. What I do know about Soriano is that he has tremendous plate coverage - there are few spots where it's safe to pitch to him, because he has both great bat speed (allowing late decisions) and long arms (allowing him to successfully reach many pitches out of the strike zone). IOW, you can get away with swinging at pitches out of the zone if you can hit them consistently, but rare is the animal who can do so.

Did that make sense? Re-reading it now, I'm not sure that it does.
It makes sense to me, but the one big difference between Soriano and Vlad is that Vlad never struck out as much as Soriano. It is an inspiring thought, though, that one of the smartest guys in baseball thinks that Soriano will remain productive despite his poor approach. I'd still like to see him be more selective, though.

Speaking of Soriano, Jay Jaffe commented about the Soriano Wager Watch, which tracks some wagers for lunches I made based on Soriano not producing as well as last year: "Larry, if you win that bet and the Yanks miss the playoffs because Sori didn't produce, I'm gonna find a new way for you to take lunch."

Gulp. Frankly, I want Soriano to bat .299 with 39 homers and a BB Rate of higher than .062. If he's batting .299 with 39 HRs and one non-BB PA away from dropping below .062, and the Yanks need a homer from him to make the playoffs, I'll gladly spend $30 on lunches. If the Yanks miss and I win, those meals are going to taste very, very bitter.

June 9, 2003

by Larry Mahnken

Yankees: Rocket likely for Friday
A Yankees official said the team had been discussing whether to release right-handed reliever Juan Acevedo
Addition by subtraction?

by Larry Mahnken

On April 27th, on the second pitch of the ballgame against the Texas Rangers, Alfonso Soriano peaked. Hit by an errant Chan Ho Park pitch, Soriano's rate stats had all reached levels they had not been at since the first ten games of the season, when rate stats are always ridiculous--.389/.448/.699.

Just before the game started, Sean Forman wrote:
If you are like me, you check the box score every day hoping for the satisfaction of seeing a big, fat 0 for 5 next to Alfonso Soriano's name. Instead, Peter Gammons is proven more and more right with each passing series. If it were going to be easy to get Soriano out chasing bad pitches (call it the Samuel Theory), it would have happened by now and he would be hitting .260 with a .290 OBP.
And yes, this is the thinly veiled attempt of a Red Sox fan to jinx him.
Two days earlier, fellow blogger Aaron Gleeman wrote:
I still say a guy can't walk once a month, strike out 150 times a year and hit like Soriano does. Of course, I just said "and hit like Soriano DOES," so I guess maybe I should start believing it, huh?
And a few days later, some twit wrote his own idiotic theory about why Soriano was doing well, and created a crappy blog to publish the idiotic theory.

Well, since trotting down to first that afternoon, Soriano has batted .238/.294/.457.

Interestingly, another ballplayer noted for their poor plate discipline was having an outstanding season through the games of April 26th last season, too. Batting .342/.391/.620, the player was not as good as Soriano, but as the season went on, he alternated between hot and cold streaks, the cold streaks outweighed the hot ones, and he finished with a respectable .293/.330/.459. Just like Alfonso Soriano, people looked at Shea Hillenbrand through the first few weeks of the season and insisted that he defied the sabermetric theories of plate discipline. But once again, the defiant player has come back to reality.

Alfonso Soriano is a fantastically talented player, perhaps one of the most unique players in baseball history. His tremendous talent has made him a very good player despite his lack of plate discipline, because when he does hit, he hits the ball well. But he does not defy sabermetric theory.

Coincidentally, the game in which Soriano peaked was the same game where the Yankees peaked. 20-4 at that point, the Yankees took a 5-4 lead into the bottom of the 5th. Three outs later, they trailed 9-5, and since that day, they've gone 15-23. Of course, this is all Derek Jeter's fault, not Soriano's, but it's an interesting parallel.

Oh, by the way, I really do hate the Devils. Almost as much as the Red Sox.

June 8, 2003

by Larry Mahnken

Are you the biggest idiot ever?Today, for the first time this year, the Yankees didn't give up. Unfortunately, Charles Gipson apprently didn't pay attention during orientation, and forgot that a huge part of his job is to not get picked off. I'm guessing he gets to sit next to Acevedo on the flight home.

The Yankees went 4-5 on this road trip, but if they had played good baseball--not great baseball, just good--they would have gone 9-0. Woulda coulda shoulda, didn't. But they're still only ½ game out of first, and if they can they can get through this week still within 1½, I think things are looking good for them to be in first when Bernie and Nick come back. Assuming they stop giving the ball to Acevedo in crucial situations, that is.

Captain Fansucktic came out again tonight in a 6-3 game, and left it an 8-3 game. Was it all his fault? No, the Yankees' defense helped. But in the end, the Yankees lost 8-7, and Juan Acevedo did much to lose the game, and again, he wasn't given a loss.

To be fair, if Andy Pettitte had merely pitched poorly, the Yankees would have won this game. Instead, he was downright Acevedish, putting the Yankees in a deep hole in the first inning. On second thought, if the game had been close, perhaps Baker would have abused Prior some more, and the Yankees wouldn't have scored those last four runs. Still, Pettitte pitched like crap, and the Yankees should be preparing to cut ties with him this offseason. Trading Brandon Claussen would not be a good way to do that.

by Larry Mahnken


Aww, fuck. This is lousy news. Fortunately, Bernie's healing well, and will probably return just after the break.

Here's something stupid:
An extended absence could change the way the Yankees go about making a July or August deal. Right now, their focus is on adding right-hander Ugueth Urbina to the bullpen, but if they can't count on Johnson, they may have to shop for a bat. Pittsburgh's Brian Giles would be the ideal hitter to acquire.
Actually, the ideal hitter to accquire would be Barry Bonds, but that's not going to happen, either.

June 7, 2003

by Larry Mahnken


1st Base C. DELGADO
2nd Base B. BOONE (He's passed Soriano)
3rd Base T. GLAUS
Catcher J. POSADA
Outfield M. CAMERON
Outfield M. RAMIREZ
Outfield M. MORA

1st Base T. HELTON
2nd Base J. VIDRO
Shortstop R. FURCAL
3rd Base S. ROLEN
Catcher P. LO DUCA
Outfield B. BONDS
Outfield A. PUJOLS

The current voting is a joke, right? Bagwell isn't seriously the leading NL 1B, is he? Giambi can't be leading in the AL. I bet Sosa drops pretty fast now...

by Larry Mahnken

Juan Acevedo, the Greek God of SuckThere is no further proof needed that pitcher wins and losses are useless statistics than the result of today's game. Roger Clemens got the loss. Juan Acevedo gets a "blown save". Oooooh.

What the hell was Torre thinking? Clemens apparently was forced to leave the game with an upper respiratory infection after 84 pitches, which is unfortunate, but understandable. He left the game with runners on first and second with one man out, a crucial situation that was likely to decide the outcome of the game. Who does Torre bring in? Jeff Weaver, who was good out of the bullpen last season and has good peripheral stats so far this season? Chris Hammond, who has been inconsistent but reasonably effective? Antonio Osuna, perhaps the Yankees best setup man, who threw only five pitches yesterday? Perhaps he breaks with traditional thinking and puts Mariano Rivera in the game, utilizing his best relief pitcher in the highest leverage situation?

No...he puts Juan Acevedo in the game. Juan Acevedo, who has not only been the Yankees' worst relief pitcher, but their worst relief pitcher
by a lot. This was not just a bad decision, it was an awful, stupid, unjustifiable decision. Managers rarely make decisions that win ballgames--after all, Bob Brenly has a ring--but they sometimes make decisions that lose them. Today, Joe Torre made one of those decisions.

And Acevedo made the most of his opportunity, giving up a three-run home run to Eric "Veteran Presence" Karros on the first pitch to surrender the lead, taking Clemens's 300th away, and handing him an undeserved loss. Acevedo spent the rest of the game sulking in the dugout. He would have done better to pack his things and leave. Why the hell did they send Jason Anderson back down to the minors when they brought in Sierra and not release Acevedo? The Proven Closer™ label is a hard one to ignore for traditional baseball thinkers, I suppose, but Acevedo is about as crappy a pitcher to ever get that label. He's about the suckiest suck in the history of suck.

And now come rumors that the Yankees are looking to trade Brandon Claussen for Ugueth Urbina. Well, he doesn't suck, but they can do so much better, for so much less. This would be a very bad trade.

It wasn't all bad today. Hideki Matsui got two hits, including another Home Run (although he should have struck out earlier in the AB), and really looks to me like he's about to break out big time. With Giambi being out of his slump, this could not be more crucial. The Yankees' offense has run hot and cold, and they need another bat to wake up if they want to minimize those cold spells.

Pettitte vs. Prior tomorrow on ESPN. I'm not feeling too optimistic about this matchup. Can Milwaukee beat Boston one more time this weekend? I doubt it, but if they don't, the Yanks might be right back in second place Monday.

June 6, 2003

by Larry Mahnken

The last time the Yankees played in Wrigley Field, Jesse Orosco was still just a rookie. With today's win, they're 5-0 all-time, and tomorrow Roger Clemens tries to make them 6-0, and make himself 300-154. To do it, they'll have to beat Kerry Wood, the only other man to strike out 20 men in a nine-inning game.

Today, Sammy Sosa was suspended for eight games, and as expected, he appealed that suspension. There aren't really any grounds to appeal the suspension, but he did so to avoid missing the Yankees series. He'll likely drop the appeal on Monday, and miss the Tampa Bay & Toronto series. Is it a farce, and a mockery of the appeals process? Yes. But, it's a rule that everyone can exploit, so there's no use in bitching about it now. Sosa didn't hurt the Yankees today, anyway.

The Yankees also made a trade today, accquiring "outfielder" Ruben Sierra for Marcus Thames, who last season experienced the equivalent of losing your virginity to Catherine Zeta-Jones, taking Randy Johnson out on the first pitch he ever saw in the majors. You remember Sierra--he's the guy who complained that all the Yankees care about is winning--heaven forbid! Sierra hasn't done much this year (.731 OPS) in a small sample size (147 PA), but it's pretty much what he did last season with Seattle, and he's been playing in a hitter's park. He's a switch-hitting Todd Zeile, but at least he's cheap. The trade itself isn't a bad one: Thames has probably done everything he ever will to help the Yankees, and they might catch lightning in a bottle with Sierra, but the accquisition is really a nothing. He won't really hurt them by being on the roster, but he probably won't help them, either. At least he's not making too much to release if/when they have to.

Matsui went 0 for 2 today with a couple of walks, a strikeout and a groundout to the pitcher. Not an indication that yesterday was a fluke by any means; if he can keep hitting it in the air, I think the hits, and especially the HRs, will come.

And Boston lost again, 9-3, to Milwaukee! So, the Yanks are right back where they were when interleague play began, 1½ games up. I know it's a Yankees blog, and I should be gloating whenever the Sox choke, but Grady Little really needs to be fired. The Yankees have no business being anywhere near first place.

June 5, 2003

by Larry Mahnken

Perhaps we shall remember this day, the day that Hideki Matsui turned it around, and became a productive hitter. Perhaps today was the start of something great. For the first time, Matsui has consistently hit the ball in the air, and hit the ball well. This is the guy we thought we were getting, now the question is which guy are we going to get the rest of the season. We need Godzilla, not Hideki. We've already had a Hideki, and he sucked.

And so the Yankees are back in first place, as the Red Sox lost to the Pirates. Kay, Kaat and O'Neill talked on YES about a team viewing the starts of their ace pitcher as "Win Day". Well, the Red Sox probably look at the games Burkett starts as "Loss Day". And what the hell happened to Ramiro Mendoza? The Yankees bullpen has sucked, but it's strange to think that if they had kept Stanton and Mendoza, they wouldn't be better off. Here's how bad Mendoza has been:

Juan Acevedo has a better RRA than Ramiro Mendoza. You read that right.

(Stanton hasn't been bad this year, but he hasn't been great, either. His RRA is slightly better than the Yankees')

Now it's off to Chicago for Corkgate, Clemens vs. Kerry in #300 take 3, and insanely expensive seats. Will the Yankees leave town in first place? Probably not. They're not going to sweep the Cubs, and Boston gets Milwaukee. Considering how they've played lately, they might be lucky to win 1 game this weekend.

The x-factor, of course, is Sosa. MLB might suspend him before the series begins, and then the question is if he will appeal, as players usually do automatically. But in this case, Sosa has been taking a beating in the media, and appealing the suspension will undoubtedly bring even more criticism down on him. Would he dare do it? Well, Jay Jaffe pointed out in Game Chatter that MLB might just make the decision easy for him, delaying a decision until Monday so he can play this weekend, and miss the Baltimore and Blue Jays series. Sounds plausible to me. I think they'll suspend him tomorrow, and he'll appeal it immediately. Which means all weekend you'll hear the Yankees announcers complaining about the appeals process, and you'll probably hear Buck and McCarver talk about it, too.

But whether Sosa plays or not, it might not make much of a difference this weekend. For one, Sosa's been awful since getting hit in the head, and for another, starting pitching hasn't really been the problem, it's been the offense, which has been hot and cold. If Matsui's about to go on a tear, that'll help, especially now that Giambi is swinging the bat well again, but then Torre just moved them apart in the lineup, which could mitigate the benefits.

While he was at it, he stuck Soriano back in the leadoff spot, which is a great place for a guy who hits home runs and never walks to bat--right behind the pitcher. Genius. I bring Soriano up because he's kicking my ass. If you recall, I have three wagers out on Soriano's performance this season: he won't bat .300, he won't hit 40 HRs, and his RC will drop 10% unless his walk rate doubles. Well, he's on a pace to hit .307, 50 HRs, with 153.63 Runs Created. His walk rate has doubled, but it's plummeted in the past month, and right now it's barely double. So, it looks right now like I'm going to be buying some lunches. Well, it's worth it. A Soriano who generates 150 Runs Created this season, no matter what his walk rate, is vital to the Yankees' pennant hopes, and 50/50 would be pretty cool. I'm pretty sure that he's going to drop below .300 by the All-Star break, though.

June 4, 2003

by Larry Mahnken

0-2 with Derek "Clubhouse Cancer" Jeter as Captain.

Way to blow it, Yanks. They lost a game yesterday that they should have won, but blew, they lost a game today that they should have won, but didn't capitalize on their clear advantage in starters, much as they failed to capitalize last Saturday against Bernero. They are playing like garbage, and right now they deserve to miss the playoffs.

I realized a couple of days ago, that if the Yankees win the World Series this year, I will be genuinely ecstatic about it for the first time since 1996. In 1998, '99 and 2000, it felt anitclimactic, as though winning the Series was an afterthought to 114 wins, beating the Red Sox, and the first Subway Series in 44 years. The fact that they were short series that the Yanks never trailed in added to that feeling. Perhaps 2001 would have felt special, but there was something special for me in '96.

Part of it was the fact that I had never seen the Yankees in the Series, let alone win it. I was 18 at the time, had my hopes dashed by the strike, was devastated by the '95 loss (I still can't watch Edgar's double, and I still hate him for it), and the fact that they trailed 2-0 in the Series--and looked so bad doing it, too--all caused me to not expect victory, and to appreciate it more. In '98, '99 and 2000, and to some degree in 2001, I expected them to win. Losing hurt more than winning felt good. Losing still affects me strongly, but I've stopped expecting that inevitable victory at the end of the season. Winning would feel good.

I can't imagine what it would be like for a Red Sox fan when they inevitably win a World Series. There is something that a lot of older Red Sox fans have that I don't encounter in the younger ones, almost a resignation. They want their team to win, but they feel as though they won't. It's not that they don't expect victory--they expect defeat. My friend Jackie's father--a BoSox fan--told her after the Yankees won a particularly tough game to get used to it, the Yankees always beat the Red Sox in the end. It's not some irrational belief in a Curse, more like an acceptance of a fact of life. The sun comes up in the morning and goes down at night, we'll all die someday, and the Yankees will always beat the Red Sox. Being young myself, I haven't quite bought into that thinking completely, but it's nice to think that someday I might be that certain of things.

But when Boston does win a World Series... it'll probably make V.E. day look like a frathouse kegger.

Speaking of the Red Sox, they are one of the teams on the sabermetric bandwagon, with Toronto and Oakland being the other two hardcore teams. The Yankees are in the shallow end of the sabermetric pool with several other teams--not quite willing to go in the deep end. In the best-selling book Moneyball (which you can buy on the sidebar of my page...), there is a chapter about the A's strategy last season of eschewing traditional scouting, and only drafting players who they had statistical data on, namely college players.

A lot of people, I think, have misinterpreted the entire chapter. The A's did not draft the best players in the draft. They did not even necessarily draft the best players that they could have selected. They did, however, select players who were had the safest high-yield while remaining affordable. They could have taken players with more potential, and even players with more potential that would likely reach that potential, but those players were out of their price range. The draft philosophy of the A's would not have been the best one for the Yankees or Red Sox to follow, because they would be passing up on better players that they could afford. The Yankees can afford to draft a toolsy high school kid hoping he turns into A-Rod, the A's cannot. The Red Sox can afford to draft a college star that both scouts and statheads see as a sure-thing, and sign him for $3 million, but the A's cannot.

This is the core of the A's philosophy: determining the value of every player, finding bargains, and avoiding risk. Traditionalists react with hostility towards the A's, Jays and Sox because they use sabermetric statistical analysis to determine value. People like Richard Griffin, Phil Rogers and Joe Morgan seem unable to accept the fact that Major League Baseball is a business, and always has been, and if you're not going to run your business as efficiently as possible, you're a fool. Yes, the move towards OBP and SLG is going to make the game more boring, but the way to prevent that is not chase off the statheads, but to change the game. Make the parks bigger, deaden the ball, enforce the strike zone, raise the mound, and strategies like the sac bunt and steal become more viable, and the sabermetric teams will become more likely to use them. Taking the path that they are, Griffin and his compatriots are going to end up as baseball outsiders, because the A's, Red Sox and Jays are running their teams intelligently, and they're going to win and make money, two things that are going to attract every other owner in MLB down the line. It may take years, but it will happen.
Baseball people generally are allergic to new ideas. We are slow to change. took years to persuade them to put numbers on uniforms. ... It is the hardest thing in the world to get big league baseball to change anything—even spikes on a pair of shoes. But they will accept this new interpretation of baseball statistics eventually. They are bound to.

       -Branch Rickey, 1954

June 3, 2003

by Larry Mahnken

More proof that Jeter is destroying the Yankees. They name him captain, they go out and lose, apparently just to rain on his parade.

Strangely, I'm not pissed off. Normally, I would have had to destroy something to release my agressions about such a frustrating loss, but today...ehh. I think it's because I hurt my back at work today, and don't really care that much about a ballgame, or because my frustration was negated by my satisfaction at two other events today:

1) The Red Sox game was rained out. Normally, this would be a nothing event, but because it's an interleague game, it will be made up in a doubleheader tomorrow, which makes it somewhat less likely that they'll sweep the Pirates, and somewhat takes away from Boston's slight interleague schedule advantage.

2) Sammy Sosa was ejected for corking his bat today, and might be suspended for the entire Yankees series, probably completely negating Boston's slight interleague schedule advantage.

Sosa's ejection will likely be discussed ad nauseam for the next week, at least, so I might as well get my word in fairly early.

You're gonna hear a lot of mediots (*cough* Kornheiser *cough*) talking about how this "taints" the summer of '98, and it "taints" the 500 HRs. Well, it doesn't, because it's ridiculous to think that Sosa hit all those HRs because he corked his bat. First of all, he's been on this HR tear for six years, and I'm pretty sure he's broken several bats over that time. If he was corking the whole time, he'd have been caught by now. And second, corking the bat doesn't make the ball go farther, it in fact reduces the distance the ball travels by about ¾%. Which isn't really much, but it's still a reduction and not an increase. What corking the bat does do is increase a player's bat speed. Christian Ruzich over at The Cub Reporter quoted Robert Adair's book "The Physics of Baseball", so you can go over there and read about it (go over there anyway--good blog).

The other thing you're gonna hear is the question, "why would Sammy Sosa cork his bat? He doesn't need the help." Well, no, he probably doesn't, but people do all sorts of things that they don't need to do because they are still getting benefit. For example, Congress just cut taxes for the wealthiest Americans. OH! And he shows his true political colors!

Back to the topic at hand, this shouldn't damage Sammy's reputation, either. I'm not saying it won't, it just shouldn't. He cheated. Big fucking deal. Babe Ruth corked his bat, too. It's a ball game, get over it. He's still a good guy.

As for Jeter being named captain...well, it'll make Chrissy happy. I don't think it makes any difference that he's been "named" captain, because he was the leader of the team anyway. At least he's not going to be wearing that stupid C, a la John Franco. That only looks cool in hockey.

June 2, 2003

by Larry Mahnken

It's time to play, "What the hell were you thinking, Joe Torre?", with our host, Larry Mahnken.

Please take note that this is not a "Fire Joe Torre" post. It's a "Stop doing shit like that, Joe" post. The "Fire Joe Torre" post will come if they finish fourth this year.

In the top of the 10th inning yesterday, Jason Giambi drew a walk from Detroit "closer" Franklyn German. Joe then took Giambi out for a pinch runner--Charles Gipson.

What the hell were you thinking, Joe Torre?

Well, I can kind of see what he was thinking, but I'm not sure why. Gipson is faster than Giambi, so he was more likely to score from first on a double, second on a short single, or third on a sac fly. Considerably more likely. But the odds of any of those events happening at the moment Gipson came into the game, when he was on first, were fairly low. Certainly too low to take out perhaps the best hitter in an already decimated lineup.

The only way this move could turn out to be a good move is if Gipson scored a run that Giambi could not have, which didn't happen. They didn't even score at all. And so, they played the rest of the game--all seven innings of it--with Bubba Trammell in the cleanup spot. Trammell predictably went 0-3, flying out to all three outfielders. He came to bat with one out in the 12th and flew out to right, with two outs and Soriano on first in the 14th--a double would have scored a run there--and flew out to center, and followed Soriano's homer in the 17th with a fly out to left. Had Trammell gotten on base there, Posada's HR would have made it a three-run lead, and Acevedo wouldn't have come in with the tying run on second. The Yankees won, so it didn't hurt them, but it was a dumb move that might have extended the game several innings.

Why does Joe keep doing this? He did this several times last season, as well with Giambi and Enrique Wilson, and was burned by it a couple of times, when he was stuck with Wilson batting in the middle of the order in extra innings. The only time it worked out was in Anaheim, when Soriano ran for Giambi--but then, he's Soriano, so it wasn't like they were losing much offense. Soriano wound up getting the winning hit, as well.

I'm afraid that Torre is going to do this in the postseason and cost the Yankees a game or a series. Joe says he rarely looks at numbers, but this is one of those situations where he should, he's overmanaging.

June 1, 2003

by Larry Mahnken

Okay, I'm not going to be like the Red Sox fans, who are obsessed with keeping Clemens away from 300 as long as possible. Today was a win, and that's all that matters. It doesn't matter that Clemens didn't get 300, it doesn't matter that they blew a 6-run lead, it doesn't matter that their infield defense played so hideously that only Rob Moses is myopic enough to think that they don't suck, or that Joe Torre employed the "take Jason Giambi out of the game for a pinch runner in a tied game so we won't have his bat in the not-unlikely event that we don't score or win it before his spot in the order comes up again" strategy yet again, it doesn't matter that it took almost two games to get the win. It's a win.

I don't really know about the Yanks after this weekend. On one hand, they look to be somewhat out of their slump, on the other, they did almost lose 2 of 3 to the Tigers. They really should have gotten a sweep out of this weekend series, but then the Red Sox probably should have won at least one game in Toronto, so it evens out.

Speaking of Boston, they've really blown a huge opportunity in the last two weeks. Two weeks ago, they were tied for first with the Yankees, and the Yankees were ice cold. Perhaps the Yankees' best hitter was out with a broken hand, and one of their best players was made ineffective by an injured knee, which would eventually knock him out of the lineup. Boston got to face the Yankees six times in those two weeks, with Cleveland sandwiched between those two series. Add to that the fact that the Yankees would get swept at home by the Blue Jays in a four game series, and the Red Sox had an opportunity to open up a four or five game lead in the division. Instead, two weeks later, they're 1½ games out of first. The only important injury that's happened to Boston these past two weeks has been Pedro, but then they won both games he would likely have started against the Yankees, so if they had won with him today, it would still be a ½ game lead for NY.

Of course, the perfect cure for the six-game losing streak is back-to-back series at Pittsburgh and Milwaukee--two teams the Yankees don't get to play. Boston might be back in first in a week. Might.

As for Toronto, they're only 2 back and red hot right now, but I'm not worried about them. They don't have enough pitching to keep up with Boston and New York all year, the willingness to part with prospects at this point to accquire pitching, or the financial resources to get someone in a salary dump. They'll finish around or above .500, and be a force in the AL East for years, but this year they'll fade. I'm so certain of this statement, that if they don't, I'll go back and edit the archives to delete this statement, so no one can ever prove I made it. I'm that sure.

Clemens goes for 300 for a third time next Saturday against Kerry Wood at Wrigley, another appropriate setting. Memorial Day versus his old team, in front of Ernie Harwell, against the team who he struck out 20 against for the second time, and against the only other man to strike out 20 in a nine-inning game. If he misses there, he could do it in Tino's return to The Stadium, and if that fails, he'll do it for sure against the Devil Rays, in a game with no apparent significance. But at least it will be at The Stadium. Maybe the Yanks could hold him back if it comes to that point and try to get him to do it at Shea. That would be pretty funny.

And, of course, I have to thank Aaron Gleeman for plugging me this afternoon in the Game Chatter--not that he singled me out or anything, but it was really cool.