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July 31, 2003

by Larry Mahnken

Aaron's Baseball Blog - Another worn out welcome

Yesterday, Aaron took a look at the BoSox's moves to upgrade their bullpen, and just posted an excellent analysis of the Mondesi trade. More words have been wasted on Raul Mondesi than he deserves, but Aaron's words are always put in an order that is pleasing to read, and, um, plentiful--to say the least.

Aaron, your site was one of the great inspirations for starting mine, and I hope that the RLYW will someday become as good as Aaron's Baseball Blog. I thank you so much for the plug.

Oh, and I also forgot to thank Alex Belth (at his new site!) and Jason Scavone for their plugs in recent days! It's like Christmas!

by Larry Mahnken

Trading Fools

The Yankees made a good move yesterday by suckering the Diamondbacks into giving them some reasonably useful players for Raul Mondesi. Joe Garagiola, Jr. has made some good moves in his tenure as D'backs GM, but has made many foolish ones, and this is another one of them.

But this isn't about the Diamondbacks, it's about the Yankees. There are still a few hours left until the trade deadline, and still a month before the postseason rosters are set. Considering that some of the trades made this season have been little more than salary dumps, some quality players are likely to go through waivers after today. Another interesting twist is that, should the Red Sox jump ahead of the Yankees in the standings, the Yankees would have waiver priority over the Red Sox, and would be able to block their claims, while the Red Sox could not block those of the Yankees.

Making a trade before 4pm is not vital for the Yankees' chances at a title. They are good enough to win the World Series right now, but it's not a sure thing, and they might not even be the favorites (my pick is the Giants right now). George wants the sure thing, and more than that, he wants to beat the Red Sox. Seeing the Red Sox make some excellent trades may be inspiring Steinbrenner to push for something foolish.

Make no mistake, the Red Sox have made some very good trades in the past days. They accquired Scott Sauerbeck and Scott Williamson, two excellent relief pitchers, for peanuts. They are moves that address Boston's greatest weakness and improve their team signifcantly. But they are just relief pitchers, and their accquistion will not change the fortunes of the team dramtically. If they were going to collapse before these trades, they likely still would, and if they catch and pull away from the Yankees, it will not be because of those two. They were very good trades by Epstein, but it's nothing for the Yankees to panic over.

But it seems that they Yankees might panic. There are rumors tonight of a trade that would send Brandon Claussen and $3 million to the Reds for third baseman Aaron Boone and lefty reliever Gabe White. Gabe White is a pretty good relief pitcher--he was rated by Michael Wolverton's ratings as the top reliever in MLB in 2000--but he's a relief pitcher. The trades Epstein made were particularly good because he gave up nothing signifcant to accquire relief help, understanding that the difference between a good relief outing and an awful one is so small that it's not worth giving up a good prospect for anything less than a consistently dominant reliever. The proposed trade should really be looked at as Claussen for Boone. That would truly be an awful trade for the Yankees. They would be giving up their last good prospect, a pitcher with the potential to be a very good starter in the near future, though not likely an ace, for a 30 year old third baseman who is not as good as Robin Ventura was last year, and shows no prospect of ever getting better. Accquiring Boone would close a hole in the Yankees' lineup, as well as giving them a reasonable bat to fill in at second and shortstop when needed, but he is not worth Claussen.

Who would be worth Claussen? Well, obviously Vlad and Giles would be, but Claussen would not be nearly enough to land either of those two. If the Yankees could get Guerrero to ink a long-term deal, I might be willing to part with Claussen and, *GULP*, Nick Johnson. Yeah, I adore Johnson, but it will be much easier to find a good hitting DH than a good hitting outfielder.

Maybe I'd part with Claussen for Adam Dunn, even though he seems to be turning into the new Dave Kingman. Well, that's not fair, he get on a lot more than Kong did, and being only 23, he's likely to fix his flaws. But then, the Reds have called Dunn untouchable, along with Austin Kearns (which is smart). Perhaps Soriano and Claussen, and $3 million for Dunn and Boone? Of course, that's just a pipe dream, the Yankees would never bring up Soriano's name to start a trade discussion, and the Reds would never start a trade discussion for Dunn with less than that on the table. So, it's best just to move on.

No, the Yankees being the Yankees, they are likely to make the deal as is, giving up too much for a player who is, when all is said and done, still worth having. I guess, in the end, it's not all that bad a trade if they do make it, because it improves them now, and you can worry about tomorrow when it comes. But it would be nice if, every now and then, they could pull off their own Scott Williamson trade, getting a valuable player for almost nothing. When's the last time that happened with the Yankees? Cone?

July 30, 2003

by Larry Mahnken

To tell the truth, I didn't watch a tremendous amount of the Yankees' game today, although it was on the TV right next to me. I spent most of the evening chatting it up with a few fellow bloggers, as well as improvising a Game Chatter with sjohnny and...a Red Sox fan. Well, it was better than nothing. If Primer ever gets down again, just IM me and we'll chat on our own.

So, it was a nice game, Bernie got a couple of hits, Godzilla had a huge game. Nick was good, Jorge and D.J. were great. Alfonso Soriano put forward his 8th straight clunker (he has a .405 OPS in the last 8 games). And Andy Pettitte was fantastic, striking out nine and walking none, putting forth his fourth good start out of five, and winning his eighth straight decision.

But, of course, none of that mattered, because the most joyous news came in mid-game.


The Yankees sent Buffalo off to Phoenix in a trade Tuesday night that netted them...well, who cares what it netted them? They dumped Raul Mondesi!

Added to the return of Bernie Williams and Nick Johnson, this move vastly improves the Yankees' offense, and might be the most important move of the season for them. How big a bag of suck was Mondesi? His numbers this season, .258/.330/.471 would rank him as 5th-best in Major League Baseball...if he was a catcher. As a Right-fielder, well he's 17th out of 24 players who qualify for the batting title.

But that only tells half the story. Sure, he was woefully inadequate, but are the guys replacing him any better? Yup. Mondesi's stats are skewed by an incredibly hot April. His month by month OPS's are: 1.117/.732/.657/.626. He went from MVP candidate to sub-replacement level outfielder in just four months. Ruben Sierra and Karim Garcia aren't going to win any Player of the Month Awards, but batting Dellucci against righties and Sierra against lefties and the occasional righty, you can get a .750+ OPS easy.

The Yankees don't need someone to be great out there, they just need someone who doesn't negate Giambi, Nick, Derek, Jorge, Matsui, Soriano and Bernie, and Mondesi was doing that. In fact, they don't even need a great hitter, just someone who gets on base, and keeps the lineup moving. Mondesi's OBP's by month: .420/.322/.277/.264. So, ever since April, Mondesi hasn't been getting on at anywhere near an acceptable level. David Delluci isn't a great hitter, but his career OBP is .341, so at the very worst he'll keep things going.

Getting Dellucci, Prinz and whathisname catcher boy in the trade made this an excellent deal for the Yankees, even though it did nothing to address their other great need, 3B. Perhaps Ventura can turn it around, and at the very least not suck up outs. But eliminating two giant holes in their lineup in the span of a few days may be enough to win this division for the Yanks, no matter how many good relievers Theo Epstein steals.

One last shot at Mondesi: I don't believe in clutch hitting, I don't think situation dicates a player's performance. But, a hit with a runner on is more valuable than a hit with the bases empty. It doesn't imply skill, but it does indicate value. Mondesi had a .987 OPS with the bases empty, in 183 ABs. Once runners were on, though, that OPS dropped to .610, in 178 ABs. Perhaps it was just bad luck, or he didn't get many baserunners on in front of him in April, but what that stat tells me is that not only has Mondesi sucked, he's sucked when it counted the most. The Yankees got absolutely the worst bang for their buck, and getting rid of Uncle GIDP (who actually only grounded into 6 DPs in 137 ABs with a runner on first) is the absolute perfect example of "addition by subtraction".

There is joy tonight.

You suck, Mondesi.

July 29, 2003

by Larry Mahnken

If any Primates wanna Chat on AIM until the Chatter is back up, IM me at MrLarry42.

July 28, 2003

by Larry Mahnken

Blaming Nelly

It was exactly the pitch that Mo wanted to throw, with exactly the effect that it had had on so many great hitters. A broken bat, a floater to shortstop, everything happened exactly the way it should have. Except the infield was playing in, and the ball landed on the outfield grass. The winning run scored, the series was over, the Yankees had lost.

I still can't bear the sight of it, and I turn my head every time I see that video of Rivera pitching to Luis Gonzalez. My videotape of the game stops as soon as Jay Bell touched home plate, because I did not want to record any more. I walked for two hours that night, trying to put the loss in perspective, it was just a game, and I had experienced so much joy from this team, it was just a loss. But it did no good, it still hurt. Even after two years it still hurts. If they had lost games four and five, and been defeated quietly, perhaps it would have hurt less, but they didn't go quietly, they came back again and again. They had Game Seven in the palm of their hand going to the last inning. So much went wrong that inning, a game that we HAD, a series that we HAD. It was almost as if it was meant to not be, like another power had decreed that the Yankees shall not win.

Although I am superstitious on the game-to-game level-- keeping Chatter threads going when they produce a win streak, avoiding Primer when my abscence brings victories, sitting in uncomfortable positions when it seems to produce rallies--I have always been wary of curses. A curse seems too simple an explanation for something that has assuredly happened for complex reasons, though it is a comforting one.

- The Cubs haven't won the pennant in 58 years because they didn't let a billy goat into a World Series game.
- They haven't won a title in 95 years because of Merkle's Boner.
- The White Sox haven't won since 1917, because two years later they threw the World Series.
- The Red Sox haven't won since 1918 because they sold Babe Ruth to the Yankees.

It's an easy out. "If only we could make up for selling Ruth, then we'd win a World Series!" some Sox fans might think, and so they go fishing for a piano, hoping it will change things.

But the biggest problem I have with curses is that they're not talked about until the effect of them is long felt. The Boston newspapers didn't report Ruth's sale and a curse, that didn't come along until much, much later--decades. Nobody has the guts to declare a curse early, probably because they don't want to look foolish if they're wrong. Well, I've got no problem there, I usually do something every day that makes me look the fool, so one more thing can't hurt.

By now you must have surely guessed where this is going: The Yankees are cursed.

The Yankees won 26 of the first 97 World Series, but since 2000, they haven't won any. It is no coincidence that righty setup man Jeff Nelson pitched his last game as a Yankee in that World Series. The Yankees strained their relations with Nelson during the regular season in 2000, and offered him $2 million less than the Mariners in the offseason (money that was no doubt invested in a Broadway show...perhaps "The Producers"?). The Mariners surged to a 116 win season in 2001, and although the Yankees triumphed over the Nellified M's in the ALCS, their lack of a dependable reliever other than Rivera, Stanton and Mendoza cost them dearly in the World Series, as a tired Rivera was unable to slam the door shut in Game 7.

Last year, they added Steve Karsay to fill Nelson's role, but the bullpen again failed in the playoffs, and the Yankees went down to the Angels in four games.

It is obvious that allowing Jeff Nelson to leave the Bronx was the worst move in the history of all professional sports, and perhaps recorded human history. Saavy baseball fans will soon be speaking of "The Curse of Jeff Nelson", and taunting Yankees fans with cries of "2000!" and singing "Springtime for Hitler". Already, since the Yankees have last won the title, and entire generation has been born, learned to speak, walk, and perhaps even been potty-trained. Eventually they, and all of us, will have to accept the reality of The Curse. The Yankees will never again win a World Series.

Unless, of course, they can break it. There are two ways to break The Curse. The first is for the Yankees to do all that they can to make up for their error in losing Nelson. They should retire his #43, send him a bonus check for the All-Star Game that Torre snubbed him for in 2000, buy his bone chips, and make all their right-handed pitchers throw sidearm. If that doesn't work, they can try trading for him. If they can sufficiently appease the Baseball Gods, perhaps this horrid curse will be lifted, and the 2½ years of despair can finally come to an end.

The other way to break The Curse is to win the World Series. But the playoffs are a crapshoot, so they'd be much better off relying on the bone chips.

Hey, gimme a break, it's an off day.

July 27, 2003

by Larry Mahnken

If it wasn't for bad luck, Jeff Weaver would have no luck at all. If the offense doesn't let him down, his defense lets him down, and when his defense doesn't let him down, the bullpen lets him down. He hasn't pitched great this year, but he hasn't pitched nearly as poorly as his record would indicate. Through May 9, his Quick DIPS ERA was 2.81, but his ERA was 5.09, and his record was 2-2. Overall, his DIPS is now 4.13--yes, it went up--which isn't bad, and is in fact better than David Wells's DIPS. But Jeff Weaver is not a dominant pitcher, his style has left too much to luck, and luck has not been his friend.

Tonight, for six and a third innings, luck seemed to be on Weaver's side. The Yankees needed him to pitch well, and he pitched quite well after struggling through the first. But he got in trouble in the seventh, and not trusting him to get out of the jam, Torre brought in Chris Hammond to try and end the threat. Instead Hammond went Juan Acevedo, giving up a home run to Jason Varitek and another to Johnny Damon. By the time the inning ended, two more runs were in, and the game was Boston's to lose. The Yankees got the tying run to the plate in the ninth, but a diving catch by Manny Ramirez ended the game, bringing Red Sox to within 1½ games of first. That is all I can bear to write about tonight's game. My frustration is too great.

This was a lost weekend for the Yankees. Had they lost quietly on Friday, won yesterday, and been crushed tonight, they would be in the same position they are now. One can rationalize this series that way, make the pill easier to swallow. But they beat Pedro, lost a matchup between Mussina and Burkett, and wasted a strong effort from Weaver. They could have swept, they could have opened up a big lead, they could have put the Red Sox away. Credit the Red Sox for a great effort this weekend, but don't let the Yankees off the hook: they blew it.

I'm not going to make the typical complaint about this year's and last year's teams, that they are different than past teams, that they don't know how to win. Bullshit. Everyone knows how to win, you score more runs than the other team. It's the execution that makes the difference, and the Yankees failed to execute.

Maybe it's because their pitchers are on their own out there. Maybe it's because they have a one-tool right fielder and a fading third baseman eating up outs like they were dots in Pac-Man. Maybe it's because they have a bench full of blank cartridges. Maybe it's because their leadoff hitter has a .289 OBP since May 2nd, and a .334 OBP overall. Only Mondesi is worse among Yankee regulars---by .004. Joe Torre refuses to drop him from the leadoff spot, and has failed to penalize him in any way for swinging at every pitch, and is seemingly more concerned with Soriano's lack of hustle on his home runs. If Soriano can be salvaged, and changed from a nice power-hitting second baseman into a great hitting ballplayer, Joe Torre is not the man to do it, not the way he's handled him.

I'm not saying Torre should be fired, he shouldn't, but he needs to be more proactive. This team is very, very good, but it needs a shakeup. The lineup needs to change. Most importantly, Nick Johnson should be coming up in the first inning, not the third. Raul Mondesi needs to ride the bench, no matter how much he whines. Soriano needs to be dropped in the lineup, perhaps all the way to the bottom, until he can learn that he's up there to bat, not hit. You can't do really anything about Robin Ventura, because the only options are Todd Zeile and Enrique Wilson. You can play Zeile against lefties, and hope Ventura can turn it around and become half-decent, but in all likelihood, that's a hole that they're stuck with.

The important thing is that Joe Torre has to do something. This isn't the '98 Yankees, who weren't as strong at the top, but lacked any major holes. This team does need to be managed on the field, strategies need to be employed to hide their weaknesses and emphasize their strengths. It seems that whenever Joe does manage the games, he utilizes strategies that play away from their strengths: pinch running for their best hitters, hitting and running, sacrifice bunting. Torre would be better off sitting on his hands than using these strategies, he needs to do something that requires thought, rather than gut-instinct. But I wouldn't hold my breath waiting for it to happen.

Oh, well, it was a great series, and a great game. Tonight's didn't quite live up to the first two, but had its moments. I still feel the Yankees will win this division, and I still think they can win a title, but if they keep throwing away games like they did yesterday and today it will be tough for them to do either.

July 26, 2003

by Larry Mahnken

Round two goes to Boston, in a game that was almost the mirror image of Friday's.

When these two met at the beginning of the month, I wrote that the first three games were not at all representative of either team's quality. Well, these last three games that they've played are representative of their quality, and what great games they have been. Had I paid money to see these games, I would say I was getting my money's worth. Oh wait, I'm paying for cable. Okay, I'm getting my money's worth.

Strangely, for games so representative of the overall quality of the opponents, there have been a great many uncharacteristic things happening. David Wells walked five batters; Pedro Martinez walked four and gave up seven hits. Mariano Rivera struggled; Enrique Wilson got two important hits on Friday, and Jesse Orosco struck out a right-handed batter today. John Burkett shut down the Yankees, who have often lit him up; Scott Sauerbeck, who dominates left-handed batters, gave up a double to Nick Johnson, who has struggled against left-handed pitchers. Jeremy Giambi stole a base...sort of. Nomar Garciaparra bunted. Up was down, black was white, dogs and cats living together! What's next, Alfonso Soriano walks? Okay, sorry, I got a little carried away there. Let's be realistic.

After the Yankees' victory last night, it seemed that this series was already decided, Mike Mussina would defeat John Burkett today, and the outcome of the Lowe/Weaver game tomorrow would be to complete or prevent the sweep. But John Burkett, entering the game with a career 9.66 ERA against the Yankees, was brilliant, not allowing more than one base runner in any of the innings he pitched, holding the Yankees scoreless two outs into the sixth, before being pulled for lefty Alan Embree. Not to disrespect Burkett, but the Yankees should have scored more runs against him, or at least had more scoring opportunities. Their failure to do so is the biggest reason that they lost this game.

But they didn't give in. With one out, Raul Mondesi singled and Jorge Posada drove an automatic double over the right-centerfield wall. Pinch hitter Ruben Sierra singled them both in, but the Yankees lost an opportunity to perhaps tie the game in that inning when Sierra's pinch-runner Enrique Wilson ran through Willie Randolph's stop sign, trying to score from first on a Jeter double off of The Monster.

Had Wilson stopped, the Yankees would have had Jason Giambi, their best hitter, at the plate with the tying run on second base. However, it is likely that Scott Sauerbeck would have come in to face the lefty Giambi, and the Yankees would probably not have scored any more runs. Wilson's gaffe seemed costly at the time, but it did not likely change the outcome of the ballgame.

Sauerbeck did come in for the eighth, and got Giambi and Matsui to pop out to left. But in between those two outs, he allowed Bernie Williams to get to second base when he threw a ball squibbed to his right past the first baseman. Nick Johnson followed Matsui's out by pulling a clutch double to right, hopefully ending Todd Zeile's career as a Designated Hitter. Grady Little brought in Byung-Hyun Kim to try and get out of the inning, but pinch-hitter Karim Garcia bounced a single past Todd Walker to tie the game.

Walker quickly atoned for his lack of range, ripping a double to left-center off of Mussina to lead off the bottom of the eighth. But on a 1-0 count, Nomar Garciaparra inexplicably tried to bunt, instead lining it right into Mike Mussina's glove. If Grady Little called that play, it is a wonder that he wasn't fired by Theo Epstein on the spot, and if Nomar Garciaparra did that on his own volition, one has to hope that someone told him after the game, "You're Nomar Garciaparra. Don't do that." Either way, one half-expected furniture to come flying through the window of Epstein's skybox, which it did not. Maybe he wasn't at the game. Yeah, right.

The free out allowed the Yankees to walk Manny Ramirez, and Kevin Millar followed with a harmless line drive out to Garcia. With righty-killing Trot Nixon at the plate, Torre gambled, bringing in LOOGY Jesse Orosco. This time, rather than leaving his lefty in there like he did last night with Damon, Little pinch-hit righty Gabe Kapler. A passed ball on the first pitch moved the runners to second and third, and Torre was presented with the option of walking Kapler and bringing Benitez in to face Bill Mueller. Instead, he allowed Orosco to pitch, and on a 3-2 count, Kapler was called out on check swing by the first-base umpire, though replays (well, replay. Thanks FOX!) showed that if he went around, it was by a nanometer. It would not be the last call the umpires would blow.

The Red Sox kept the Yankees from scoring in the ninth with two excellent plays, the first by Nomar Garciaparra, who showed great range in fielding Enrique Wilson's bouncer. The second was by Johnny Damon, who, following a Jeter single, made a diving catch on a shallow fly ball by Giambi that might have scored Jeter had it dropped in. It went to the ninth, and Armando Benitez came in.

I have been defending the Armando Benitez trade since it became official, which was the first time I really looked at Benitez critically, instead of dismissively. Let me say this: Armando Benitez did not pitch badly today, but he did lose the game. After retiring Bill Mueller to start the ninth, he gave up a hard hit ball to Jeremy Giambi, who held at first when Karim Garcia fielded it perfectly. That was a good break, what followed was a bad break.

On a 3-2 pitch to Jason Varitek, Giambi took off for second base. Varitek swung and missed, and Posada threw down to second base. The throw was a little to Jeter's right, but still beat Giambi by plenty. Jeter tagged Little G before his foot hit the bag, and the ninth inning was over.

But the second base umpire called Giambi safe. He was not safe. He was out. I looked at it twenty times, and it wasn't close. He was out. The inning was over. That's all I will say about that. If you take away the bad break and the good break, Giambi should have been at second anyway, so in a way, things evened out.

Johnny Damon was intentionally walked, bringing up pinch-hitter David Ortiz. On an 0-2 pitch, Benitez through a pitch at the knees, but off the plate that he felt should have been a strike. The next pitch was supposed to be in the same spot. Instead, it was thigh-high and over the plate. Ortiz drilled it off The Monster, Red Sox win.

You could rationalize things by saying that the Yankees should have lost yesterday and won today, and things even out. That might make you feel better, but it ignores the reality of the situation. The Yankees didn't lose yesterday, they won, and today they gave away a ballgame. You cannot afford to give away games if you want to win pennants; especially not to the team you are fighting for first in the standings. This game was a great boost to the Red Sox, and a lost opportunity for the Yankees.

But it was still a great game. John Sterling said on the radio today (one of the only sensible things he's said), "If someone says that these last two games weren't great, then they just don't like baseball." If Red Sox fans don't want to call yesterday's game the best game of the year, then we have today's for you. Something for everyone.

I think sjohnny, in today's chatter, summed up how this game represents why baseball is the greatest of all sports:
Why does[n't] Bud preach about stuff like this[?] Do you think there is 30 minutes of sustained drama anywhere in the middle of the season in the NBA?
There is no greater drama in sports than baseball drama, and these last two games have had more dramatic tension than the entire NFL, NBA and NHL regular seasons combined.

Derek Lowe and Jeff Weaver tomorrow night on ESPN, in a game that cannot possibly live up to the first two. But then, the way uncharacteristic things have happened this weekend, I half expect Weaver to strike out 21.

* * *

Benitez Game Rating: I gave Benitez a "good" for Friday's game, he did a good job, but put Mariano in a tough situation when he left. Today, he didn't pitch badly, but he did give up a single that should have been a double to Giambi, and he gave up the game-winning hit to Ortiz. I don't want to give him a "poor" rating, but I don't feel comfortable saying that this is "okay", either. So, I'll give him half-credit for each for now, unless someone can talk me into changing it one way or the other.

Benitez still hasn't had a single game where I wished he hadn't been in there. If Mets fans are gloating over this loss, and think that Benitez is going to sink the Yankees' ship, Mets fans are idiots. Armando is doing just fine.

by Larry Mahnken - Page2 - Yanks for the memories

I can't believe I missed this!
Jan. 9, 1903: Businessmen Frank Farrell and Bill Devery purchase the defunct Baltimore Orioles and relocate the team to New York and rename them the Highlanders. In their first official move as owners, they sign left-handed relief specialist Jesse Orosco.

Jan. 10, 1903: Columnists and small market owners accuse New York of trying to buy the pennant.
Great stuff.

July 25, 2003

by Larry Mahnken

Today's game was a game to remember. Every pitch meant something, every inning was tense. Elite pitchers Pedro Martinez and Mariano Rivera turned mortal, David Wells walked nearly as many men in 5 2/3 innings as he had in 134 previous innings, role player Enrique Wilson became a hero, and Jorge Posada, whose season SLG was higher than his career OPS versus Pedro (.483 to .475), hit a home run on the first pitch he saw, opening the scoring and providing the margin of victory for what may very well be the best game played this season.

If there has been a better game played this season, I do not recall it. The fact that it was Yankees/Red Sox, and a battle for first place only added to the greatness of this game. It is because of games like these that we are baseball fans. It's because of games like these that we keep on coming back for more, no matter how expensive ticket prices and cable packages become, no matter how many of our favorite players leave for more money, no matter how many times the owners and players suspend a season to settle their collective bargaining differences. It because of games like these that baseball is the greatest game ever devised. To hell with football. Today was as good as sports gets. Today was a great game.

Once again, the Yankees defeated the Red Sox in a game that Pedro Martinez started--a game that Pedro Martinez MOVED BACK IN THE ROTATION to start. Pedro Martinez's track record against the Yankees is, in fact, as good an argument that exists that Won-Lost records are a horrible way to evaluate a pitcher's effectiveness and value. Pedro could have pitched better today, but I do not see what more he could have done to win on the 7th. His career ERA against the Yankees is 2.71, and his Quick DIPS is 2.31. He should be much better than 8-7 against them.

The Yankees were able to beat Pedro tonight because they were able to work the count early on, making him throw 49 pitches through the first two innings. They struck out ten times, but also worked four walks, and came through with seven hits. Perhaps Pedro wasn't his sharpest tonight, but the addition of Nick Johnson to the lineup provided a tremendous boost, eliminating one of the Yankees' three lineup holes. A second hole was filled by the exceptional play of Enrique Wilson, who has had inexpicable success against Pedro in the past (I believe there's a story behind this, but I don't recall it).

Part of the reason the Yankees have had such great success against Pedro is their starting pitching, which has been one of the pillars of their dynasty. They've usually matched Pedro with a great pitcher of their own, who almost always put up a performance to match the Boston ace's. Mike Mussina's start on the 7th is typical of the past Yankees/Pedro meetings.

But tonight was different. David Wells was not particularly good, perhaps suffering from a sore back. Despite his struggles, he was able to prevent a big inning, allowing single runs to the Sox in the first and second before settling down and holding them scoreless into the sixth (with a little help from a Manny Ramirez boner, running on a lazy fly ball to right-center, forgetting there was only one out). It was there that the wheels came off, and while he was able to get two outs, he lost the plate and walked the bases loaded.

But fortunately, the next batter up was Johnny Damon, a left-handed batter that Grady Little was unlikely to pinch-hit for, giving Joe Torre the perfect opportunity to bring in new accquisition Jesse Orosco...King of the LOOGYs. Orosco is the type of player that Randy Choate might become if he can throw strikes more consistently and gain Joe Torre's trust. He's a soft thrower (well, not for a 46 year old), with a motion that's tough for lefties to pick up. He struck out Damon to get out of the sixth, and retired Todd Walker to start the seventh.

At that point, he was in line for the win. The Yankees had gotten on the board in the second via Jorge Posada's unlikely home run, and tied it in the sixth on a fielder's choice. The seventh was obviously going to be Pedro's last inning, as he started the inning with 100 pitches. Wilson led off the inning with a single, then moved to second on a wild pitch to Alfonso Soriano. With Jeter up, he stole third base, and a Jeter walk gave the Yankees first and third with 1 out. At this point, Martinez was in a jam, and had thrown 119 pitches. It's tough to take the best pitcher on the planet out a ballgame, but it might have been the right decision at this point. Considering the situation, as well as Martinez's health history, the right move might have been to bring in Mike Timlin or Scott Sauerbeck to face Giambi and Williams. Instead, perhaps trying to get Pedro the win, Grady Little left him in the game. The gamble almost paid off, as he struck out Giambi on four pitches and was one strike away from retiring Williams. But Bernie laced a single to right, and Wilson scored the go-ahead run. Sauerbeck came in and promptly showed all the Yankees fans why Brian Cashman was so upset he couldn't get him, striking out Hideki Matsui, but the Yankees went to the bottom of the inning with the lead.

After Orosco retired Walker, Armando Benitez came in for his first huge relief appearance. With a postseason atmosphere in front of a hostile Fenway crowd, he faced the two best hitters in the Boston lineup, and retired them both. In the eighth, Benitez struck out Millar, gave up a single to Ortiz (whose pinch-runner, Jackson, promptly stole second), and induced a popup from Bill Mueller. It would probably have been wise to take Benitez out at this point rather than have him face the righty-killing Trot Nixon, but Torre left him in. Two balls later, one of which got away from Posada and sent Jackson to third, and Torre brought in Mariano Rivera, who completed the walk to Nixon. Rivera promptly got two strikes on Varitek, but a bloop single to left-center tied the game. Johnny Damon, with another chance to be the hero, struck out again.

Byung-Hyun Kim's last two appearances against the Yankees have done nothing to remove Games 4 and 5 from the forefront of Yankee fans' minds when Kim enters the game. He hasn't been pounded, but he hasn't gotten the job done, either. The hero of the game, Enrique Wilson, got his second hit of the game, stole his second base of the game, moved to third on a Soriano grounder, and scored on a Derek Jeter fly-ball to the goat of the game, limp-armed Johnny Damon, whose throw barely reached the pitcher's mound by the time Wilson crossed home plate.

But it still wasn't over. Rivera got Walker to pop out to second, but Nomar drilled a 1-2 pitch off the Monster, Manny worked a walk (and was pinch-run for, Joe Torre style, by Gabe Kapler), and suddenly, the Red Sox were in a position where a base hit would tie it, and a ball in the gap would win it. Rivera was able to strike out Millar, but pinch-hitter Jeremy "John Freaking Mabry?!" Giambi worked the count to 3-1. Suddenly, the Yankees faced the prospect of the bases loaded, where a wild pitch could tie it...and a single would lose it. But Giambi didn't work that walk, lining the ball softly to Alfonso Soriano, ending the game, extending the Yankees' division lead to 3 1/2, and giving a huge weekend series a great start.

The outcome of this game gives the Yankees a tremendous opportunity to win this series, with Mussina facing Burkett tomorrow, and an outside shot at sweeping it, if good Jeff Weaver shows up and bad Derek Lowe does, too. Being Yankees/Red Sox, these games are always magnified, but it is possible that these games will be some of the only times in the next couple of weeks that the Yankees will win and Boston will lose on the same day, and for that, they are very important.

July 24, 2003

by Larry Mahnken

SG wrote in yesterday's chatter:
Is it just me, or does Boston manhandle the teams they should beat, whereas the Yankees seem to struggle with those same teams? The Yankees have had a tough time with Tampa, and had a tough time with Detroit, but Boston killed them both.
Being the anal-retentive guy that I am, I decided to look a little deeper into this.

It's true. I took a look at the games the Yankees and Red Sox have played against cruddy teams so far this season:

Tampa Bay

I'm going by record here, so you might dispute some of the teams that are or are not on the list (the Orioles are only 3 games under .500). But against these teams, the Yankees are 23-13, while the Red Sox are 26-10, outscoring them by 43 runs while the Red Sox have outscored them by 80. Looking deeper, the Red Sox have had 13 "big wins" (more than 5 margin) against these teams, while the Yankees have had only eight. The Yanks have played 12 1-run games, the Red Sox 9 (both have won 2/3 of these games). Interestingly, though, while the Red Sox have lost big four times, the Yankees have been smacked around only once, when they lost to the Devil Rays 11-2 in the opening game of a doubleheader (ending the Mahnken Jinx Streak, or post no-hitter winning streak, which you'd call it if you're not cool).

What this says for the rest of the season is...well, it doesn't really say anything for the rest of the season. It's only a 36 game sample for each team. But the Yankees and Red Sox will each be playing 13 games against teams on this list in the last third of the season, or about 20% of their remaining games. If they win against these opponents at the same rate, Boston will win one more game than the Yankees, which could have an impact on the final standings.

More telling, though, is the mirror of these records. Against the cellar-dwellars, Boston has an advantage, but what about the playoff contenders? Here are the playoff contending teams that the Yankees and Red Sox have played so far:

Kansas City
Chicago White Sox
St. Louis
Chicago Cubs

Against these teams, the Yankees are 19-9 (a better record than against the bad teams!), outscoring them by 46 runs, while the Sox are 10-11, outscoring their opponents by 9 runs. Now, it's true that the Twins and Cubs are below .500, but if the Yankees hadn't swept the Twins they'd be doing much better, and the Cubs won 2 of 3 from the Yankees, so it's fair to leave them in, too. Besides, both are in playoff contention, so they meet the criteria.

(Drop those teams, and the Yanks are 11-7 and the Sox 8-7)

You shouldn't draw too much from these records, either, as it's an even smaller sample, but it shows that the Yankees have been playing well against playoff teams, while the Red Sox have been breaking even. The Yankees have won 6 games big (and lost 4) and only played 4 1-run games (3-1), while the Red Sox have had only two big wins (and 3 big losses), and played 8 1-run games (4-4), so their record could be better if they were luckier, but .500 is about right.

Now, which would you prefer: beating up on the weak teams and playing pretty even with the good teams, or struggling to beat the bad teams--but still winning over 60% of the games--and winning 2/3 of the games against good teams? I thought so.

* * *

The 100 game mark is a good time to check up on my masochistic gambling habit. Those of you who have a monitor that shows the left half of the screen are well aware of the "Alfonso Soriano Wager Watch" that I've been tracking since the first week of May (and the first week of this site). For those of you who are wondering what it is and never realized that you could click on the words "Alfonso Soriano Wager Watch" to find out what it was, it's basically this. Two guys who I work with, Rob Moses, who doesn't think that Derek Jeter's defense sucks, and Mark, who has my copy of "The Hidden Game of Baseball", I haven't seen in a couple of weeks, and whose last name I don't know (dude, email me and let me know you're not dead), disputed my assertions about Soriano's fate if he doesn't change his hacktastic ways, leading to three friendly wagers, each for a lunch costing no more than $10. The first two wagers are with Rob:

Alfonso Soriano will not hit 40 Home Runs
Alfonso Soriano's run production will drop at least 10% unless his walk rate doubles

To determine run production, we agreed to use the simple Runs Created formula, On Base Percentage x Total Bases. Accuracy isn't vital here, and it's easy for us to track (though, of course, if he trusts me, Rob doesn't have to track it himself now). If Rob loses on a technicality, such as his RC dropping more than 10%, but his EqR dropping less than 10%, or VORP dropping less than 10%, or whatever more accurate number you might find, and he complains, I'll let it go, and won't make him pay out. If I lose on a technicality, I'll pay out, because I'm whiny enough as it is. Walk rate, of course, is Bases on Balls divided by Plate Appearances. We didn't specify intentional or unintentional walks, but it's not likely to make a difference (his walk rate is in free-fall since early May).

The third wager was made with Mark:

Alfonso Soriano will not hit .300

I mistakenly believed that the walk rate provision applied to this (which it probably should have), but it didn't, but I'll let Mark off the hook if Soriano's walk rate doubles, too, and pay out if he hits .300 and doubles the rate. This isn't Vegas, people, these are friendly wagers, and I'd rather keep friends than get a free lunch.

So, am I going to lose my lunch?

Well, at the rate Soriano is currently at, he will finish the season batting .290, with 39 HRs, and 125.03 Runs Created (113.99 RC is a 10% drop), his walk rate is .055 (after being .031 last season), and dropping, so that clause seems like it's not going to come into play. Unless a huge slump is coming, it looks like a sure thing that Soriano will not suffer such a precipitous drop in his productivity as I (probably overzealously) predicted, though a drop has occured (his RC has dropped less than his OPS because the Yankees offense is better--he comes to bat more). He's on a pace to make that HR wager close, but his power has really dropped off since the early season, so I don't think he'll get to 40 HRs (though he's on a pace for another 40 SBs, with about half as many CS as last season). The Batting Average Wager was like taking candy from a baby. A red-hot April has kept Soriano's BA around .300, but since April 28th, his BA has been .255 (and his OBP .305!). That's almost 350 Plate Appearances...I think it's a decent sample. Soriano is paying for his impatience.

So, on balance, I've got a good chance of coming out ahead here, and a really long shot at winning all three. If Soriano doesn't reach 40 HRs, but doesn't suffer the 10% drop, the wagers with Rob cancel each other out, and I get a lunch from Mark, assuming he's not dead. Not that that would stop me from collecting.

As a player, it's obvious that Soriano needs to change his approach at the plate. Aside from hacking at everything, pitchers are starting to bust him inside. Sometimes he gets out front and drives that pitch into the left-field seats, sometimes he gets hit on the hand by Pedro and misses a couple of games, and today, on the last pitch of the game, he popped it up to the catcher. Had he been in the normal spot in the box, that would have been a perfect pitch to drive in the gap, or perhaps over the wall. His current spot in the box allows him to crush anything from the middle of the plate-out, and get around on breaking pitches before they break too much, but he's not getting as many pitches in the happy zone as he was, and getting an edge on the breaking ball isn't worth it.

And for God's sake, get him out of the leadoff spot!!! Watch Torre bat Johnson ninth again...

* * *

Sir Sidney Ponson (Calvin Maduro and Eugene Kingsdale are also Aruban knights...they just kinda give those away, don't they?) was very good against the Yankees today, and has been good all year, finally pitching like many thought he would in recent seasons. It's also his walk year, and the Orioles are entertaining offers for him before the deadline, while at the same time trying to ink him to an incentive-laden contract, not wanting to let him go, but not wanting to risk him reverting to his previous form with a fat contract.

As I watched him shut down the Yanks, I thought, "How many people are gonna call into Mike and the Mad Dog calling for the Yanks to trade Weaver for Ponson now?" My intitial thought was that this would be a ridiculous trade for the Yankees to make in the first place. Weaver is the same age as Ponson, has pitched better in the past (and really hasn't pitched that much worse than him this year), has a better injury history, is locked up past this season, and unlike Ponson, he isn't, um, pleasantly plump.

But I thought about it a little more. Ponson is pitching better than Weaver this season, and more consistently. He's a free agent, so when he leaves, it cuts the payroll a bit, helping the Yankees manage the Yankee, er, Luxury Tax. Best of all, he's a "Type-A" free agent, so if the Yankees offer him arbitration and he moves on, they get two first round picks. Assuming they were to trade for him, and they offered him and Benitez arbitration, they could have as many as 5 first round picks next season, which would do a lot towards rebuilding the farm system, if used wisely. Worst-case scenario is that they both accept, and the Yankees get a decent starter and good setup man for another year.

Would the O's accept Jeff Weaver straight up? Probably not. The advantages to having him are of course that he's been mostly good, he's healthy and he's locked up, but his contract does balloon in the coming years. Perhaps if the Yankees sent some cash along it could make the deal more palatable, but the Orioles are probably wary of Weaver's performance this season, so the Yankees should add a couple of B-level prospects, perhaps Erick Almonte and a pitcher not named Claussen.

If the Yankees made this move, they could bring back Wells next season, put Claussen and Contreras in the rotation, and offer Pettitte arbitration. He'd probably accept, because he'd get more from arbitration than on the market right now, but if he didn't, you get two more first rounders, and can sign or trade for a back of the rotation starter. It wouldn't be a great rotation, but it wouldn't be much worse than what they'd likely have if they kept Weaver.

Should the Yankees make a move like that? I don't know, I don't think it would hurt, and has good upside potential for the long term. I don't know if the Orioles would make a deal like that, either. It's probably moot, because the Yankees are not likely thinking along those lines. If they made the trade, I wouldn't complain, and would probably harp on about the draft picks. You know me, always the optimist. Oh wait, that's not right.

July 23, 2003

by Larry Mahnken

Andy Pettitte is like a box of chocolates with far too many coconut-filled. You never know what you're going to get, and far too often it's something you don't like, but once you've taken a bite, you can't put it back, so you're stuck with coconut, even though you hate that kind. That's why I buy the Whitman's Samplers, it tells you what each one is right on the inside of the box, so you're never stuck with one you don't want. They even have little diagrams, so someone can't shuffle them around and try to make you take the Coconut Cream when you really wanted the Vanilla Butter Cream. The Cherries are awesome, too, but I could do without the Chocolate Messenger Boy. Too bland.

And that's what Andy Pettitte is like.

He's not a bad pitcher; he is in fact, a good pitcher. The problem is that, while in some games he can win for you all by himself, other times he'll lose all by himself, too--and you never know which Pettitte is coming out. In his 21 starts this season, he's been good nine times and bad nine times--and was godawful in five of those bad starts. He's a pitcher you can feel comfortable throwing out there every fifth day, but you don't feel even remotely comfortable pitching him in a big game. Are you going to get Game 5 of the '96 World Series, or Game 6 of the 2001 World Series? He can, and will, do both.

Tonight he was like Game 5 of the 2000 World Series--good, but not dominant. Against the Orioles, that was enough (and it might have been enough to beat Halladay yesterday, too), as the Yankees eventually were able to get to a surprisingly good Rick Helling to take the lead and the game. Armando Benitez was brought in after a Deivi Cruz home run in the eighth and pitched well, and Mariano Rivera came in to close it out. It should be noted that Pettitte has now won his last six starts, and seven straight decisions. That is due in large part to extraordinary run support (over 7½ runs/9 innings), but he also had two excellent starts in this run, against the Mets and Red Sox.

Benitez pitched well again tonight in his third appearance, all of which have been acceptable. I'll be tracking the success of each outing (rather than overall stats) on the sidebar the rest of the season. The evaluation of his performance will be subjective, and determined by myself, but I'll ask the input of the Game Chatter gang after each outing, and if you don't like my call, you can argue it in the comments and maybe I'll change it. Hopefully, this will provide a quick reference of how effective Benitez is the rest of the way, by measuring the impact of each outing. And yes, I more or less stole the idea from Jim Bouton.

One last note--Nick Johnson's back this weekend, and none too soon, as Robin Ventura and Raul Mondesi have a combined .625 OPS this month (and it was .532 before tonight). With two holes like that in the lineup, they don't need a third with Todd Zeile and Ruben Sierra.

July 22, 2003

by Larry Mahnken

Why The Yankees Will Win The Pennant

(I hope)

In which Larry tries too hard to break out of his writer's block...

Here at the Replacement Level Yankees Weblog, we--and by we, I mean myself and the voices in my head--tend to analyze the Yankees from the negative rather than the positive. I see what's wrong with the team before I see what's right with them, and while I take victory in stride, the defeats often result in a powerful emotional reaction. I don't really break furniture--that's just a reference to Billy Beane in Moneyball--but I did throw my coffee table after the Yankees lost Game 3 last year. Damn, that's just not healthy.

This team is, after all, in first place, 2½ games ahead of the Red Sox, 5 games ahead of the A's for the Wild Card, and they have an easier schedule than either of those teams, especially Oakland. It is very likely that the Yankees will make the playoffs this season. That, of course, is pretty routine by now, they've done it for eight consecutive seasons. Making the playoffs is old hat in the Bronx, what we really view as a successful season is one that ends with us getting a big shiny trophy. Today, I'm going to tell you why we will be playing for that trophy in October. Maybe.

(And by we, I mean the Yankees and the voices in my head)

It's time to look at the positive.

The biggest positive on the Yankees is their offense. In runs scored, they rank sixth in MLB, and third in their division. However, Baseball Prospectus' Equivalent Average ranks them as 3rd in all of baseball, only behind the Red Sox and Cardinals, and this is without Bernie Williams, Derek Jeter and Nick Johnson for large parts of the season, and Jason Giambi putting up mediocre numbers for a month and a half. When healthy, the Yankees' offense is every bit as potent as Boston's, and has a clear advantage over every other team that they are likely to face in the playoffs. This team can put some runs on the board.

On the other side is the Yankees' pitching. Because the Yankees' defense is so atrocious, it is vital that they have good DIPS pitchers to keep the ball out of play as much as possible. They have done a good job of that so far: no team in the American League has allowed fewer home runs or walks than the Yankees, and only Boston has struck out more batters. The cumulative DIPS ERA of the rotation (summing the dIP and dER of each pitcher, and making ERA from that) is 3.66, with Wells and Weaver the "weak" men, with 4.15 and 4.11 DIPS ERAs respectively. The other three starters have a cumulative 3.36 DIPS ERA, far better than the A's vaunted "Big Three"--although, to be fair, the A's have the best Defensive Efficiency Rating in the AL, while the Yankees' is 4th worst. But the point remains the same, the Yankees have excellent starting pitching, particularly for the playoffs. Combined with a great offense, they should be able to beat all comers. Ignore their defense, we're focusing on the positive. THE POSITIVE, I SAY!!! Ahem. Think happy thoughts.

The Achillies' Heel of the Yankees has been their bench and bullpen. The bench won't likely come into play until the World Series, unless Joe Torre continues his foolish strategy of pinch-running for his best hitters in close games, and the bullpen has vastly improved in the past few weeks. With the accquisition of Armando Benitez, the Yankees have a potential stopper in the 'pen in front of Mariano, and Chris Hammond has been excellent in setup this year. In fact, DIPS says he's pitched better this year than last year, but is obviously not as hit-lucky as he was last season, when he posted a 0.95 ERA. Antonio Osuna is also capable of giving the Yankees good relief pitching, and whoever gets left out of the postseason rotation should be a good long man, as well. When Jose Contreras comes back, there is a good chance that he can provide quality long relief, as well. The bullpen could cost them games, but it's more likely that poor starts, injuries, or poorly-timed slumps will be the downfall of the Yankees.

The opponents are not likely to trip them up, either. Oakland can throw three great pitchers at you, and they have an excellent bullpen, but their offense has been pathetic this season. While they should be able to expect rebounds from Tejada and Chavez, it shouldn't be enough to beat the Yankees. The Mariners are a balanced team, but they can't match the Yankees on either side of the ball, particularly in the rotation, and should be disposed of easily. Forget anyone from the AL Central.

The only team in the American League that frightens me is the Red Sox. Their offense is better than the Yankees', and they have the most dominant pitcher in Pedro. However, Derek Lowe is an average #2 starter--not an ace--and the rest of the rotation is shaky. The back of the bullpen is coming together, but it's not a lights-out combination by any means, either. A series with the Red Sox could go deep, but I still think that the Yankees would come out on top.

So, there's so positive vibes for you. We now return you to your regularly scheduled bitching (and by we, I mean myself and the voices in Alfonso Soriano's head--the ones that constantly say "Swing batter batter, swing batter batter, SWING!").

* * *

A couple of things about yesterday's post. First, as eric, who does not own a television commented, Tippett's study doesn't really diminish DIPS--it in fact supports the validity of DIPS ERA, but it does challenge the concept that pitchers have little, if any, control over BABIP, which has been Weaver's downfall this season, as he's put a LOT of balls in play, with very bad results. I still think that Jeff Weaver is better than his numbers, but the fact that his DIPS ERA is 4.11 doesn't give me the confidence it once did. Of course, a 4.11 shouldn't give you much confidence in the first place, that's not that great an ERA.

The other thing was the quick, unscientific study I ran yesterday involving past champions and run scoring/prevention. I realized that I forgot to adjust for park (*slaps head*), and after doing so, it changes things a little bit. The average champion still scored 13% more than average, but allowed 11% less than average. Here's the breakdown of how those teams won, so you, my readers, can draw your own conclusions:

Great - 20% more than league average or better
Very Good - 10-19% more than league average
Good - 5-9% more than league avearage
Average - 4% more to 4% less than leaguer average
Poor - 5-9% less than league average
No team won a title being more than 7% worse than either offense or defense.

Great Offense, Great Defense - 1 (1939 Yankees)
Great Offense, Very Good Defense - 7
Great Offense, Good Defense - 7
Great Offense, Average Defense - 8
Great Offense, Poor Defense - 1 (1913 Athletics)

Very Good Offense, Great Defense - 4
Very Good Offense, Very Good Defense - 24
Very Good Offense, Good Defense - 11
Very Good Offense, Average Defense - 2
Very Good Offense, Poor Defense - 0

Good Offense, Great Defense - 0
Good Offense, Very Good Defense - 6
Good Offense, Good Defense - 3
Good Offense, Average Defense - 1 (1993 Blue Jays)
Good Offense, Poor Defense - 0

Average Offense, Great Defense - 3
Average Offense, Very Good Defense - 12
Average Offense, Good Defense - 4
Average Offense, Average Defense - 0
Average Offense, Poor Defense - 0

Poor Offense, Great Defense - 1 (1995 Braves)
Poor Offense, Very Good Defense - 2
Poor Offense, Good Defense - 0
Poor Offense, Average Defense - 1 (1987 Twins)
Poor Offense, Poor Defense - 0

Great Offense - 24
Great Defense - 9
Very Good Offense - 41
Very Good Defense - 51
Good Offense - 10
Good Defense - 25
Average Offense - 19
Average Defense - 12
Poor Offense - 4
Poor Defense - 1

Offense Better than Defense - 44
Defense Better than Offense - 54

One thing interesting is that while good and very good defense are more effective than a good or very good offense, a great offense is more effective than a great defense. It does seem to counter the notion that pitching is all important--when you've got a great offense, it's not that important to have a defense that's much better than average at all--but does confirm the idea that you usually need to be good at both. Almost two-thirds of the teams that won titles (63 of 98) were at least 5% better than league average at both.

Or maybe I'm completely wrong. I'm not a statistician.

July 21, 2003

by Larry Mahnken

You don't win pennants beating teams 9-8. You hear Michael Kay say that all the time.

It's true, you know. If you averaged 9 runs a game scored and 8 runs allowed, you'd only win about 90 games, which is pretty good, but won't win a lot of pennants. Of course, no team in history has ever scored 9 runs a game, or allowed 8 runs a game, but you get the point. If you want to win championships, you build around pitching and defense. Everyone knows that.

One problem, though. It's not true.

Oh, I'm not saying that you can win with great offense and no pitching--you can't. But you can't do it the other way, either. You need to have some of both.

Ahh, but surely, pitching is more important, right? Nope. The average World Series winning team scored 13% more runs than their league, and allowed 13% fewer. Pitching and offense are equally important. Jim Kaat almost gets this, saying that OBP and offense have value, but you need the pitching. Still he does overvalue pitching's importance. But not as much as Kay. He thinks that the Blue Jays, Red Sox and A's have screwed up big time with their focus on On-Base Percentage. He fails to see the forest for the trees.

The Rangers screwed up. They put together a fantastic offensive team, but they paid a premium for their stars, and now have half a team, with a $100 million payroll. They're screwed, until they can develop some pitching, and get out from under some of the more foolish contracts (not A-Rod's). The Sabermetric Trinity however (Beane, Riccardi and Epstein), can see the inefficiencies in the market. And they see that the most valuable offensive statistic of all, OBP, is one of the most undervalued. And so like an antiques expert at a rummage sale, they grab valuable parts that nobody else notices, and thrive. Cheaply. The Blue Jays have put together a great offensive team for less than half the price of the Rangers, and a third the price of the Yankees. And while Carlos Delgado is a vital part of that offense, without him the Blue Jays would still have a good hitting team--and be paying less than $35 million for it. That gives them a great deal of flexibility in the future; they can afford to keep a star player, they can afford to go out and get pitching help. They are not handcuffed; OBP has set them free.

The Jays crushed the Yankees tonight in a game that ended, mercifully, early. With Halladay going against Pettitte tomorrow, and the Red Sox facing the Tigers yet again, it seems likely that the Yankees' lead will be back down to two on Wednesday. But then, it seemed that they would be tied going into the break, so I won't assume anything.

I don't know what to make of Jeff Weaver anymore. Sometimes he's great, sometimes he's awful. This year, it's been mostly the awful part. Should the Yankees bring Claussen back and throw him in the rotation? I don't think so, he's still recovering from Tommy John Sugery, and I don't want to risk it. Going out and getting another starter isn't an option, nor is putting Hitchcock in there. Contreras is coming back slowly, and probably won't be available until mid-August. Leaving Weaver in the rotation isn't going to kill the Yankees, but the study by Tom Tippett that came out today diminishing the importance of DIPS gives me less hope that he'll turn it around (his DIPS ERA is around 4.00 the past three years, 4.11 this year). I think that there are some flaws in Tippett's conclusions, but I'll leave it to the experts to figure that stuff out.

July 20, 2003

by Larry Mahnken

I have nothing to write about the game tonight, other than it was a great job by the Yankees in sweeping the Tribe. They didn't slip up in any game, and it got them their 4-game cushion back.

Anyway, a friend of mine is in need of emotional support right now, and my thoughts are more with her than on baseball (don't worry, she'll be fine). I'll be watching the game tomorrow, and hope to have some commentary for you then. I'm kinda suffering from a touch of writer's block lately, anyway.

July 19, 2003

by Larry Mahnken

Like I mentioned yesterday, there's no such thing as a clutch hitter. Selective memory and small sample sizes help create the false perception that players like Tino Martinez (.676 postseason OPS), Scott Brosius (.693) and Joe Carter (.739) are great clutch hitters, while other players, like Derek Jeter (.850 postseason, .852 career), are mistaken for being clutch when really, they're just good. Clutch hitting is an event, not a skill, and situation affects value, not ability.

The Yankees have won these first three games by succeeding in clutch situations, not because they are clutch, but because they are good, and good teams are more likely to succeed in clutch situations than bad teams. Alfonso Soriano, Derek Jeter and Hideki Matsui had clutch home runs on Thursday; Bernie Williams had a clutch double yesterday, and Jeter and Giambi had clutch base hits yesterday. By succeeding in these high-leverage situations, the Yankees have now won four straight, and stretched their lead back to four games (and it would have been four games if the Blue Jays could have gotten one more out. Carlos Tosca is learning what we already knew--just because Juan Aceve-DOH! is likely to stop sucking eventually, it doesn't mean you should keep him in close games before he gets there).

Armando Benitez came into the game again today, this time with only a two-run lead. His performance was mediocre, as he struggled to get the ball over the plate, but he wasn't especially bad, either. Just as I said would happen, Benitez wasn't left out there to blow the game, Rivera came in for four outs and finished the Tribe off. Don't be too hard on Benitez, all he did was let a couple guys on, the last on a walk. It was a Jeff Nelson performance, but Jeff Nelson doesn't have the baggage of being a "failed" closer, so he's viewed, as Benitez should be, as a dominant setup man. Expect some of this, some of yesterday, and a lot of in-between the rest of the way--which will be more than good enough in the postseason.

With Hammond pitching well this season, the back of the pen is starting to come together. Cashman may look to acquire another reliever to solidify things a little more, particularly a lefty like Gabe White, Scott Sauerbeck or Mike Myers. One thing he won't be looking for is another hitter, being satisfied with his lineup as it is, especially with Nick Johnson coming back at the end of the month. I have no idea what Baseball Prospectus was thinking when the wrote on Monday:
Nick Johnson and Mariano Rivera also missed substantial time to injuries; Johnson may well be out for the year.
Based on what? That his hand has healed? That he's starting his rehab assignment and might be back ahead of schedule? Sure, Nick Johnson seems injury-prone, but that doesn't mean he's going to be injured again. Of course, I do not subscribe to BP-Premium, so maybe Will Carroll had some inside information (which obviously was wrong) that he reported and I didn't read. Regardless, Johnson will be back very soon, and the offense will be just fine.

They could of course afford to improve in right field, but they do not have the resources to trade for a player that would be an upgrade over The Buffalo. Robin Ventura might be washed up over at third, but then he might also be in a huge slump. Still, at 36, it might be a slump he never gets out of. At the very least, they should be looking for an upgrade over Todd Zeile. Mark Loretta is nothing special with the bat, and even less with the glove at third, but he hits better than Zeile, and has more defensive flexibility (though Zeile did catch almost 15 years ago...). Even though Cash isn't looking for another hitter, it couldn't hurt to inquire about Loretta.

* * *

The Pete Rose "trial" on Thursday resulted in the jury idiotically voting 8-4 that he should be in the Hall of Fame, with one juror even going so far as to say he didn't believe he bet on baseball.

In my opinion, where Dershowitz really screwed up was in arguing that Rose should be in if he apologizes. By saying that, he is conceding that Pete Rose should not be permanently ineligible for the Hall of Fame, just conditionally, which is essentially conceding the case. The argument he should have made was that Pete Rose's crime was so heinous that it negates all the good that he did in his playing career, and he should never, ever, EVER, be allowed into the Hall of Fame.

Also, Dershowitz should have been representing the Hall of Fame, not Major League Baseball. The HoF is not a part of MLB. MLB's position is that he should not be allowed back into the game, and the only thing they can do to make him eligible for induction is to let him back into the game. Rose's grievance should be with the Hall, not MLB.

But I've said far too much anyway, and am getting into SNAB. I could write about this issue extensively, but I'm sure you're not interested in reading it. And so I'll drop it.

* * *

Not baseball, but funny. According to USA Today, WR Marcus Robinson was released by two teams this offseason, one of which he was never on. He must really suck. Thanks to Rob Moses for pointing this out.

July 18, 2003

by Larry Mahnken

The Yankees are currently at an advantage in the quality of opponent they are playing in comparison to Boston. Toronto is signifcantly better than Cleveland, and while the Yankees have won the first two versus the Tribe, the Blue Jays have knocked the Red Sox two more games back in the standings.

But after Sunday, that advantage swings big time. From Monday through mid-August, the Yankees will be playing teams who are, on average, the caliber of Toronto, while the Red Sox play teams the caliber of Indians (excluding the three head-to-head matchups). While the Yankees will have had the advantage for 4 games, the Red Sox will have it for 16, and these 16 games could decide the AL East. The Red Sox absolutely have to be in first place on August 11th, or else they will be in a position where they will have to win at least four of six from the Yankees in late August and early September. If they can't do either of those things, they're toast.

While the Yankees are still in good shape to win the division even if both of those things happen, they want to do everything they can to end this race quickly. They're an old team without much depth, and it is vital to their postseason chances that they keep their starting lineup healthy come October. If they want to be able to do that, they have to win against Cleveland. These last two games were important to win because the Yankees were expected to win them. A loss against a good team is a lost opportunity, but when you lose to a bad team, you're creating an opportunity for your competition.

Last night was a good win. Andy Pettitte pitched well; Raul Mondesi hit well; Soriano and Jeter came through in the clutch*, and Hideki Matsui broke out of a week and a half long slump with a walkoff homerun. Tonight's game was dominated by two players: Jason Giambi, who hit his 27th and 28th homers (and now has an outside shot at 50), and Armando Benitez, who came in after the rain delay (and the Yankees breaking the game open), and shut the Indians down. His only baserunner was on a ground ball single between Jeter and Zeile, and those should only count half. I'll wait until he shuts down a good hitting team in a close game to pass final judgement, but my suspiscion is that we'll see more of this Benitez than the one we saw in Shea last month.

*There is no such thing as a clutch hitter, but there is such a thing as a clutch hit. Pass it on.

by Larry Mahnken

Babe Ruth Museum reacts to Bonds' comments
"Willie's number is always the one that I've strived for. And if it does happen, the only number I care about is Babe Ruth's. Because as a left-handed hitter, I wiped him out. That's it. And in the baseball world, Babe Ruth's everything, right? I got his slugging percentage and I'll take his home runs and that's it. Don't talk about him no more.''
Sorry, Barry, but you'll have to pitch for a few seasons, first.

July 17, 2003

by Larry Mahnken

Another SNAB Column

Here we go again. Tonight, ESPN will be broadcasting the trial and execution of Pete Rose. Okay, so they're not executing him, but a guy can dream, can't he?

It's not a real trial, of course, just a mock one, with the famous defense attorney and poet laureate Johnny Cochran speaking for the defense, while the prosecutor will be Alan Dershowitz, the famous…defense attorney. Okay, then. I’m sure he’ll do a fine job. The issue being debated is not whether Rose bet on baseball or should be reinstated, but whether he should be in the Hall of Fame, which is good, because that’s the only issue here that is worthy of debate.

Nothing good will come from this, of course. If the verdict is that he should not be in the Hall of Fame, it’s not going to change the minds of any of the devout supporters of Rose, and if the verdict is that he should be in the Hall, it can only serve as encouragement to Bud to reinstate Rose. Only ESPN benefits from this trial, which is likely to get good ratings.

There is probably nothing that can be said about the Pete Rose issue that has not already been said. Back in January at Primer, John Brattain suggested: (Don’t click this link. One word: PETCO)
...I used to be into sadism, necrophilia, and bestiality. That is, until I realized I was beating a dead horse.

O.K. this is sick and twisted (and funny). Let's enter this into the Primer thesaurus "sadism, necrophilia, and bestiality." We'll call it by it's acronym sadism, necrophilia, and bestiality (SNAB).

SNAB: Primer for "Pete Rose thread." So when a Rose thread is posted it should be properly identified as "Another SNAB column."
I will not rehash the case. If you want to learn more, read this. All I will do is give my opinion on this issues, whether Pete Rose should go into the Hall of Fame or not.

Pete Rose was a very good player for a very long time. The fact that he is the all-time hits leader speaks to the fact that he played until he was 45, when he was writing his own name into the lineup as player-manager. He got 4256 hits, but he did that in 14053 At Bats, more than any player in history. His career batting average was .303, his career OPS was .784. He was not Ty Cobb, he was Paul Molitor. Ty Cobb had a .945 OPS--in a better pitcher’s era, too.

But if Rose was not banned, he would be a Hall of Famer, just like Molitor will be. But he is banned, and the question is whether his accomplishments outweigh his transgressions.

God, no. Not even close. Betting on games in which you have a duty to perform is about the worst thing a professional athlete can do, but since there is no evidence that he ever threw a game, and there is no reliable evidence that he ever bet against his own team, it is a pardonable sin. For Ty Cobb and Babe Ruth, or Ted Williams, Mickey Mantle, Lou Gehrig, Hank Aaron, Willie Mays…and Barry Bonds. But not for Pete Rose. He just wasn’t that good.

In fact, forget 4256. It’s a counting stat, taken wholly out of context. Remember this number: 118. That was Pete Rose’s career adjusted OPS+. 18 percent above league average.

Here’s another number: 116.

That’s Raul Mondesi’s.

* * *

Since I started blogging, I haven't read as much baseball writing as I used to, partly out of fear of getting someone else's words stuck in my head, and being unable to write anything original. I'll check on several blogs a few times a week, and take a trek down the list on the left every now and then, too, but for the most part, I lurk at Primer, and post when I have something to say (usually, something smart-assed to say).

A couple of readers sent me links to their blogs, and asked me to check them out. Kostya Medvedovsky is a Red Sox fan, but his Outside World Baseball Blog is about all of baseball. Baseball Ranting and Rambling is by a fellow Yankees fan. A more clever person would say something here that would make you want to read them *RIGHT NOW*. But I've been up since 3am, I'm too tired to be clever. I think both you guys are doing a good job so far, keep it up. Check them out, and tell them what you think.

July 16, 2003

by Larry Mahnken

And it's official.

As I said, this trade probably won't blow up in the Yankees' face, and it has the potential to work out great.

Meanwhile, in what is a more likely reaction for typical Yankees fans, had this to say:
Could Armando help the team now -- this season? Yes, he probably can. But how much will he help the Yankees down the road? And who will Jason Anderson be playing, and probably doing very well, for?

Mike Lowell. Eric Milton. Hell, I'll even throw Ted Lilly in there. Let's not put Jason Anderson on that list of prospects the Yanks have given up in return for guys who aren't playing anymore or who really aren't that good. Please. I beg of thee. Don't do it.
You misspelled "possibly". Jason Anderson is a relief pitcher. He has talent, and could end up being a very good relief pitcher, but he's still a relief pitcher, and unless he becomes Mariano Rivera, they won't have to regret dealing him.

Trading Mike Lowell was a bad move, but one that seemed to have value at the time. Trading Ted Lilly was not a bad move, but including John-Ford Griffin and Jason Arnold in the deal was. Trading Eric Milton, Cristian Guzman and Brian Buchanan for Chuck Knoblauch was a good move on the basis of his 1998 season alone.

If they had traded Brandon Claussen, I would have been upset. If they had traded Nick Johnson, I would have strapped a bomb to myself. They traded Jason Anderson and two A ball players who have a decent chance of being AAA players for Armando Benitez and the two first round draft picks they'll get when he leaves as a free agent. I'm not going to cry about it.

by Larry Mahnken

Wow, this is usually about when I go to bed. Boy, I hate my job.

I just wanted to comment on this.
The Mets and Yankees were close to completing a deal last night that would send Benitez to the Yankees for three minor-league prospects, with the Yankees prepared to pay almost all of the $2.7 million remaining on Benitez's contract, according to an official with one of the teams.


The team official, who asked not to be identified, said the sides had agreed on the basic structure of the deal but were still haggling over how much money the Yankees would contribute to Benitez's salary, as well as the name of the final minor-leaguer, who is not expected to be a top prospect.

If the deal is completed in its current form, the Yankees will send the Mets 24-year-old left-handed relief pitcher Jason Anderson, who pitched in 22 games for the Yankees this season, and 22-year-old right-hander Anderson Garcia of the Battle Creek Yankees in the Class-A Midwest League.
My initial reaction to the Yankees bringing in Benitez was a cross between nausea and rage. Of course, that’s my reaction to pretty much everything.

After carefully thinking about it, though, I decided that maybe it’s not such an awful deal. Let me explain.

When you think of Armando Benitez, you think of the meltdowns. You think of the 1997 ALCS, the 2000 World Series, and every single game he ever pitched against the Braves. He’s not a good closer. But then, the Yankees don’t need a closer, they need a setup man, someone who can pitch the 8th inning. Benitez could be that man.

And this has nothing to do with mental attitude or any of that bullshit, it has to do with the way a closer is used in the modern game. A closer is the last man in the bullpen, and managers almost always leave them in the game no matter how poorly they’re pitching. Benitez’s problem isn’t that he’s a bad pitcher--he’s quite dominant at times--his problem is that sometimes he just doesn’t have it, and he’s not going to get out of the jam. As a closer, that’s a problem. When you can bring in Mariano Rivera to bail him out, it’s not as big a problem.

And the Yankees wouldn’t be giving up a tremendous amount in this deal. Jason Anderson is, IMO, the only player worth much here, and while he could be very good in middle relief this year, and exceptional in the late innings in the future, the Yankees really should be looking towards winning this year, and Benitez will help them win this year more than Anderson will (and that’s before you consider Torre’s poor utilization of Anderson). And there’s also the possibility of getting some draft pick compensation for Benitez in the offseason, as well. If they do get a pick, and use it wisely, the Yankees might actually end up with a better player than Anderson when all is said and done, anyway.

So, after further review, I’m okay with this deal. It’s not the best move they could have made, and it’s not going to solve their bullpen problems, but it should help. Okay, off to work.

July 15, 2003

by Larry Mahnken

Like most of you, I have a real job, that pays real money. Like most of you, I also really hate my job, which if you didn't know, is baking and selling bagels for a supermarket chain here in Western New York.

Tomorrow and Thursday are very good examples of why I hate my job, because I have been scheduled to come in to work at 4am. The good thing is that I get to go home at 12:30, but the bad thing is that I've got to go to bed, well, pretty much right now. So, I won't be watching the All-Star Game tonight, although I will be taping it. If anything noteworthy happens, I'll toss in my two cents tomorrow afternoon, but I expect it to be another bland exhibition game that will be totally forgotten by Thursday, if not sooner. If that's the case, I'll try to think of something worth writing about at work. Or maybe I'll just write about how much my job sucks some more.

July 14, 2003

by Larry Mahnken

The Right All Stars

I don't know if you've picked up on this yet, but Bud Selig isn't exactly the most visionary leader in professional sports. Oh, sure, he's quite good at getting the rest of the owners together to try and screw the players and George Steinbrenner over whenever possible, but he isn't very forward-thinking. He makes decisions designed to maximize profit NOW, without an understanding, or at least without regard, for the negative impact those decision will have on the game, and more importantly, the business, in the future, even when it's the very near future.

It was Selig who instituted interleague play, in the process eliminating the league offices, and turning the American and National leagues into conferences in all but name. At first, the gimmick was successful; fans were drawn to matchups between teams that had never played before in a game that counted, or had not played in years. The most successful games, however, were the regional rivalries, and so Selig had each division play their interleague counterpart every year, to preserve these lucrative matchups. When that grew stale, teams began to cycle divisions, but several retained their regional rivalry.

By now, the appeal of interleague play is all but gone. The Yankees and Mets played in the World Series in 2000, with the Yankees claiming the ultimate bragging rights. Since then, the six games they play each year have lost their luster; the Yankees don't compete with the Mets in the standings, and until the Mets become a good team again, they don't compete for regional supremacy, either. They're just six games on the schedule.

But the biggest casualty of interleague play has been the All Star Game. One of the greatest appeals of the Midsummer Classic was that it featured matchups you were unlikely to see otherwise. With interleague play, most of the players had faced off against each other in the past two seasons, and the problem was exacerbated by the fact that the interleague games were usually sandwiched around the All-Star break itself. Added to the increased availability of out-of-market games through satellite dishes and digital cable, and the frequent movement of star players through free agency, and the All Star Game had lost most of its appeal. The effect of this was exacerbated by the decline of ratings throughout television, as cable networks became more plentiful and popular.

Selig saw that something was wrong, and determined that he would do something to fix it. But being the unrepentant dolt that he is, he was unable to see that the problem was caused by him, and did not consider eliminating the cause of the problem, interleague play. Instead, he concluded that the problem was that the players weren’t taking the game seriously, and that the fans were turned off by that indifference. His solution? Make the game worth something, by awarding home field advantage in the World Series to the league that won the game. “This time it counts”, was the battle cry of MLB and FOX. The impact on ratings is certain to be negligible, but it is even more certain to be declared a complete success by Selig.

Of course, the MLBPA wasn’t going to just roll over and let MLB change the rules without negotiating first, and in exchange for agreeing to Selig’s idiotic scheme, they received a vote on who would participate in the game.

This was a good idea.

The implementation was awful, as players voted as though they were selecting starters, rather than backups, and the result was that some undeserving players made the team, and some deserving players were left off. That’s baseball for you. “This time it counts, but we’re gonna act like it’s a dress rehearsal.”

Anyway, regular readers know that I was casting a ballot for the All-Star Game every week. My selections for the National League were actually not terribly dissimilar to the actual picks of the fans, though the choices I made in the AL often were drastically different. Tonight, I’m going to list my choices for the most deserving players for the All-Star team.

I used no particular system for determining these teams, the choices are subjective and thus are up for open debate. I looked at statistics while making my picks, but did not base them solely on the numbers. I adhered to three simple rules. The first is that every position must have an adequate number of players to allow substitutions throughout the game. The second was that every team must be represented by a player. I have no problem with this practice in MLB, because I believe that the All-Star team cannot be truly representative of the league if there isn’t a player from each team present. This caused one problem, when Jeromy Burnitz was traded to the Dodgers earlier today, eliminating the Mets’ only player. I rationalized not replacing him three ways:

- I had already selected him for my team before he was traded

- In MLB, if the only representative of a team is traded after the selections are made, they don’t select another player from the team

- Fuck Cliff Floyd

If you really think that the Mets need a representative on the team, you can drop Burnitz for Floyd, and hopefully sleep better. The last rule was that each team would be represented by their best player, in my judgement, even if a more worthy player needed to be dropped from the roster to accommodate him. I couldn’t live with myself if I put Lance Carter and Mike Williams on the teams, just to fill the team slot so the best reserves at all the other positions would make it. I view these teams as being composed entirely of worthy All-Stars, though not necessarily the 64 most worthy.

Feel free to tell me how very wrong I am. Now, without further ado, here is the First Annual Replacement Level Yankees Weblog All Star Team. Pretentious name, isn’t it? I included arguments for each player being on the team if I felt it was warranted.

Starting Lineup

Jorge Posada, New York Yankees; .252/.402/.482

I know very well that there are a great many Red Sox fans reading this, thanks to Art Martone’s plug, who will dispute this selection vociferously. Just a quick glance at the OPS’s of Posada and Varitek shows that Posada is a wholly unworthy selection to start. Posada is at .884, Varitek at .958. No contest, right? Well, not quite. OPS is a blunt tool, a couple of fairly easy-to-find stats jammed together that make a decent estimate of run scoring. The biggest problem with OPS is that is weighs OBP and SLG as equals, which they are not. OBP * 1.56 + SLG is considered a more accurate formula, and in Moneyball, Paul DePodesta claimed that a marginal point of OBP is worth three marginal points of SLG. Posada’s strength is OBP, Varitek’s is slugging. Looking at other statistics that weighted events more evenly, the numbers are still very, very close, which Varitek still usually having a slight edge in rate, and Posada a slight edge in volume, as he has played far more often. The conclusion I came up with is that the two players are very, very similar in the value of their performances thus far this season. I chose Posada because his career prior to this season has been far better than Varitek’s. I did not choose Carlton Fisk because he’s sucked so far this season.

This is not to say that Varitek is not as good as Posada, or will not be as good or better going forward. It is merely to say that Posada is more deserving of the start than Varitek this season.

First Base:
Carlos Delgado, Toronto Blue Jays; .313/.424/.629

Second Base:
Bret Boone, Seattle Mariners; .313/.373/.591

Nomar Garciaparra, Boston Red Sox; .319/.357/.541

Third Base:
Bill Mueller, Boston Red Sox; .332/.405/.551

You just can’t ignore those numbers. No wait, apparently you can. Well, I couldn’t. Maybe the Red Sox fans could remember that I picked three Red Sox to start and only one Yankee before they start tearing into me for myopia and bias.

Melvin Mora, Baltimore Orioles; .349/.443/.560
Milton Bradley, Cleveland Indians; .328/.435/.502
Manny Ramirez, Boston Red Sox; .319/.413/.571

A high OBP and doubles power caused Milton Bradley to slip under the radar of voters, but he deserved to start. Instead, he’s not even at the game. His attitude can’t be helping.

Designated Hitter: Edgar Martinez, Seattle Mariners; .304/.408/.546

Starting Pitcher:
Esteban Loaiza, Chicago White Sox; 11-5, 2.21 ERA, 3.25 QDIPS (Quick DIPS ERA)

Where the hell did that come from? No matter, he’s a worthy choice to start, and that’s before you consider that the game is in U.S. Cell…New Comiskey. Fuck corporate sponsorship.

Jason Varitek, C, Boston Red Sox; .306/.369/.588
Jason Giambi, 1B, New York Yankees; .267/.419/.547
Mike Sweeney, 1B, Kansas City Royals; .321/.440/.540
Alfonso Soriano, 2B, New York Yankees; .292/.345/.511
Alex Rodriguez, SS, Texas Rangers; .285/.373/.544
Corey Koskie, 3B, Minnesota Twins; .298/.390/.495
Aubrey Huff, OF, Tampa Bay Devil Rays; .304/.361/.539
Garret Anderson, OF, Anaheim Angels; .316/.345/.597
Ichiro Suzuki, OF, Seattle Mariners; .352/.390/.476
Dmitri Young, OF, Detroit Tigers; .283/.358/.542
Vernon Wells, OF, Toronto Blue Jays; .299/.338/.556
Frank Thomas, DH, Chicago White Sox; .269/.407/.545

Mike Mussina, SP, New York Yankees; 10-6, 3.26, 3.18 QDIPS
Roger Clemens, SP, New York Yankees; 8-6, 3.68, 3.48 QDIPS
Pedro Martinez, SP, Boston Red Sox; 6-2, 2.36, 2.54 QDIPS
Roy Halladay, SP, Toronto Blue Jays; 13-2, 3.41, 3.73 QDIPS
C.C. Sabathia, SP, Cleveland Indians; 8-4, 3.23, 3.86 QDIPS
Mark Mulder, SP, Oakland Athletics; 12-6, 3.03, 3.62 QDIPS
Tim Hudson, SP, Oakland Athletics; 7-3, 2.71, 3.54 QDIPS
Jamie Moyer, SP, Seattle Mariners; 12-5, 3.02, 4.12 QDIPS
Shigetoshi Hasegawa, RP, Seattle Mariners; 1-0, 0.77, 3.38 QDIPS
Brendan Donnelly, RP, Anaheim Angels; 0-0, 0.38, 1.78 QDIPS

Starting Lineup

Javy Lopez, Atlanta Braves; .307/.352/.636

First Base:
Todd Helton, Colorado Rockies; .349/.441/.637

Second Base:
Jose Vidro, Montreal Expos; .332/.418/.516

Edgar Renteria, St. Louis Cardinals; .331/.382/.485

Third Base:
Scott Rolen, St. Louis Cardinals; .278/.379/.534

Barry Bonds, San Francisco Giants; .316/.496/.719
Jim Edmonds, St. Louis Cardinals; .303/.398/.668
Gary Sheffield, Atlanta Braves; .327/.423/.596

Designated Hitter:
Albert Pujols, St. Louis Cardinals; .368/.432/.690

Starting Pitcher:
Jason Schmidt, San Francisco Giants; 9-4, 2.37, 2.82 QDIPS

Ivan Rodriguez, C, Florida Marlins; .300/.375/.515
Jim Thome, 1B, Philadelphia Phillies; .266/.390/.541
Richie Sexson, 1B, Milwaukee Brewers; .263/.376/.513
Ray Durham, 2B, San Francisco Giants; .300/.386/.440
Mark Loretta, 2B, San Diego Padres; .310/.372/.430
Rafael Furcal, SS, Atlanta Braves; .282/.344/.473
Mike Lowell, 3B, Florida Marlins; .275/.351/.586
Morgan Ensberg, 3B, Houston Astros; .312/.418/.613
Brian Giles, OF, Pittsburgh Pirates; .306/.444/.515
Jeromy Burnitz, OF, New York Mets/Los Angeles Dodgers; .274/.344/.581
Luis Gonzalez, OF, Arizona Diamondbacks; .310/.393/.560
Jose Guillen, OF, Cincinnati Reds; .337/.389/.616

Dontrelle Willis, SP, Florida Marlins; 9-1, 2.08, 2.76 QDIPS
Kevin Millwood, SP, Philadelphia Phillies; 10-6, 3.60, 3.50 QDIPS
Kerry Wood, SP, Chicago Cubs; 9-6, 3.19, 3.76 QDIPS
Mark Prior, SP, Chicago Cubs; 8-5, 3.01, 2.88 QDIPS
Woody Williams, SP, St. Louis Cardinals; 12-3, 3.01, 3.46 QDIPS
Kevin Brown, SP, Los Angeles Dodgers; 10-4, 2.30, 2.81 QDIPS
Hideo Nomo, SP, Los Angeles Dodgers; 9-8, 2.97, 4.10 QDIPS
Brandon Webb, SP; Arizona Diamondbacks; 7-2, 2.41, 3.46 QDIPS
John Smoltz, RP, Atlanta Braves; 0-1, 0.95, 1.83 QDIPS
Octavio Dotel, RP, Houston Astros; 6-3, 2.52, 3.16 QDIPS

I’m not a big NL fan, so I relied on stats a bit more to make these decisions. Picking a player for San Diego and Milwaukee was an especial pain, and I relied more on Wolverton’s reliever ratings to select Dotel over Gagne, though I would have had him on the team if I could have picked one more player.

Looking at Pujols and Barry, I can’t help but think that Bonds is going to get screwed out of another MVP this season, because his numbers aren’t as extraordinary as in past years--even though they’re still better than everyone else’s. Stupid writers.

So, what do you think?

July 13, 2003

by Larry Mahnken

No salt needed. Jeff Weaver now has pitched well in three straight games, and he shut down the Toronto Blue Jays today in a game the Yankees really needed to win. Weaver's two best games this season, in fact, have come against the Blue Jays. Go figure.

Of course, Weaver was lights-out in a game where they didn't need him to be lights-out, because they did end up getting to Escobar. Weaver had a lead before he ever took the mound, and by the time he got through the Jays order for the first time, he had a 6-0 cushion to work with. Hopefully Weaver has turned the corner headed into the All-Star break, but it's possible that his good pitching was a result of the comfort of a big lead. Unfortunately, scoring 6 runs in the first three innings isn't a particularly reliable strategy, so let's see him do it without the help before we pronounce the patient fully cured.

In Motown, the Red Sox gave the Yankees a gift, getting shut-out by the woeful Tigers 3-0. The loss puts the Yankees two games up, which is precisely where they were at the All-Star Break last year. The last two seasons the Yankees kept their pace, while the Red Sox stumbled and fell behind. Is that going to happen this year? What's the prognosis?

The Yankees aren't as strong as they have been in previous years, and the Red Sox are stronger. A collapse is unlikely, so if one of the teams is going to pull away, they'll have to do it on merit. The best opportunity for the Red Sox to do so is from the day after the break until August 10th, when they play 18 of 24 at home, 14 against sub-.500 teams, four against the awful Tigers and D-Rays, and four others against the fading Blue Jays. The Yankees have some easy games during that stretch as well, but also have to face the A's and Mariners.

If the Sox haven't taken the lead in the division by then, they might be toast. Starting the 11th, they play 14 straight against the A's and Mariners, while the Yankees play the Orioles 8 times and the Royals 6 times. After that, it's a fairly easy schedule the rest of the way for both teams, so if it's not decided by the end of August, the race will likely come down to the last week. I think the Yankees have a slight advantage in the schedule, but the Red Sox are more likely to make a decisive trade, because they have more tradable talent.

Still, with Nick Johnson and Jose Contreras coming off of the DL, I don't see the Red Sox improving any more than the Yankees will. They won't finish 10+ games in front like the last two years, but I see them finishing on top.