The State of Baseball April 28th Edition – Part Two

April 28, 2010 at 5:39 pm Leave a comment

Now let’s look at the standings, shall we?

The division leaders are Tampa, Minnesota, Oakland, St. Louis, New York, and San Diego.

Which of these makes sense, and which are ridiculous? First of all, the Rays look awesome. Price looks like he’s breaking out (3.11 FIP, hardly any home runs and a below 3 walk rate), Longoria is mashing, Upton looks like he has his power back, Pena is hitting home runs, Carl Crawford is doing what Carl Crawford always does, Niemman Davis and Shields look good and Matt Garza looks ridiculous (His 5 runs allowed against the Blue Jays notwithstanding). They’ve scored the most runs in the league by a comfortable margin, and have 5 starters who have given them 4 starts each.. all with ERAs below 4.. in the AL East.

By the way, have you ever seen a more complete rotation front to back? They have two potential aces, and then 3 numbers 2’s. It’s ridiculous. It’s like when Atlanta had Maddux, Glavine, Smoltz, Millwood, and Neagle (Need I remind you that Sir Dennis Neagle was a premier pitcher from 1995-1998. He amassed 65 wins during that time and his highest ERA was 3.55. This while having to face roided up superbeings like Sammy Sosa, Mark McGwire, Barry Bonds and Ken Caminiti on a regular basis).

Their bullpen isn’t even awful, either. Rafael Soriano hasn’t blown a save, or his arm. Grant Balfour has had an encouraging start, as has Andy Sonnanstine and Dan Wheeler (Who I’ve always liked. He gives up the bombs but his WHIP is always fantastic. If nothing else, he’s exciting). Even that Lance Cormier character has been good. When I mention that these guys have had good starts, I mean that they have ERAs under 3.

Here’s another diatribe. It seems many people who subscribe to the new school of baseball related statistical analysis sometimes latch on too tightly to sabermetric stats. But I don’t think one should throw ERA under the same rug as RBIs and wins. Wins in large part measure how good of an offense you had, and have little reflection on the actual player’s ability. RBIs measure in good part how effective the players in front of you are at getting on base, not necessarily your ‘clutch’ -ness. ERA measures how many runs you give up. It’s quite simple. As a pitcher your goal is to give up as few runs as possible. As such ERA measures your overall effectiveness as a pitcher. Sometimes a guy might have a 2.00 ERA but have awful peripherals. This doesn’t mean that the pitcher did his job poorly despite the sparkly ERA. He did awesome. He gave up very few runs. What the peripherals will tell you is that you can’t expect that ERA to continue to be so low. That’s where metrics such as FIP come in. FIP should be used to predict performance more than it should be used to evaluate it. Basically, you can have a ton of RBIs and not be helping your team. And you can have a ton of wins and not be helping your team. But you cannot be have a good ERA and not be helping your team (Particularly as a starter.. relievers have that inherited runners scored issue which I will dismiss as not significant enough to matter for now). At least that is my understanding. So perhaps the Tampa Bay Rays bullpen will not be so effective the rest of the year, but for April they’ve done a very good job, and that is indisputable.

Then we have the Twins, who are now 14-6 and have nearly-the-Franciso Liriano of 2006, an awesome catcher, an awesome first baseman, an awesome leadoff man, a good right fielder, shortstop, second baseman and DH plus an improving left fielder who can be replaced at any time by a hall of fame slugger who has something left in his tank. As well as a decent rest-of-the-rotation and an awesome bullpen. I will write more on them in coming days, of course.

Oakland has been getting by. Ben Sheets isn’t very good; this has been established. He just doesn’t have his once immaculate control. Which would be okay, except he doesn’t have his strikeout ability anymore, either. Justin Duchscherer, however, has been a revelation, besides a few extra walks. Goes to show what a crapshoot coming back from injury is. You might end up with 2009 Liriano (Sheets) or 2010 Liriano (Duchscherer).

I was very sad to hear that Bret Anderson just went on the DL with a forearm strain and elbow inflammation. Neither of those sound good. Has it become a rite of passage in becoming a star pitcher that at some point you must undergo invasive surgery? He was pitching very well, sabermetric’s darling as he is. Dallas Braden and Gio Gonzales have both been good, as well. And with Gonzalez that is great news for the future of this team, as he has been terribly hittable in his previous time in the majors, despite an awesome K rate.

The Oakland offense got by for a little while on smoke and mirrors or whatever you want to call it. Now they realize what they have:

A powerless, but still useful and effective first baseman in Barton.

An up and down shortstop in Cliff Pennington. With a recent 4 hit night, his OPS is now over .850.

A serviceable center fielder worth far more on defense than at the plate in Ryan Sweeney.

A previously underrated catcher now transitioning to being overrated in Kurt Suzuki (How many times have we heard how he was ‘quietly productive’ these past few years? Now that he’s had a fast start, he’s actually being noticed during the season and not after it).

And after that it’s just crap crap crap. Good luck, Oakland, I’ve always respected your franchise but there is not nearly enough offense in my mind to hold off three quasi legitimate contenders in that AL West.

You expected the Cardinals. Everyone did. I think a team that is actually well run and competitive (Taaaaampa Bay?) should be moved to the NL Central. It’s just too easy for the Cardinals. Wainwright, Carpenter, Holiday, Pujols. It doesn’t end.

The Mets. Ah, the Mets. Good for them. Their offense really sucks, though. Francouer is starting to come back to earth, Castillo just can’t do it anymore, Bay is slugging .436, Reyes has been awful, and everyone else in the lineup who isn’t David Wright you can’t really expect anything beyond replacement level production. The pitching has been pretty good. I really though Johan was about to fall off a cliff, given his decline in everything the past few years (velocity, K rate, rising walk rate, rising hit rate, rising cholesterol etc.), but I’m actually quite glad he’s been working it out. I still love mah Johan. Mike Pelfrey has been awesome, but everyone knows he can’t sustain a sub 3.50 ERA, much less a sub 1.00. Oliver Perez hasn’t exploded yet, but you know it’s coming. John Maine has exploded, but Jon Niese looks like the solid #3 we all though he would be once he was given a legitimate shot. The Bullpen is walking tons of guys, but has a ridiculously high K rate and has been great in run prevention. Basically the Mets are teetering. They’re like a little blind guy that accidentally jabbed his walking pole into the Phillie’s shin and momentarily subdued them.

I was wondering after last season what team would be stupid enough, besides Dayton Moore, of course, to give Mike Jacobs a contract. Ever since Seattle has given control to that Jack Zurdchek guy, there’s only one option left, Omar Minaya. I’m glad for the Mets that Jacobs has already been cut loose and that Ike Davis has been given a chance to play, but as long as Omar is at the helm, disaster awaits.

And last and least we have the Padres. Well, at least they have some direction. They have some nice middling starters in Correia, Garland and Richard that have performed like nice middling starters. Hell, Richard might even be a semi good starter in time. He pitches at Petco, where anything is possible. I would never count on Chris Young, but with the development of Mat Latos this could be a decent rotation by next year. The bullpen is great. Luke Gregerson is my favorite. He struck out 93 guys in 73 innings last year, and his ESPN snapshot looks like Andy Samberg doing ‘Jizz in my Pants.’

As for offense, I do believe in Kyle Blanks. Just seems like the sort to turn into a good hitter. I admit there isn’t anything of substance that supports that claim of mine, but I;m sure there is somewhere. He’s not hitting .200 but at least his OPS is over .720. Everth Cabrera looks like a problem for a while. He plays like he’s 19; still learning the game and all that. Sorta like Carlos Gomez when he first came up. But Cabrera is already 23. And he sucks! All he can do it run. And if you need someone to run, I can do that for you. Wil Venable looks like he could be decent, same with Headley and Hundley. So there is something to this team, but I don’t know if they can keep these guys together for another year when feasibly they could be a contender. I’m being generous, of course.

And that is that. Long, I know. Sorry. In summary, I predict the Rays, Twins, and Cardinals to retain their division leads. Everyone else is a fluke, I tell ya!

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The State of Baseball April 28th Edition – Part One Chinks in the ol’ Armor

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