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Talking Baseball

Your weekday baseball fix. Some days.



Posted by Dave on Tuesday, April 06, 2004

The Wonderful World of Baseball

Finally, baseball is upon us. This is our first taste of real action, the kind we are accustomed to, day in and day out. Today there was a full slate of games - up from the 8 yesterday and the solitary games played on the days prior to Monday. Baseball is an appreciably long and complex game, and with the length and complexity comes tons of story-lines. I'll present a look around baseball on the REAL Opening Day:

Marlins vs. Expos: In the battle for the bragging rights to the worst hat, the Marlins bested the Expos 4-3. Nothing terribly interesting here except for Matt Perisho. Matt Perisho?! That's right - he's certainly the antithesis of a household name. Aside from living with the residents of Reticence (they have a private language), Perisho has been a particularly horrible major league pitcher. Amazingly, however, not horrible enough it seems. The Marlins used him as their LOOGY (Lefty One Out GuY for the uninitiated) today, a trend they would seem content to continue (he was the first LOOGY they've used this season). This is a disturbing trend indeed for the Marlilns if that LOOGY has a lifetime ERA of 7.07 (how is this guy in the majors?!).

Red Sox vs. Orioles: Many in the Boston media were trying to create a notion of panic amongst the Sox Nation prior to the 4-1 Red Sox win. I caught the last four innings of this game and Curt Schilling looked unimpressive in the 6th. Yet, he allowed only one run over six. Only supremely talented and resilient pitchers can pitch poorly and still pitch effectively. In Pedro and Schilling, the Red Sox have two of these pitchers. Another note, the Red Sox have grounded into five double plays over these last two games. Ignore the fact that this is incredibly unlucky - it is also incredibly encouraging. What?! Grounding into double plays is GOOD, he says?! Well, obviously grounding into double plays is bad, but it also signifies an unwillingness by Francona to lay down sacrifice bunts. There has been an abundance of studies and research all pointing to the sac-bunt's lack of efficacy. This stems from the truth that it is effectively giving away an out to the opposing team. Still, however, many teams employ it as an offensive tactic. Francona's policy of refusing to sac-bunt is probably due in large part to the front office. Theo Epstein, Bill James and company adhere strongly to the maxims of sabermetrics, and one of those maxims is that you should almost never bunt.

Angels vs. Mariners: The Angels' new acquisitions paid off nicely in their 10-5 slaughter of the Mariners. Guerrero hit a two-run double and Colon pitched six innings of 0 ER ball while racking up a very respectable five K's. Even more encouraging, however, was the Angels' use of their ace. Colon threw the 8th-most pitches last year, and tied for the league-lead in complete games with nine. I can't imagine that number of innings and pitches can be good for a pitcher long-term, and Colon sat after a relatively benign 100 pitches. Colon's counterpart, Jaime Moyer, did not fare nearly as well. Every year, Moyer gets incrementally older. Every year, we increase our reverie for one of the men that defy their age. Let's hope that this is not the beginning of the end for Moyer.

Diamondbacks vs. Rockies: The Rockies got a perfect day from Todd Helton in defeating Randy Johnson and the D-Backs 6-2. Looking past Randy Johnson's disturbingly mediocre performance (the K's were still there, at least) and Shawn Estes' surprising start, we see an oddity that makes baseball unique. In this game, Luis Gonzalez hit three home runs. You quip: "But the D-Backs only scored two runs, how did Gonzo hit 3 HRs?!" Well, sirs and madams, there weren't one but two Luis Gonzalezes that played today. Not only did everyone favorite's steroid-induced imagination play (All-Star Luis Gonzalez) , everyone's favorite...ahhh...Frank Abignale (Certainly not an All-Star, Luis Gonzalez). That would be enough to surprise us, but when you couple it with the fact that Aaron Miles was the expected starting 2nd baseman for the Rockies, it becomes even more bizarre.

Tigers vs. Blue Jays: The Tigers continue their deception as a good team in defeating the Blue Jays again, 7-3. I can't decide if the Tigers are actually this good or not, but they have a big problem going forward. Dmitri Young, the only batter of worth from last year's Terrible Tigers, apparently broke his fibula getting cleated by a Jays middle-infielder. Young was hitting clean-up today and took a walk before exiting the game. Should he be out for an extended period of time, the Tigers lack the depth to replace him effectively. This is a concern if the Tigers want to maintain their perfect season. Oh man, that's too funny.

Yankees vs. Devil Rays: The Devil Rays rallied to beat the Yanks, scoring 9 unanswered runs in winning 9-4. Mussina pitched poorly yet again, but I have a feeling it won't matter once the Yankee offense is clicking. It may not be long. Sheffield and ARod both homered for the first time in Yankee uniforms - the first of many for the sluggers. When I looked at the box score, it struck me: Rodriguez, Giambi, and Sheffield isn't the heart of a lineup - it's a lineup in and of itself! With these three sluggers, the Yankees not only have three premium sluggers, but three of the dominant sluggers of our era. I don't think I appreciated the improvement in the Yankee offense enough this off-season - with the acquisition of ARod and Sheffy, the previously formidable lineup becomes positively monstrous. As a Red Sox fan, I can only hope Lofton and Jeter don't start table-setting.

Mets vs. Braves: The Mets have jumped out to an early lead in the NL East by torching last year's Cy candidate (chuckle), Russ Ortiz, in a 7-2 walloping. Aside from the fact that Ortiz was lit up, Marcus Giles performed admirably in a loss - going 2-4 with an HR. This could mark the beginning of an agonizing season for me as a fantasy owner. Pressured by the clock, I knew I had to choose a 2nd-baseman. I had settled on either choosing Mike Young of the Rangers or Giles of the Braves. Giles showed the superior power and OBP last year and had long been considered an underachieving power prospect. Young showed that he could hit .300 in a vaunted Ranger offense. I dwelled on the absence of Sheffield too much and opted for Young. What a dumb move. Giles will probably hit 25 HRs this year - I'd be lucky if Young hits more than 15. Worse, Giles will likely eclipse Young's run and RBI total this year, making this a truly stupid selection.

Astros vs. Giants: Pettitte's ugly performance is a sign of things to come for the 'Stros who overpaid for a hunk of junk in Andy. Andy is secondary to a far worse offense, however. Suffice it to say, Jimy Williams is a flagrant idiot. Jon will be writing more about this in a few days (he owns Ensberg, he has the most to be infuriated with), but let's look at a proof for now:

1. Given: Morgan Ensberg did not play.
2. Given: Mike Lamb played.
3. Near-Given: Morgan Ensberg is much better than Mike Lamb.
4. Given: Jimy Williams is the manager of the Houston Astros, and the manager of Ensberg and Lamb.
5. Given: Managers are responsible for playing the best players at all times.
6. Corollary: Managers that do not play their best players are flagrant idiots.
7. If (2&3) ---> 6, by modus ponens. That is, IF Mike Lamb played AND Morgan Ensberg is much better than Mike Lamb, THEN the manager of those players is a flagrant idiot.
8. Since the manager of Ensberg and Lamb is a flagrant idiot, the conclusion follows:
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9. Jimy Williams is a flagrant idiot.

Brewers vs. Cardinals: The Brewers bested the Cardinals and (my) Danny Kolb collected his second save of the season in a 7-5 nail-biter. The question most pertinent following this game is this: "Who will pitch for the Cardinals?" Morris had an utterly atrocious outing yesterday and Marquis was actually worse today. To follow in their rotation is the utterly unintimidating combination of Woody Williams, Jeff Suppan, and Chris Carpenter. Not even their relief is pretty - Jason Isringhausen is shepherding a flock of black sheep. Diamond Mind writer Tom Tippett recently posted their projected standings for the coming baseball season over at ESPN.com and they had the Cardinals besting both the Astros and Cubs in the Central. This clashes with many of the experts' opinions and it looks entirely far-fetched when the reality of their pitching hits: The last two performances could be indicative of the entire Cardinal rotation for the remainder of the season.

Rangers vs. A's: Mark Mulder paced the A's to a 3-1 victory, taking just 2 hours and 5 minutes to defeat the Rangers. Mulder is known as one of the quickest-working pitchers in the Bigs, and he definitely exhibited that today. Two things I wanted to note: First, Mark Teixeira has already nestled into the clean-up spot of the Ranger batting order. This uber-prospect has tons of pop in that bat, and he's been labelled a future 40-homer guy by many. He hit 28 his first season with Texas and thus becoming my targeted player in the fantasy draft. Already he has launched one out - many more are to follow in that lineup and in the Ballpark at Arlington. Second, Alfonso Soriano has drawn two walks in two games. A seemingly normal act for most, this act is positively super-human for Soriano's hacktastic ways. To put the two walks into perspective, Soriano drew 38 bases on balls in 156 games last year. Maybe pitchers are trying to force him to chase too much, but Soriano's plate discipline seems to already have undergone a major improvement. If Soriano's discipline improved, I wouldn't be entirely surprised - he's an extremely talented player.

It's too bad, but I'm tired of waiting for the Dodgers vs. Padres and the (currently) 14-inning marathon the Indians and Twins are engaged in. Some brief thoughts on their games: Santana's injury scares me immensely. He apparently left the game with left-forearm (that's his pitching arm, folks) spasms. First and foremost, if Santana misses a big chunk of the season, my fantasy team is in dire straits. I have Schmidt, Santana, Contreras, Miguel Batista, and Kip Wells fronting the rotation. If Santana goes down, that could be a pretty toothless top-two - especially if Schmidt returns poorly from his DL stint. Milton Bradley has started off admirably at the plate for the Dodgers - hopefully he can stay admirable in the clubhouse.


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