Sunday, July 30, 2006

Edge: Tigers

Well, the 3-game series between the Twins and Tigers was kind of a big deal around these parts - maybe more so for Twins bloggers like myself than for Tigers bloggers - but it was a pretty highly anticipated series for this time of year. Considering that the Tigers are the best team in baseball right now, and the Twins had won 34 of 42 coming in (including a sweep of the White Sox), some good baseball was expected.

And Friday, at least, didn't disappoint as far as quality baseball. Liriano was excellent for the Twins in his 8 innings of work, but the Twins couldn't get the job done offensively, the Tigers won it in 10 with a hit from Craig Monroe.

On Saturday, things went even worse for the Twins. Radke got into trouble early and was only able to go 3 innings, while the Twins didn't have quite enough offense in an 8-6 loss.

Sunday, it was looking like a lot more of the same, as the Tigers were in complete control through 7 innings and Jeremy Bonderman was on cruise control. But the baseball gods were smiling on the Twins in the 8th, as they scored 6 runs while basically hitting one ball really well (and that was with 2 outs and the Twins already having scored 4 runs). It was an inning unlike any I have ever seen.

Tigers fans may be over that game, but it was a really big game for the Twins, especially considering how the series had gone up to that point. They were in the process of undoing all the good they had done by sweeping the White Sox earlier in the week, and all of a sudden they make a comeback, and the Orioles come back to beat the Sox. Sure, bad news came when it was found out that the Yankees, the other big WC contender, got Bobby Abreu for basically one decent prospect, but as of now the Twins stand 1.5 behind the Yankees and 1 game behind the White Sox.

So at the end of the weekend, some things are clear:
  • The Tigers are still the cream of the crop. Sure, the Twins have been the hottest team for a while, but the Tigers record is obviously no fluke. They're balanced offensively and they have the pitching. At the break I picked them to win the Wildcard and the Sox to take the division, but well, I was wrong. Tigers will win the Central.
  • Right now, Francisco Liriano is the best pitcher in the League. I think the series showed that at this point, not even Johan is in his class. Liriano's an absolute joy to watch out there on his mound - he's got a great fastball, dominating slider, and developing changeup - and he's absolutely unflappable out there on the mound.
  • With the Yanks pickup of Abreu and Lidle, I'm less optimisitic about the Twins chances to make the playoffs. Sure, they have the pitching, but that Yankee lineup is just unbelievable. Whenever they get Matsui back, it should be something to watch.
Twins stay home to take on Texas. Tigers travel to Tampa Bay.

See you in a week in Detroit.

Where will Alfonso Soriano go?

After hearing last week that deal that would send Soriano to the White Sox was "extremely close," we've heard just about nothing on the subject. Oh sure, there's still teams interested, but no word on what offers might be out there, or who the favorite to get him would be.

According to Jason Stark, there's really only 4 teams that are still in the market to get Soriano - the Angels, Twins, Dodgers, and Astros.

So which of those teams seems likely to pay the triple-retail price Bowden has yet to waver on? Uh, none of the above. But multiple sources all over the sport now say it's 100 percent certain Soriano will be traded.

Oh. That really clears it up.

There's really only a couple of things we know at this point - that the Nationals really want to trade Alfonso Soriano, and that they're asking for everything but the kitchen sink. And maybe even that.

I'm pretty sure that if the Twins would be willing to give up top prospect Matt Garza, they could land Soriano, but they're reluctant to do that. Which is a notion that I support entirely, because Garza is really good, and could very possibly help the Twins this year. The Twins have other solid pitching prospects that they could possibly deal, but unless Bowden dramatically lowers his asking price, they won't get it done.

Which leaves the Angels, in my mind, as the frontrunners. I've heard rumors that the Angels might looking at something like Ervin Santana and Erick Aybar for Miguel Tejada, but I still think Miggy will be staying put in Baltimore. Which would leave Soriano as the main target for the Angels. And make no mistake, they have the big-time names that make them capable of pulling off this deal (Howie Kendrick, Brandon Wood, etc.) The hangup, of course, is that Angels GM Bill Stoneman is a lot like Terry Ryan in that he's reluctant to trade top prospects.

So what does all of this mean? Well, I don't know, maybe nothing. Maybe the Nats will hang onto Soriano and we'll all be left wondering why no deal got done. But if I was a betting man, I'd put my money on Alfonso Soriano wearing an Angels uniform at this time next week. But at this point, it's all guesswork.

Friday, July 28, 2006

Interview with a Tigers fan

At one point I declared Ian from Sweaty Men Endeavors to be my superior in all things, and for one day at least, he will take over this blog.

With the Twins and Tigers starting a 3-game series today in Minnesta, I have asked Ian 5 questions I wanted to know about the Tigers, and he asked me 5 questions about the Twins (which you'll be able to see at his blog). So alas, here they are, helping you learn a little bit more about those MLB-leading Tigers.

Me: What's the single biggest reason for the Tigers surge from middle-of-the-pack to best team in baseball?
Ian: Pitching, pitching, pitching. Virtually every night, the Tigers get a quality start, so even when the lineup needs a few innings to put some runs on the board, they're still in the game. I think the starters also benefit from knowing they only have to go about six innings before the game is turned over to the bullpen, and those guys don't give up the lead very often. The whole staff is pretty relentless on the opposition. Just when those hitters think they might have Kenny Rogers figured out for their third trip to the plate, here comes Joel Zumaya firing rockets. The bullpen can give hitters a different look each time they're up. Considering how poor the pitching has been in Detroit over the years, it's really been amazing to watch.

Me: Should the Tigers make a big move and acquire a guy like Alfonso Soriano, Bobby Abreu, or Carlos Lee?
Ian: You know, I might be in the minority on this, but I lean toward the "If it ain't broke, why fix it?" mindset. It's not so much that I don't want to see the Tigers give up top pitching prospects, because that's one reason you build up that kind of commodity. And Dave Dombrowski's done a great job of keeping that pipeline fresh. The Tigers have just been playing so well that you almost can't imagine they could get better.

Yet there's also the side that says you have to go for it when you get the chance. Between the development of the younger players and the solid play from the veterans, everything's come together so well this season, and there's no guarantee it'll happen again. These windows don't stay open very long, so if the Tigers have a chance to make themselves a better team, one that contends for a championship, then they absolutely should do it. Even if it costs them a piece of the future. Abreu seems like he'd be the best fit with his left-handed bat, speed, defense, and on-base percentage. Yet Soriano - who's been the hot name, because you know Washington wants and needs to trade him - would be leading the team in virtually every offensive category if he were here.

Ultimately, I think the Tigers will make a move that looks underwhelming on paper - bringing in a Matt Stairs-John Mabry-David Dellucci type of player - but will fill an important role for the Tigers, giving them a left-handed bat that Leyland can shuffle among the corner outfield spots and first base.

Me: Todd Jones has struggled a bit this year, while younger guys like Joel Zumaya and Fernando Rodney have been more consistent? Who should the Tigers closer be?
Ian: I know Jones has taken a lot of flack from fans because it's never easy with him and he doesn't inspire a lot of confidence when he comes in for the ninth inning. But he's been very good lately, getting a lot of 1-2-3 innings, while lowering his ERA and WHIP numbers. Meanwhile, Rodney's been shaky and walking a lot of hitters. Many people think something's wrong with his mechanics. I think it was Michael Rosenberg of the Detroit Free Press who said Jones is simply best suited for the ninth inning because he relies on fooling hitters and getting them to make contact. If the bases are loaded with one out in the seventh, Jones won't come in and strike out the next two batters, which is what you need in that situation. That's what Zumaya does.

Sabermetricians have often said that managers shouldn't just save their best relievers for the ninth inning, because that's not always when they're needed most, and Jim Leyland is proving them right. As silly as this might sound, the Tigers would waste Zumaya if they only used him as the closer. He helps the team more in his current role, striking out batters in tough situations, or going two innings when needed. Some of Jones' saves might come after three fly balls caught on the warning track, but he somehow gets those last three outs.

Me: If the Tigers make the playoffs, who should get the ball in Game 1?
Ian: If the playoffs started next week, I'd make Justin Verlander the guy for Game 1. He's been the Tigers' best starting pitcher lately. His last six starts have been dominant. But there's a lot of concern about him eventually breaking down as he pitches more innings than he ever has before. Kenny Rogers might make the most sense, in terms of experience, but history says he's not very good in the second half of the season.

So that leaves Jeremy Bonderman. He's the best combination of experience and youth, with the kind of stuff that can mow down a lineup early in a game and set a tone for the rest of the series. And if he didn't work out, then you can bring in a veteran like Rogers to start in Game 2 and hopefully provide a steadying influence for the pitching staff. Jim Leyland has a lot of options to play with for a seven-game series. It's exciting to think about.

Me: Who's winning the AL Wildcard (be honest)?
Ian: At this point, it's hard to pick against the Twins. They looked dead in April and May, but very quietly (at least from Detroit's vantage point) began to make a run. And it was like people began tapping each other on the shoulders, saying "Hey, do you see what Minnesota is doing?" Then the Twins were like that horde you could see a few miles away on the horizon. What is that? Are they coming? We'd better get ready. But now, after sweeping Chicago, the day many of us anticipated has finally arrived. They're tied with the White Sox, right behind the Yankees in the wild-card standings, and to the Tigers fans that have been paying attention, the Twins look scary as hell - especially with that starting pitching.

Having said all that, however, I'm still going with the White Sox. I know they've been in a tailspin since the All-Star break, and their starting pitching - especially Buehrle and Garcia - looks messy right now. But to me, they've been the best team in the AL Central from the beginning. I still can't believe they're as far behind the Tigers as they are. I almost have to slap myself each time I look at the standings. And if Kenny Williams can make a big deal at the trade deadline - something he's been very good at in the past - I think they'll turn things around and get right back in this. Not that they're out of it, of course. It's more like they fell back into a race with the Twins and Yankees. And it's going to be fun to watch for the rest of this season.

Friday's game starts at 7:10 CDT.

Thursday, July 27, 2006

About those Detroit Tigers...

After the Twins sweep of the White Sox, they now stand 8.5 games out of the division lead, and are tied with Chicago for 2nd in the Central. As of this writing, the Twins have won 34 of 42 games, but have hardly been able to make up any ground in their division. The reason? Right now, the Detroit Tigers are the best team in baseball.

Yes, those same Detroit Tigers that lost 119 games in 2003. Yes, those same Detroit Tigers that I predicted to finish 4th in the division. They're 68-33, the best record in baseball.

So what's the biggest reason for the big turnaround? Well, we'll here from the Detroit expert on this blog tomorrow, but I can make some guesses as well as take a look at the upcoming series between the Twins and Tigers. The biggest reason in my mind for this Tiger resurgence was the quick improvement of the young pitching. Justin Verlander is obviously a strong candidate for the ROY, but Jeremy Bonderman has arguably been the better pitcher this year. Kenny Rogers is famous for his 2nd-half fades, but he was very solid in the first half. Zach Miner and Nate Robertson have also done their part.

In the pen, Joel Zumaya has been the big story. The rookie fireballer has a sub 3.00 ERA and strikes out over 11 batters per 9 innings. Which is nice.

Offensively, they seem to have had a pretty balanced attack. Granderson is a very solid leadoff hitter, and while Mags and Pudge have been solid in the middle, Guillen has been the team's best hitter so far, and is really one of the underrated players in the MLB.

Anyway, we'll hear more about the Tigers tomorrow, so let's just look at the pitching matchup for the 3-game set that starts Friday:

Friday: Zach Miner (6-2, 4.07 ERA) vs. Francisco Liriano (12-2, 1.93 ERA)

Saturday: Nate Robertson (9-6, 3.70 ERA) vs. Brad Radke (9-7, 4.74 ERA)

Sunday: Jeremy Bonderman (11-4, 3.66 ERA) vs. Johan Santana (12-5, 3.05 ERA)

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

USA Traveling Roster cut to 15

As we get closer to the World Championships, the USA Roster was cut to 15, and will later be cut to 12. To get it down to 15 they dropped Luke Ridnour, Adam Morrison, and Shawn Marion (who was hurt). That leaves this group left.

Chris Paul
Dwyane Wade
Gilbert Arenas
Joe Johnson
Kirk Hinrich

LeBron James
Carmelo Anthony
Chris Bosh
Bruce Bowen
Elton Brand
Shane Battier
Antawn Jamison
Amare Stoudemire
Dwight Howard

Brad Miller

3 players will be trimmed from the roster to get it down to 12. If I was in charge, I'd probably keep Amare Stoudemire, Shane Battier, and Gilbert Arenas off the roster. There has to still be some concerns about Stoudemire's knee, which is why he'd be off. Batter is solid, but he does the same things well that Bruce Bowen does well, only Bowen is probably a little better. Arenas is tough to leave out, but I'm not sure he fits in too well. The're probably looking for a backup PG (assuming you put Chris Paul at starter), and I think Hinrich fits the role better. He's not as good of a shooter as Arenas, but he's a better defender.

That would leave a starting lineup that looks something like this:

PG Chris Paul
SG Dwyane Wade
SF LeBron James
PF Elton Brand
C Dwight Howard

That actuall bears a lot of similarity to some other team, which really displays the talent of the club.

Off the bench, you'd have shooters (Joe Johnson, Kirk Hinrich, Bruce Bowen)), scorers (Carmelo Anthony), versatile guys (Johnson, Chris Bosh, Antawn Jamison), defenders (Hinrich, Bowen), and big man depth (Bosh, Brad Miller). Just a nice, well-rounded team. If you're more concerned with having a scorer than defender off the bench in the backcourt, you could take Gilbert Arenas over Kirk Hinrich. With Coach K and the rest of the coaching staff, I think Team USA is in good hands.

In other basketball news, according to the reports, Billy Kings has said that Allen Iverson is staying put in Philadelphia. That sound you hear is a loud sigh of relief for me. First off, it's hard to trust Billy King to get a fair deal for Iverson. Sad, but true. Second, when you have a guy that averages 33 points and 8 assists per game and wants to play there and plays his hardest every night (ok, he takes the occasional practice off, but that doesn't take away from how he plays in the game), it's just not a good idea to trade him. It's not Iverson's fault that King has surrounded him with all the wrong players.

Sunday, July 23, 2006

Handicapping the Heisman Hopefuls

Ok, so the college football season is still a while off... but in my opinion, it's never too early to start talking about college football. So I'd thought I'd like my top candidates for the Heisman, and what I predict their odds to be.

Brady Quinn (Notre Dame)
This one's pretty obvious. Quinn's basically the golden boy of college football right now, playing at Notre Dame under Charlie Weis. These are two very large pluses in his corner. Because all of Notre Dame's games are on TV, everyone in the nation will get to see him a lot. Playing for Charlie Weis is always a good thing for a QB, and Quinn showed last year. Maurice Stovall is gone, but Jeff Samardzija is back, and Darius Walker in the backfield means that teams can't just key on the pass. With Weis, one of the (if not the) best offensive minds in all of football, Notre Dame should have an extremely potent offense, all centered around Brady Quinn.
Odds: 2/1

Adrian Peterson (Oklahoma)
Peterson was bogged down by injury trubles and the fact that the Sooners had no passing game last year. Even so, he averaged 5.0 yards per carry and scored 14 TD. This year, as long as he can stay healthy, and Rhett Bomar can make some strides at the QB position, I expect his numbers will be closer to his 2004 campaign, where he rushed for 1925 yards as a true freshman. He'll be the center of the offense for a good team in a relatively weak major conference, meaning he should be able to gain lots of yards and score lots of TDs.
Odds: 3/1

Troy Smith (Ohio St.)
With the exit of Vince Young to the NFL, Smith becomes the top dual threat QB in all of college football. If Smith had started and played all of the Texas game, I think there's a very good chance that last season would have played out much differently. As it is, Smith is a great runner, but his passing is what improved all game by game. He finished the season very strong with good games against archrival Michigan and against Notre Dame in the bowl game, which should give him lots of momentum and confidence coming into the year.
Odds: 8/1

Ted Ginn (Ohio St.)
And now we see part of the reason that Smith is so dangerous... he has a pretty good target to throw to. Ginn is one of the most explosive receivers in college football, a gamebreaker in every sense of the word. As with Smith, we were reminded again of Ginn's big-play ability in the Fiesta Bowl, where Ginn caught 8 passes for 167 yards and a TD in addition to running for 73 yards and a TD. Wide Receivers typically have a hard time winning the Heisman, but Ginn is a possiblity because of his all-around explosiveness.
Odds: 12/1

Marshawn Lynch (California)
Playing in the same conference as Reggie Bush and LenDale White, he sometimes got overshadowed last year, but I don't think that will be a problem this year. He split carries with JJ Arrington his freshman season, but last year he got the ball more (almost 200 carries), and showed just how good he is. In only 196 carries, he ran for 1264 yards, or 6.4 yards per carry. He also ran for 10 TD. If Cal can get more consistent play from the QB position (which you wouldn't think would be a problem with Jeff Tedford), the Bears should contend for a Pac-10 title, which certainly helps Lynch's Heisman hopes.
Odds: 20/1

Brian Brohm (Louisville)
A heralded recruit coming out of high school, Brohm showed why last year. Leading a potent Louisville attack (RB Michael Bush is also a Heisman candidate coming into the year), Brohm is accurate (68.8 completion %), efficent (9.58 YPA), and makes good decisions (19/5 TD/INT ratio). If he can lead Louisville past West Virginia in the Big East, he could get a lot of Heisman hype.
Odds: 20/1

Chad Henne (Michigan)
Despite a disappointing season for Michigan as a team, Henne remained a constant in there for the Wolverines. In some circles, he was looked at as a little bit of a disappointment, but that's just because he set the bar so high for himself with an excellent freshman campaign. He didn't throw for as many yards last year as he did as a freshman, but he did improve his TD/INT ratio. This year, Michigan should be back on the map, as they are loaded with weapons. Michael Hart should be back and healthy (and he could be a Heisman contender as well), and Kevin Grady got a lot of experience in the backfield. On the receiving corps, Jason Avant is gone, but big play man Steve Breaston is back, as is Mario Manningham. With that offense, Michigan will be right back in the thick of things in the Big 10 with Ohio St. and Penn St.
Odds: 25/1

What's your early predictions?

Friday, July 21, 2006

10 Best MLB Players of All-Time

This is something I was thinking about writing for a couple of weeks now, but have just been way too busy to sit down and write it all. But I'll give it a shot here, with my list of the 10 best players ever to play in the MLB. For the purposes of this list, I'm not including Negro League players. Not because none of them could crack the list (I think it's a safe bet that a guy like Oscar Charleston would crack the top 10), but there's just too much unknown.

First, a few that just missed the cut:

- Hank Aaron - remarkably consistent with lots of longevity, I'm sure Hammerin' Hank would appear on a lot of people's top 10 lists. However, I also place a premium on 'peak' or great seasons, which wasn't really what Hank did well (his best year was in 1971, at age 37). So I drop him a little based on peak, but he was incredibly consistent and has great longevity. Oh, and I think he still has some HR record.

- Roger Clemens - In my mind, the 3rd best pitcher ever (you'll see my top 2 later). Longevity? Check. Exceptional seasons? Check. Playing in the best hitter's era ever? Check. He's second all-time in strikeouts, he's always had solid/decent control, and he is still one of the best pitchers in the league even at his age now. If you tried to argue that Roger was the best pitcher ever, I wouldn't put up too much of an argument.

- Stan Musial - Stan "The Man" was another that just missed the cut. He played over 1800 games in the OF and over 1000 games at 1B, winning the MVP 3 times. He was an OBP machine, leading the league there 6 times, and he also led the league in Slugging 6 times. Just a great, all-around player.

But enough of those that missed, let's move on to the Top 10:

10. Barry Bonds - Without a doubt, the hardest player of all to rank because of all the steroid accusations/usage and deciding when/if he was using some type of performance-enhancing drugs. If we could take all of his numbers at face value, I think Bonds would very likely be one of the top 3 players ever (and his 2001-2003 stretch the best 3-year stretch EVER in MLB history). But well, it's hard to do that because of all of the allegations. So I've put him here, at #10. At worst, he was the best player of the 90s, and the best combination of power/speed ever. He's always had a fantastic eye at the plate, and he was routinely 40 HR hitter throughout the 90s (while stealing lots of bases). Even if factoring in potential enhancers, the 2001-2004 stretch numbers are simply mind-boggling. In short, I'd put him higher than 10 rather than lower if I had to, but for now, I'll stick him here.

9. Lefty Grove - The second best pitcher of all-time. His adjusted ERA+ of 148 is 2nd all-time behind one Pedro Martinez (who, by the way, had the best peak of any pitcher ever). He didn't rack up a lot of strikeouts in comparison to other great pitchers, but he did lead the league in that category for 8 straight years. Add it all up, and Lefty is the 2nd best pitcher ever in my book, and 9th overall on my list.

8. Mickey Mantle - Mantle's another guy that's hard to rank, because he had a better peak than a guy like Willie Mays, but he doesn't have the longevity of the guys ahead of him. He was one of the best at getting on base, and he got there at a .421 clip, despite the average being a shade under .300 for his career. He also hit for lots of power, with 536 HR and a .557 SLG. Now, was he as focused on baseball as he maybe should have been, judging from so many stories/rep? Maybe not, but I'm not really qualified to answer that. I do know that when he played, he was one of the best ever.

7. Lou Gehrig - The original Iron Man usually wasn't the best player on his own team, but that's not going to keep him out of the top 10. Gehrig was an absolute hitting machine - he hit for a great average, he had a great eye that allowed him to draw walks, and he hit for power. He's 5th all-time in OBP and 3rd all-time in SLG. Not bad protection for the Babe. Sadly, his career and life was cut short by disease, but by all accounts he was a great man to go along with his great accomplishments on the field.

6. Ted Williams - By all accounts, Williams was probably the best pure hitter ever, as the .406 mark can attest to. But Teddy Ballgame is hard to rank among the other greats, in part because he lost a couple of years of his prime to the war. We know what the numbers might have looked like, but that's not the same thing as him actually doing it. Even so, the accomplishments speak for themselves - he got on base at a clip better than anyone ever to play the game (well, except Eddie Gaedel), and he hit for lots of power to go with it. Sure, he played in a hitter's park, but the numbers are hard to believe. A 1.116 career OPS? That's video-game like. Which is why if you'd put Teddy Ballgame in your top 5, well, I'd be hard-pressed to put up too much disagreement.

5. Walter Johnson - Quite simply, the Big Train is the greatest pitcher to ever take the mound. He has the high win totals (417 - 2nd all-time), the has the K totals (led the league 12 times), and his adjusted ERA+ of 146 is 3rd all-time. He threw almost 6000 innings, which is better than anyone that started their career in the 20th century. Add up the dominance with the longevity, and I'm confident in naming The Big Train the best pitcher ever, and the 5th best player of all-time.

4. Ty Cobb - By all accounts, The Georgia Peach was most of the most irrehensible players to play the game, but also one of the greatest, as I've put him here at 4. His .366 career batting average is the best ever. No, he didn't hit a lot of HR, but then again, neither did anyone else in his time (in 1909 he led the league in HR with 9). But he did hit lots of doubles and triples (2nd all-time in triples), which is why he led the league in SLG % 8 times. Great speed, great physical tools, undeniably one of the top hitters ever... it's possible that I'm underrating him here at #4. But that's where I'll leave him.

3. Honus Wagner - Like Cobb, the hitting stats for "The Flying Dutchman" will be low just because of the era he played in, but we have to get beyond that. He led the league in hitting 8 times in his career, and was also a good power hitter (led league in slugging for 6 years). Also like Cobb, Wagner was a great doubles and triples hitter. In 1908, the worst season for hitters ever, Wagner led the league in BA, OBP and SLG, as well as hits, total bases, doubles, triples, stolen bases and RBI (found here). All while playing SS. Truly one of the greatest ever.

2. Willie Mays - The "Say Hey Kid" may be remembered most for his over-the-shoulder grab deep in the Polo Grounds OF, which is fitting, because it's very likely he's the best defensive CF of all-time (and has the 12 straight GG to back it up). Offensively, he could do some things there as well, as he's still 4th all-time on the HR list with 660. A lot of his overall rate numbers are dragged down by his final few years in the league, where he obviously wasn't quite the same player anymore. But regardless, he's still got the high average and slugging, all the HR, and the defensive prowess, which leaves him at #2 of all-time on my list).

1. Babe Ruth - As if there was any doubt. Ruth was by far the greatest hitter ever, especially in relation to his peers. His adjusted OPS+ of 207 is far and away the best of all-time, 17 points ahead of #2 Ted Williams. We all know he once hit more HR than any other team in the league hit total. But if that wasn't enough proofof The Bambino being the greatest, we must also remeber that he was a very good pitcher. He once led the league in ERA. He never had a losing season Ok, he was really wild on the mound, but that's just nit-picking. Add it all up: Best hitter of all-time + above average pitcher = Greatest MLB player of all-time. Babe Ruth.

Thursday, July 20, 2006

Links updated!!

Ok, so in a process that took way too long and was probably much too tedious, I've updated my links and split some stuff up into categories for your and mine reading pleasure.

In the process I weeded out some blogs that aren't active anymore, and added lots more stuff.

Anyway, if you aren't on the list and have a blog, and would like to/think you should be, or if you link to me and I don't have a link back, drop me a comment or an email at uclabruins24 AT I realize that there's lots of great stuff out there that I missed, and I still need to add stuff (especially to the football section), but I'm trying.

Other than that, have a super day!

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Yet Another Book Recommendation!

Ok, so maybe I have a little too much free time here in the summer. And I have a boring job where I can sometimes read books at. Regardless, I have another good sports book to recommend (if you haven't read it already.

That book is: Fab Five: Basketball, Trash Talk, The American Dream by Mitch Albom.

Last week I recommended The Last Amateurs by John Feinstein, and other than the fact that they both cover college basketball, the books couldn't be more different. The other book follows the Patriot League and talks about the players who are mostly focused on academics, while this focuses on the Michigan players that were a lot more focused on basketball than athletics, and where there is some corruption, and was found out later.

Now, I'm sure you know Albom from his other books or from his shoddy work on The Sports Reporters, but really, this is an excellently written book that covers 1992 and 1993 Michigan basketball... obviously the two years the Fab Five were together for the Wolverines.

The book starts off with good detailing on the recruiting process and how and why they all wound up at Michigan. It talks about how the Fab Five really changed college basketball in a lot of ways, not all of them good. Albom also does a good job showing how there was sometimes a double standard for these guys (both good and bad) because they were so talented, so outspoken, and so brash.

It was interesting to see how they went from being 'media darlings' in one year to being constantly criticized the next. Or how they all meshed together so well, even with some resentment from their upperclassmen.

Another interesting thing was to see how the book portrayed Steve Fisher. Sure, Albom did show him as a family man, but there was also the writings about how he 'bent the rules' at times to recruit these guys, how he applied a double standard when it came to disciplining them compared to the rest of the team, etc.

As someone who was really too young to remember much about the Fab Five, it was certainly interesting to read. I'm not sure if it would be more or less interesting if you remembered them well (or in some cases, as I know some readers here are, were/are fans of the Wolverines). All I know is that if you haven't read the book yet, you should. It's really quite excellent, as its rating on Amazon shows (though my recommendation should be enough!).

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Who's going to the playoffs in the National League?

I already have you all of my AL Playoff thoughts, so I figured I may as well give my predictions for the National League, because that's just how I roll. Or something.

New York: -

St. Louis: -
Cincinnati: 3.5 GB
Milwaukee: 7.0 GB
Houston: 7.5 GB

San Diego: -
Arizona: 3.0 GB
San Fransisco: 3.5 GB
Los Angeles: 3.5 GB
Colorado: 5.0 GB

Cincinnati: -
Arizona: 2.5 GB
San Fransisco: 3.0 GB
Los Angeles: 3.0 GB
Milwaukee: 3.5 GB
Houston: 4.0 GB
Colorado: 4.5 GB
Atlanta: 5.0 GB

First off, the East. Personally, I'll eat my hat if the Mets don't win that division. Not only do they have a commanding lead at this point, but they have the best and most balanced offense in the League, solid starting pitching, and a good bullpen. Atlanta is playing and 11.5 back, but it's not going to happen. Sorry. Mets win the division.

The Central is where it gets more interesting. Everyone seems to have conceded the division to the Cardinals all year long, and frankly, I don't see anyone overtaking them short of another Albert Pujols victory. Pujols is good enough to carry the offense at times, and they do have some solid starting pitching. There are definite concerns, but I'm not sure that the other teams in the division have enough to contend. If Ben Sheets and Tomo Ohka come back healthy and contribute for the Brew Crew, I may reconsider, but until that time I'm sticking with the Cardinals.

The West, is where things are really tight, mostly because none of the teams are really very good. Look at San Diego - their 'ace' pitcher coming into the year has struggled, they're 14th in the league in runs scored... and they lead the division by 3 games. I tried to prject this one back in mid-May, and things haven't changed a whole lot since then. I predicted the Dodgers back then, and I'll pick them again right now, if only because I think they've had some bad luck and struggled a lot in 1-run games, which tends to even out. But really, this division is up for the taking.

When it comes to the Wildcard, you could really just pick out of a hat. Even the Florida Marlins, at 41-50, could conceivably have a shot at it if they went on a nice winning streak (they're only 7 back right now). It's really a whole lot of mediocrity. For the Reds, while I thought their last trade was pretty awful, it might be ok in the short run because it should make their bullpen ok whie not taking too much out of the offense. Every team in the West has a shot, and the Braves in the East are streaking like they always seem to do. Still, I'm going to go with the team that in the recent history has made a living off of second-half domination, and that is Houston. The pitching isn't as good as last year, but Roger Clemens and Roy Oswalt is a pretty darn awesome 1-2 combo. Offensively, things need to be better, but getting Huff was a good start. I'll take the Astros in the Wilcard.

So there you have it: New York, St. Louis, Los Angeles, and Houston. Feel free to bring this back up when they're all wrong at the end of the year!

Sunday, July 16, 2006

Who's going to the playoffs in the American League?

As of this writing, things are pretty tight in all races, as I suppose it to be expected at this time of year. Let's look at the standings and potential winners of each race:

Boston: -
New York: 1.5 GB
Toronto: 4.5 GB

Detroit: -
Chicago: 4.5 GB
Minnesota: 12 GB

Oakland: -
Texas: -
LA/Anaheim: 1.5 GB
Seattle: 3.0 GB

Chicago: -
New York: 4.0
Toronto: 7.0
Minnesota: 7.5

First let's get the AL West out of the way, because there's definitely only going to be one team in the playoffs from that division. Before the year I picked the A's to win the whole shebang, but now, well, I'm definitely have second thoughts. The pitching hasn't been that good, Rich Harden is never healthy, and they've had disappointments on offense (namely, the left side of the infield). Meanwhile, the Angels look to be moving up. They potentially have one of the top rotations in baseball (don't look now, but John Lackey is turning himself into a Cy Young contender). I like the Angels to take the West, especially if they let some of the young hitters play.

Next we move to the East, where it's sorta the same old song and dance. Sure, the Blue Jays are a very nice team, and they have the best starter in the division, but they need AJ Burnett to stay healthy, and I'm not betting on that. Which leaves the Sox and the Yanks. Historically, the Yanks almost always seem to come out ahead, and I like them to do it again and take the division. For one, look at the pitching. The Sox are led by Curt Schilling (who was impressive Saturday), but after that they have a struggling Josh Beckett, Wakefield, a rookie in Jon Lester, and Kyle Snyder (who is pitching tomorrow). Sure, Clement's on the DL right now, but he's been pretty awful so far this year.

The Yanks don't have anyone of Schilling's caliber, but Mussina has been pretty darn solid this year. Behind him, Johnson and Wang aren't exactly going to make anyone too confident, but they're solid. Jaret Wright has also been surprising capable so far this year. I'm not too high on Sidney Ponson in the AL, but the other 4 are better than the Red Sox 4 right now, IMO. Offensively, it's close to a wash, although the Sox do have an advantage with Sheff and Matsui still out (any idea when they'll be back). Neither bullpen (other than the closers) inspire much confidence either. If you force me to make a pick, I'll go with Yankees, but I'm not overly confident about it.

In the Central, the Tigers seem to never lose, which makes them difficult to catch. Even more, they've been exceptional on the road with a 33-19 mark. The Sox are 4.5 back, but they've still got a deep pitching staff, and with Jim Thome on the club (and Jermaine Dye having an excellent year), the lineup is more potent that last year. The Tigers pitching staff has been pretty dominant, but I think they're bound to slow down some. Kenny Rogers always struggles in the 2nd half, and his low SO totals are a little worrisome. Verlander's always not striking out enough batters. (Although in the Tigers defense, I think Jeremy Bonderman has gotten a little unlucky and we might see his ERA drop some). What does all this mean? It means I've got a weak vote cast for the White Sox to take the Central.

Which brings us down to the Wildcard, usually the most exciting race of them all. With my divisional picks, this would leave the Tigers, Red Sox, Blue Jays, and Twins in the mix. As much as I'd love for the Twins to win this - and they do have the pitching at the top to do it - I think the hole is a little too deep, and they don't have quite the offensive firepower to crawl back. The Blue Jays have the offensive firepower, but I don't think they have quite the pitching depth to come back.

Which leaves the Tigers and the Red Sox. For reasons mentioned above, I like the Tigers pitching staff better (although it's really time to put Rodney/Zumaya in the closer's role), and I like the Sox better offensively. In this case, I think pitching wins, and I have to give the Tigers the Wildcard.

So there you have it: the Yankees, White Sox, and Angels as your division winners, with the Tigers winning the Wildcard. Although I'm not putting any money on it. These should all be some fantastic races to watch down the stretch.

Saturday, July 15, 2006

Weekend O' Links

Ok, so I finally got the day off from work (yay for me!), and work is the time I normally think about something to write about, but instead I was out at the river, which is way more fun. Anyway, the point of this babbling is to say that nothing really that interesting happened today, so instead of me boring you, I'll link you to some things that entertained me at least.

- First off, this is a couple of days old, but Bill Simmons did a chat thingy again, and parts of it are quite amusing. My favorites:

But I didn't think the Zidane thing was as big of a deal as everyone made it out to be -- 8 minutes left in extra time, and it's not like they didn't have 10 guys left. Plus, their keeper, Paul Shaffer, didn't come close to stopping any of Italy's penalty kicks. They would have lost either way. I'm just excited that Tyson's ear bite on Holyfield finally has a sports rival.
Bill Simmons: I'm just disappointed that Buck wasn't announced the World Cup Final during Zidane's head butt. I just picture him giving us a 5-minute lecture about sportsmanship, saying the word "vicious" 330 times and then sobbing on live TV.

Chris Berman (Bristol, Conn): You're with me, Sports Guy.

Bill Simmons: (Trying to fight off 100,000 bolts of electric current ...)

By the way, go to Deadspin for the "You're with me Leather" reference.

- Jason Tyner: Hero.

- A new site described to me as "Buster Olney-like". I report, you decide.

- I know you've always wondered who the top 10 teams to never win an NBA Title were... well, now you know!

- Sorry Cubs fans... it's looking more and more like the Cubs need to cut the cord with Kerry Wood and Mark Prior. Because they get injured and stuff.

- A heartfelt letter from our own Barbaro. This coming from the same guy who gave us some early speculation on what Materazzi really said to Zidane. Among the guesses: "You play soccer like an American!"

- Looking for a message board? You can always try The Hangout, part of Kevin Antcliff's site.

- Need a 2nd half MLB Fantasy Guide? Well here's a pretty good one.

- Thanks for all your help in beating the Detroit Tigers, Kansas City! (note: that's sarcasm)

- Now that I'm finding soccer more interesting, subplots like this over in the European Leagues are suddenly much more interesting.

Anyway, this should hold you over while you wait for your next thrilling installment here on Complete Sports! (yes, that's sarcasm too)

Friday, July 14, 2006

Stock up on canned goods

Yes folks, go out right now. Buy a generator as well while you're out.

What's the occasion? Well, not only did Jim Bowden get the better end of a deal, he absolutely fleeced the Reds today.

Washington gets:
OF Austin Kearns
SS Felipe Lopez
RHP Ryan Wagner

Cincinnati gets:
RHP Gary Majewski
LHP Bill Bray
SS Royce Clayton
IF Brendan Harris
RHP Daryl Thompson

Ok, so I realize that the Cincy bullpen legitimately sucks. But Gary Majewski and Bill Bray is the best you can do?

For Cincinnati, they give up a talented (but health risk) 26 year-old OF in Kearns, who has shown the ability to hit for power and get on base. He may never reach 2002 levels again, but a .351 OBP and .492 SLG is still not bad. In Felipe Lopez, they gave up a 26-year old SS who was an All-Star last year. And once again, while he may not ever hit as well as he did last year, he was still good at the plate this year and is about a million times better than Royce Clayton, not to mention 10 years younger.

The two best MLB playersthe Reds give up are Gary Majewski and Billy Bray, who are really average to above average MRs. Don't get me wrong, Majewski has been a good, durable pitcher (though the K/BB numbers aren't overly encouraging), but if he's the best player you're getting in exchange for two above average regulars enterting their prime, that's not good. Plus, Majewski is a flyball pitcher, which will make the move from RFK (an extreme pitcher's park) to The Great American Ballpark (an extreme hitter's park) even more rocky.

So as I say, get ready to fire up the generator. Jim Bowden made a great move.

Thursday, July 13, 2006

Another Book Recommendation

Ok, I know that only like a week ago I recommended reading 'Ball Four' if you by some chance had not read it, but today I just finished another book that I think some people might like.

The book is called "The Last Amateurs" written by John Feinstein.

If you like college basketball, especially small-conference college basketball, I think this is definitely a worthwhile book to check out.

Basically, Feinstein follows along with the Patriot League for the 1999-2000 season, and chronicles what they do, who they are, etc. It's really an interesting from the standpoint that these are not your typical Division 1 college basketball players (a point that Feinstein drives home ad nauseum, which can get a little annoying). For example, at one point he mentions that before the conference championship game, the players went to class for part of the day before loading onto the bus and driving for the game that night.

The book has its shortcomings. Feinstein sometimes goes a little overboard, basically saying that all the big conference college basketball players are just there for basketball and not school, which isn't really the case. Also, his game summaries can be a little dry, and some of the player stories do tend to get a little cheesy.

But really, if you like college basketball, especially the small, one-bid leagues of college basketball, you really ought to take a look at this book.

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Who is the best hitter in the American League?

If you ask people this question, my guess is that most people would say David Ortiz. That was the response a few days ago after I wrote this:

Well, Hafner has been the best hitter in the American League so far, but that didn't even net him an All-Star appearance, so I'm not sure what to make of that.

In response, a commenter named Kampy had this to say:

Big Papi might have a problem with your anointing Hafner the best AL hitter in the first half... his average isn't there because of the shift, but the numbers and clutch hits sure are.

Not to single a commenter out (just using it as an example), but I must say I respectfully disagree.

Sure, the HR and RBI numbers are there, and he seems to be hitting a game-winning HR every time you turn around. But if you read any of my stuff then you know I'm not one to put much stock into RBI and the like. Let's compare some other numbers:

AVG - Hafner (.322) > Ortiz (.278)
OBP - Hafner (.461) > Ortiz (.388)
SLG - Hafner (.650) > Ortiz (.609)
OPS - Hafner (1.112) > Ortiz (.996)
RC/27 - Hafner (10.91) > Ortiz (8.00)
ISOP - Ortiz (.330) > Hafner (.329)
AB/HR - Ortiz (10.6) > Hafner (11.4)

What does all of this mean? Well, in my opinion, it's a pretty darn good argument that Hafner is the better hitter than Ortiz, at least through the 1st half of this year, even without adjusting for the parks that they play in or who bats behind them. The power numbers are about equal - the SLG advantage for Hafner is mainly do to the difference in BA - but Hafner is getting on base at a much more prolific rate. The Isolated Power stat suggests that they are basically even as far as power is concerned.

The other thing that is most often cited in Ortiz' favor is that he's a 'clutch' hitter. Once again I'm not sure that the numbers exactly prove that to be the case. First the numbers for each man with runners in scoring position and 2 out, the situation that is probably most considered 'clutch.' For fun, I won't give you their names yet.

Player 1 - .295 AVG/.446 OBP/.614 SLG - 4 HR, 23 RBI - 44 AB
Player 2 - .290 AVG/.522 OBP/.839 SLG - 5 HR, 20 RBI - 31 AB

How about with the bases loaded, another situation that can be described as 'clutch.'

Player 1 - .364 AVG/.385 OBP/1.091 SLG - 2 HR, 17 RBI - 11 AB
Player 2 - .700 AVG/.636 OBP/2.200 SLG - 5 HR, 25 RBI - 10 AB

Ok, so I can only assume that not telling you the names didn't fool anyone, and that you all know that Player 1 is David Ortiz and Player 2 is Travis Hafner. But would those numbers have been surprising if you didn't know going in? David Ortiz is always portrayed as the clutch hitter, and maybe with good reason, but Travis Hafner is pretty darn good there too.

So I humbly submit to you that Travis Hafner is in fact the best hitter in the American League.


Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Kenny Rogers vs. Brad Penny

I'm sure this is one pitching matchup that will have you on the edge of your seats!

I guess I can see Ozzie's reasoning on this one - all of the deserving guys did start on Sunday (Johan, Halladay, Contreras...) but still, Kenny Rogers? Is this the best the AL can do?

Of course, there is the small fact that Kenny Rogers has been only the 3rd or 4th best starter on his own team. But who's keeping track of such things?

Kenny Rogers - 114.2 IP, 3.85 ERA, 1.19 WHIP, 5.10 K/9, 65/27 K:BB, 15 HRA, 10 QS
Jeremy Bonderman - 119.2 IP, 3.46 ERA, 1.14 WHIP, 8.35 K/9, 111/30 K:BB, 6 HRA, 12 QS
Justin Verlander - 110.2 IP, 3.01 ERA, 1.17 WHIP, 5.61 K/9, 69/33 K:BB, 11 HRA, 12 QS
Nate Robertson - 115.1 IP, 3.36 ERA, 1.31 WHIP, 6.09 K/9, 78/41 K:BB, 13 HRA, 11 QS

In my eyes, Bonderman and Verlander have clearly been better than Rogers, and Robertson is pretty debateable. Rogers is the only one that made the All-Star team.

I guess I'm probably starting to sound like a broken record with all of these All-Star complaints, but I guess I just don't understand why a guy that's the 3rd or 4th best starter on his own team is starting in the All-Star game.

Oh wait, I guess I do understand. It's because he's a 'veteran' and has won 11 ballgames.

But hey, at least this time again it 'counts!' Thanks Bud!

Monday, July 10, 2006

Viva Italia!

First off, congrats to the Italians for their World Cup victory in the penalty kick stages.

The game, excellent as it was, will be marred by the Zidane headbutt, which was one of the most shocking things I've seen in all my days watching sports. What was said between Zidane and Matterazi before the headbutt? Well, we might never know exactly, but according to Fox Sports, we have a pretty good idea:'s Jamie Trecker reports that French players told French media members that Materazzi used a racial slur which prompted the headbutt.

Combine the racial slurs with the placement of Matterazi's left hand a little before the headbutt (just watch the video), and we can at least see why Zidane may have done it. Which of course doesn't justify it. No matter the circumstances, you can't headbutt a guy at that stage of the match in the World Cup final... awful, awful play. The one positive from the whole ordeal is this little video:

One final note... I don't know soccer that well, but I know it well enough to say that Marcel Balboa is awful. I mean, I'm not a big fan of Dave O'Brien, but he was passable and he's a soccer n00b from what I understand. But Balboa was terrible. Why couldn't thry have put someone like Tommy Smith in the booth? But I digress.

And so ends the World Cup, which, despite the low goal scoring, was really exciting and fun to watch, even for a guy that is normally a soccer-hate like me. Until the next World Cup, congrats to he World Cup Champions from Italy!

Sunday, July 09, 2006

Looking back: My MLB Predictions

As we approach the halfway point of the year, I thought it might be cool to go back and look at some of the MLB Predictions I made before the season. (my pre-season picks in green)

1. Boston Red Sox
2. NY Yankees
3. Toronto Blue Jays
4. Baltimore Orioles
5. Tampa Bay Devilrays

Hey, a good note to start off on! If only things stayed this well!

1. Cleveland Indians
2. *Minnesota Twins
3. Chicago White Sox
4. Detroit Tigers
5. Kansas City Royals

Well, I may as well have been dead wrong. I thought Detroit could contend for 3rd, but I obviously had no idea they'd be this good this quickly. For the Sox, the offense has been much better than I expected, with Thome and Dye being excellent middle-of-the-order hitters. The Twins are about where I thought they'd be, it's just that Detroit and Chicago have been too good!

1. Oakland Athletics
2. Anaheim Angels (none of that LA crap here)
3. Texas Rangers
4. Seattle Mariners

Oakland is indeed on top like I thought, but I had no idea the Angels would struggle so much. I knew that in the past they were over-reliant on singles hitters, but on paper they looked to have nice talent at the Majors with lots of young, skilled players in the farm to step up if needed, but things obviously haven't worked out quite like that this year. Though I don't feel too bad about it.

EDIT: Although now that I look at the standings, with a couple of good games against Oakland, the Angels are now only 3 games back of Oakland. Baseball is a funny game.

1. New York Mets
2. *Atlanta Braves
3. Philadelphia Phillies
4. Washington Nationals
5. Florida Marlins

Well I was right on with the Mets, and dead wrong with the Braves. It was obvious that Atlanta was slowly becoming less and less talented as the years went on, and eventually they'd have to lose, but I didn't think it'd come this quickly and this harsh. The Marlins are also a little bit of a surprise... they're very young obviously, but the talent is coming along and they're playing some decent baseball.

1. St. Louis Cardinals
2. Chicago Cubs
3. Milwaukee Brewers
4. Houston Astros
5. Pittsburgh Pirates
6. Cincinnati Reds

I don't even know what to make of this division, except that the Cubs were an awful pick. I'm not really sure what the heck I was thinking here. As for the big surprise, the Reds have been very solid. We knew the offense would be there, but raise your hand if you thought Bronson Arroyo would a first-half Cy Young candidate in the NL, and I'll give you a cookie.

1. LA Dodgers
2. San Fransisco Giants
3. San Diego Padres
4. Arizona Diamondbacks
5. Colorado Rockies

This division is a mess, really. I took another look at it in late May, but things haven't really cleared up since then. As of this writing, every team is separated by 5 games or less, with the Padres on top at 47-40, followed by the Dodgers two games back. It's really still too early to tell if my picks were anywhere close to being right, although with the pitching the Pads are showing it doesn't look like they'll fall down to 3rd.

AL MVP: Travis Hafner - the guy can just rake, and he's got a heck of a lineup around him. (Other Votes: Alex Rodriguez, David Ortiz)
NL MVP: Albert Pujols - Has officially replaced Bonds as the best hitter in the game. (Other Votes: David Wright)

Well, Hafner has been the best hitter in the American League so far, but that didn't even net him an All-Star appearance, so I'm not sure what to make of that. As for Pujols, even with the injury, he still looks like the front runner here, with David Wright in there if he falters.

AL Cy Young: Johan Santana - Scary thought, he should be just entering his prime. (Other Votes: Rich Harden, John Lackey)
NL Cy Young: Jake Peavy - Still improving, and plays in great pitcher's park. (Other Votes: Roy Oswalt)

I believe I'm right with Johan, as he's been the most valuable pitcher in the AL so far, but we know how voters are. In the NL, Peavy and his ERA in the mid 4s is not looking like such a good pick, although that race appears to be wide open.

AL Rookie of the Year: Kenji Johima - Generally, older Japanese players fare well. (Other Votes: Fransisco Liriano)
NL Rookie of the Year: Jeremy Hermida - will be batting in Florida. 20/20 potential. (Other Votes: Connor Jackson)

Pretty awful picks by me to end this. Johjima can't even smell the top 3 at this point, and it's basically a pick'em between Liriano, Verlander, and Papelbon (take one guess as to who I'd vote for!). In the NL, Uggla, Fielder and Zimmerman appear to be well above the competition. Hermida has been a disappointment so far, but he's also had injury problems.

How have your picks been?!

Saturday, July 08, 2006

Links for your weekend reading pleasure

With a bit of a calm before the World Cup final on Sunday and the All-Star festivities starting up on Monday, here's some good links for your reading pleasure.

- First from Bill Simmons, one of his annual columns that I enjoy the most... his NBA Trade Value Index... always worth a read.

- Mark Prior offered a two-year extension by the Disabled List. The Onion pretty much rocks my socks off.

- Now this is what the law is all about!

- Nadal vs. Federer. We've been here before.

- So yeah... A.J. Pierzynski? Definitely better than the best hitter in the AL or the AL ERA leader! /sarcasm

- In a slow sports day, here's a list of more boring sports stuff!

- So yeah... I'm pretty glad I took John Lackey in every fantasy league I could, after he was perfect after allowing a leadoff double. 10 Ks, 1 hit, 0 BB. 7-5 with a 2.88 ERA.

Anyway, I apologize if my writing has been spotty lately... I've been real busy with work and just mostly enjoying my summer whenever I can, so I've been kind of lazy. I'll have something that hopefully cool involving the MLB, probably sometime after the ASB, and then as we get closer and closer to the end of summer I might slow down more. And then of course, as I get into the school year, I'll probably have more free time (funny how that works), plus we'll be getting into another high spot of the sports year, where I'll be a little more motivated. So I have that going for me, which is nice.

Until then, don't forget to recycle!

Friday, July 07, 2006

Just read "Ball Four"

Yeah, every other baseball fan on the planet has probably read the book, but I just got around to reading it lately, and am just about to finish, and I couldn't recommend it more highly.

It's been called the best baseball book of all-time, and while I myself am not qualified enough to say whether that's accurate or not, I can say that it's the best baseball book that I've ever read, and one of the best books that I've ever read, period.

If you're not an avid reader, the fact that it's rather long could scare you, but it's all written in short parahraphs, easy to read, funny, and well written. And I think the prevalining thing is that it's just brutally honest. Some guys aren't exactly portrayed well regardless of their talents, but that's part of what makes this book so interesting.

Anyway, on the off chance that someone reading here hasn't read the book, I urge you to go down to your local branch of the public library and pick it up. Amazon has it rated 4.5 starts.

On that note, have you read it and what did you think?

Thursday, July 06, 2006

A Flurry of NBA Moves

Welcome back to everybody, and I hope you all had an excellent 4th of July.

On the NBA front, it’s been an exciting few days, as free agency is starting, and we are getting some moves. I’ll take a look at some of these moves in a basically random matter. For other thoughts on how things are going, check out The Gatorade Dump.

  • First, the biggest deal so far this offseason – Ben Wallace signing with the Chicago Bulls. I’m still not sure exactly how I feel about the deal, as there are positives and negatives for both sides. For the Bulls, they are obviously getting a defensive and rebounding force. Sure, they overpaid a little to get him, but they had the cap room and Big Ben can anchor the D down low, and you know he won’t be intimidated at any times. On the other hand, we have different fingers, and more importantly, Wallace is starting to show his age. He’s 32, and his rebounding and blocking numbers have started to decrease, and he doesn’t quite have the energy he once had.
  • For the Pistons, I’m a little perplexed, because I thought that the reason they gave up a promising young player in Darko for basically nothing was so that they would have the money to resign Big Ben. Instead, they gave him an offer that Chicago was almost sure to beat, and they lost him. Although they did recover to sign Nazr Mohammed, who’s superior offensively, gone are the days the Pistons dominated the game defensively (although those days may have been gone these playoffs). Dyess and Nazr are going to have to log a lot of minutes, and they’ll still have little depth in the front court unless they make some more moves. Reactions from the deal are varied, even among Pistons fans, as some thing Detroit did what they had to do while others are angry at Big Ben. But whatever you want to say about it, one thing is clear: Chicago is a contender in the East.
  • Meanwhile, the Bulls signing of Wallace allowed them to unload Tyson Chandler, which they did to the Hornets for PJ Brown and JR Smith. (officially ending the “Let’s draft a couple of promising high school guys, let them play early and grow together, and hope for the best” Experiment). With Smith they add another guy with the potential to be a big-time player, but one who was in the Hornets doghouse last year. They’ve got young guards (Hinrich, Gordon, Smith), young forwards (Deng, Nocioni, Thomas, Sefalosha), the best defensive Center in the game, and almost certainly a good draft pick next year. It’s a good time to be the Bulls.
  • The other team in the deal, the Hornets, has been doing some good things themselves. Looking at things now, they have one of the top 2 “pure” PG in the NBA, athletic wing players, a deadeye shooter at SF (in Peja), and a young, talented, athletic frontline (David West, Tyson Chandler, Cedric Simmons, Hilton Armstrong). The Western Conference just keeps getting tougher and tougher from top to bottom. The only thing that concerns me about the Hornets' offseason is that they overspent by a lot to get Peja. $65 million over 5 years and he's on the decline? Yikes.
  • In the big trade of the offseason, the Bucks sent PG TJ Ford to the Raptors for Charlie Villanueva. If Ford stays healthy, this is a deal I like for the Raptors. The Raptrs have Chris Bosh and just drafted Andrea Bargnani, and realistically they couldn't play all three. Plus, it's easier to get a combo forward then a PG that can push the ball with vision as good as Ford's (Nash, Kidd, Paul... am I forgetting anyone?) Of course, Ford does have struggles shooting the ball, and Villanueva was pretty darn good last year. Again, it all depends on the if Ford can stay healthy, which is a very large concern, without a doubt.
  • It was a good deal for the Bucks as well. Maurice Williams did a very nice job at PG for the Bucks, and Villanueva will add needed frontcourt scoring to complement Michael Redd and his abilities. With the way the Bulls and Bucks improved, the Central Division could very well be the best in basketball.
Of course, there's other small but important deals (The Paper Clips re-signing Sam I Am and picking up Tim Thomas, the Hawks signing Speedy Claxton, the reports that Dallas traded Marquis Daniels for Austin Croshere, etc.) but I'll stop now. Needless to say, we have plenty of offseason left, my only hope is that by the end of it AI is still with the Sixers. What are the chances there?

Tuesday, July 04, 2006

Happy 4th of July!

I don't know if anyone will actually come to read this on the 4th of July (but if you do, thank you very much!), but well, Happy 4th of July, especially for those in the USA (obviously).

Stay safe, and have a great holiday!

Who should be starting in the All-Star Game: National League

Yesterday you got my AL All-Star Game Starters Picks, so today, you get the National League.


Who it is: Paul Lo Duca
Who it should be: Brian McCann
Why? This one should either be Michael Barrett or Brian McCann, depending on whether you like the guy that has better rate numbers with lowers ABs, or still good numbers with lower ABs. Either way, both players have been better than Lo Duca, who has been exceedingly average this year.

First Base
Who it is: Albert Pujols
Who it should be: Albert Pujols
Why? This one's pretty easy. Even while missing time with injury, Pujols has been so very good that he deserves the nod, and it's not even close.

Second Base
Who it is: Chase Utley
Who it should be: Chase Utley
Why? You could make a case for Uggla, but I'd give the nod to Utley. The rate numbers are actually really close (Utley's OBP is .07 higher, Uggla's SLG is .02 higher), but Utley does have over 40 more Ab than Uggla. So I'd take Utley by a hair over Uggla.

Third Base
Who it is: David Wright
Who it should be: Miguel Cabrera
Why? Realistically, I couldn't argue with Miguel Cabrera, David Wright, or Scott Rolen starting, because all of them have been superb. Cabrera though, has been the best hitter of the 3. He's got the highest average and BB, so his .438 OBP is basically what sets him apart from the other 2 in my mind. Defensively, Rolen is top, followed by Wright and then Cabrera, but I like Cabrera's offensive game enough to put him on top. But I woudln't argue too much if you chose one of the other two.

Who it is: Jose Reyes
Who it should be: Jose Reyes
Why? I think Bill Hall has been better at the plate, but he's not a full-time SS. Edgar Renteria is also having a nice year, but Reyes is more valuable in my mind because he's a very good base stealer and already has 11 triples. Add it all up, Reyes is the best SS in the National League.

Who it is: Jason Bay
Who it should be: Jason Bay
Why? First of all, I have no idea how Jason Bay actually got voted into start playing for the Pirates, but I can't argue with the fans choice. He's got a great eye at the plate, and has 20 HR already. Add it up, and he has the 4th highest OPS among NL OF, and two guys ahead of him plays half their games in Coors Field.

Who it is: Carlos Beltran
Who it should be: Carlos Beltran
Why? Simply put, Beltran has been the class of the NL outfielders so far this year. He's getting on base atr a great rate, he's hitting for a lot of power, and he's playing CF. No-brainer choice, as he's earning that contract he got from the Mets.

Who it is: Alfonso Soriano
Who it should be: Matt Holliday
Why? I'll admit that Soriano is having a much better year than I thought he would have, but he's still not deserving of the start. Sure, Holliday's numbers are inflated a bit by playing in Coors Field, but his .932 OPS on the road is nothing to laugh about. With 15 HR and 28 doubles already this year, he deserves to start in the All-Star game.

Monday, July 03, 2006

Who should be starting in the All-Star Game: American League

And I'm back from my mini-break, fresh with my AL list of who should be starting the All-Star game.

But before I give that, let me say some words. Despite some obviously poor choices at some spots by the fans, I'm ok with the fans voting for the starters. After all, it should be about what the fans want to see. The only problem is that if you do that, you can't have the All-Star game count for anything. Including home-field adantage for the winning team. On one hand, you're sending the message that it's an exhibition by letting the fans vote who they want, but then on the other hand you're making it count for something. You can't have your cake and eat it too.

On another note, I liked the point that Harold Reynolds made on Baseball Tonight... maybe it's time to stop having the managers pick the teams. Let them manage the game (Ozzie earned that right with winning the World Series), but some of the choices are so bad that they really shouldn't be picking the team. /rant

Now let's get on with it. Here's the guys that should be starting at each position:

Who it is: Ivan Rodriguez
Who it should be: Joe Mauer
Why? Ok, I admit that I am unbashed Mauer guy, but really, this one is obvious. I wrote earlier that he's the best catcher in the MLB, and he hasn't really done anything to change my mind. Let me just put it this way, Mauer's Batting AVG is 66 points better than Pudge's OBP. Oh yeah, and he slugs better as well. Not even close.

First Base
Who it is: David Ortiz
Who it should be: Travis Hafner
Why? If you consider David Ortiz a 1B, then so is Hafner. And Hafner has probably been the best hitter in the AL so far this year. Hafner's AVG, OBP, and SLG are all well above Ortiz', and he doesn't even play in a big hitter's park like Fenway. It's a shame when the best hitter in the League doesn't make the All-Star team (barring the 32nd man vote)

Second Base
Who it is: Mark Loretta
Who it should be: Brian Roberts
Why? Well, Roberts has simply been the 2B so far this year in the AL. Of course, he was injured so he doesn't have the AB that some other guys do, and I could certainly buy that argument for not putting him on there. Jose Lopez is slugging a lot better, but Roberts' .378 OBP is tops among 2B in the AL.

Third Base
Who it is: Alex Rodriguez
Who it should be: Alex Rodriguez
Why? You could make a case for Troy Glaus because of the power numbers, but the nod goes to Alex Rodriguez. He's not having quite his normal power year, but he still gets on base at a nice rate, and he plays good defense at the hot corner. The fans got it right here.

Who it is: Derek Jeter
Who it should be: Derek Jeter
Why? I could definitely see an argument for guys like Carlos Guillen or Miguel Tejada (don't look now, but Guillen has the highest OPS of the group), but I'd stick with Jeter. No, he doesn't play good defense, and he hasn't hit for a ton of power, but he does get on base. His .425 OBP is 6th in the American League, which is superb for a SS.

Who it is: Manny Ramirez
Who it should be: Manny Ramirez
Why? Manny's just Manny, which is to say he's been one of the top hitters in the American League this year. He's getting on base at a great clip, and his .621 SLG is 4th in the American League. No, the defense isn't really up to par, but he's been more than good enough at the plate to make up for it.

Who it is: Vladimir Guerrero
Who it should be: Jermaine Dye
Why? Vlad got in strictly on reputation here, because he is not having an All-Star type year (18th in AL in OPS among OF). Meanwhile, Jermaine Dye has been superb for the Sox, as he's 5th in the AL in SLG at .606. He's cranked out 20 HR, his OBP is almost .400, and he's been one of the 3 best OF in the AL so far.

Who it is: Ichiro Suzuki
Who it should be: Vernon Wells
Why? Like Vlad, Ichiro gets in here because of his reputation. He's a great singles hitter and gets on base at a very good rate (and plays great defense), but the power gap between him and a guy like Vernon Wells is too much to ignore. Wells is slugging over 150 points higher than Ichiro, and is playing top notch defense in CF. He deserves the starting nod.

National League tomorrow!