Saturday, October 25, 2003

Peterson, Minaya Close 

A number of local papers today reported that the Oakland A's have finally granted unconditional permission to the Mets to speak with pitching coach/God Rick Peterson. Insiders expect that a deal could be consummated within days and an announcement can be expected shortly after the World Series. Peterson is a native of New Brunswick, New Jersey, and currently lives in Wall, NJ with his wife and three sons. (mets.com)

Insiders (the same ones?) also say that Omar Minaya is close to accepting an executive scouting position with the Mets similar to that of Gene "Stick" Michael with the Yankees. One report says that the Mets might be willing to offer Minaya a higher salary to compensate for slightly lesser authority. An announcement on this is expected next week as well, possibly in tandem with the Peterson hiring. Minaya grew up in Queens and currently lives in the great state of NJ.

Friday, October 24, 2003

Another day, another lackluster Yankee performance in the aught-three World Series. David Wells was back at the team hotel bar just in time for happy hour, having thrown only eight pitches in a 1-2-3 first inning.

It's entirely possble that Mr. Conditioning Program has thrown his last pitch as a major leaguer. He's clearly neither a "gamer" nor a "team player", a far cry from the David Cone's that the late-90's Yanks used to run out there. Sadly, though, he seems to be somewhat representative of the general malaise that has befallen the Yankees this season. That's not to say that they won't squeeze two more W's out of this now-seemingly-emfeebled roster. Regardless, you can expect wholesale changes in Yankeeville this off-season.

Back to the game. Of late, the Evil's have at least been able to rely on Jose Contreras for one inning of lights-out pitching, followed by one or more innings of Jeff D'Amico-style batting practice. No such luck this time, as BP came early with the Marlins putting a three-spot on the board in the second inning.

I actually slept through the first 6+ innings of the game, saving my strength for the seemingly-inevitable Marlin late-inning collapse that never was. Oh, how they tried, though. I nearly crapped myself when Bernie Williams hit that 2-1 pitch off of U3. But alas, he only had warning track power, with the ball falling safely (safe for everyone but my undershorts) into the waiting glove of Juan Encarnacion. A beauty of a pick by Derrek Lee, and the Marlins are up three-games-to-two. So, despite their best efforts, the Marlins were unable to hand this one over to the Pinstripes; Unable to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory.

Josh Beckett was just recently announced as the Marlins' Game 6 starter, in a move that will draw plenty of criticism, both now and if the Marlins lose both games at the Stadium. Anything is a better idea than carting Mark Redman's 6.50 postseason ERA out there. He of the 1.89 WHIP and 10/9 K/BB ratio.

I don't want to read too much into it, but Mr. Swing-at-Anything's inning of work in right field last night moved him that much closer to being out of the stadium altogether. If you believe everything you read in the papers (which I do), the writing is already on the wall concerning Soriano's future with the Yankees. Whether they will be willing to toss aside his considerable production the past two seasons in the face of incomparable free-swingingness, that's anybody's guess.

Signing off, I am Sheldon...

Thursday, October 23, 2003

Rob Neyer has written another great article about clutch hitting or, rather, the misconception that "great clutch hitters" actually exist outside the realm of "great hitters". That is to say, hitters who are otherwise not much with the stick who magically become rakers when batting in "clutch situations" (deemed by the Elias Sports Bureau to be any at-bat after the sixth inning with your team trailing by no-more-than three runs), aka LIPS (Late Inning Pressure Situations).

I won't attempt to reiterate what Rob has already said better than I could hope to, so I'll just let you read his articles. Needless to say, if you've watched any of the World Series thus far, you've undoubtedly heard the likes of Tim McCarver and Joe Morgan (aka Tweedledee and Tweedledum) ramble on about how such-and such is a great clutch hitter, and how whats-his-name really steps it up in October. It's hogwash, the whole lot.

Much the same way I went to sleep after the Yankees tied game 7 of the ALCS, I got my nap on after the top-o-the-ninth last night when U3 blew a two-run-lead on a pinch-hit triple by major-league-retread Ruben Sierra (whom Jon Miller has taken to calling ru-BEN, placing the emphasis on the BEN instead of the RU). I resigned myself to another Yankee world series victory, acknowledging that these are games that the Yanks always win. Much to my surprise, I awoke Christmas morning to find that the mighty fish (or as old-man-Gammons calls them the Phish, aka the yerk-toting frisbee-chucking cheeba-monkeys) had pulled it out. A-Gonz The Younger's turn as Aaron Boone's national league human-out-maker counterpart came to a (temporary) halt when he launched that liner over the short wall in left-field. It reminded me a lot of Mr. McGwire's #62 in '98, just clearing the fence at Busch Stadium. Regardless, Jeff Weaver is once again the loneliest Who in Whoville, assuredly banished to Joe Torre's doghouse.

I'm beginning to think this blogging would go a lot faster if I didn't have a link on every third word. Nevertheless, I think Game 5 is a pretty big one for Florida. Aside from facing the prospects of having to win Games 6 and 7 at Yankee Stadium, they would have to put up a decent effort against Andy Pettitte, which has been easier said than done this postseason. I think they can definitely get to David Wells, and a Josh Beckett/Mike Mussina Game 7 will be a crapshoot regardless. Bottom line: I think the Marlins have a pretty decent shot at not becoming Victim #27. By decent, I think probably 3:1 or 4:1.

Either way, I'm just hoping for a great three games (and by "great three games" I mean "Marlins in 7").

Wednesday, October 22, 2003

The Great Giambino Or: Why Joe Torre Is The Most Overrated Manager In Baseball 

Okay, so I threw that last part in there just to get a rise out of Yankee fans. I'm of the belief that field managers are generally given too much of the credit when a team succeeds and too much of the blame when a team fails. I write this as David Cassidy unmercifully butchers God Bless America during game 3 of the World Series.

When Joe Torre announced that Jason Giambi will be playing first base in lieu of Nick Johnson for the games in Florida, I decided to do a little (read: very little) research as to whether or not this was a wise idea. In the process, I stumbled upon the following: Jason Giambi is a beast. You may be saying to yourself, "Of course he's a beast. That's why they're paying him roughly the GDP of Peru for his services over the next five seasons (plus the last two). Tell me something I don't know?" Okay. Take the first-baseman's glove away from Giambi and he becomes almost pedestrian at the plate. There may be some circumstances I'm not privy to (injury, protein deposit, etc.), but the following statistics are pretty staggering:

1B 348/491/678 with 118/75 and 62 xbh (38) in 422ab
DH 259/396/506 with 18/20 and 11 xbh (5) in 85ab

1B 346/482/652 with 117/74 and 75 xbh (32) in 462ab
DH 316/443/737 with 12/9 and 12 xbh (6) in 57ab

1B 344/461/674 with 68/60 and 50 xbh (29) in 331ab
DH 271/397/489 with 41/52 and 26 xbh (12) in 229ab

1B 277/441/592 with 78/79 and 42 xbh (25) in 292ab
DH 220/377/452 with 51/60 and 24 xbh (16) in 241ab

I included 2001 and 2002 stats for completeness, but the small sample size doesn't really lend itself well to cogent analysis. So, we'll focus on the past two seasons with the Yanks.

Okay, so his 886 OPS as a DH in 2002 is hardly pedestrian (it would have only trailed Bernabe Williams' 908). However, it was nigh 250 points lower than when he played 1B, with much of the dropoff attributed to his decreased SLG. In 2003, Giambi put up an 829 OPS, or a hot-streak better than Mo Vaughn's 805. Let's take a look at his RC/27 for his positional split this season:

I didn't have exact splits for GIDP, SF, SH, and IBB, so I took his totals in those categories and DIV'd them (to get whole numbers) based on the percentage of at-bats (53% for 1B, 47% for DH).

2003 Giambi as 1B: 10.46 RC/27
2003 Giambi as DH: 6.27 RC/27

For those who are unfamiliar with this particular metric, it attempts to predict the number of runs that a team full of Giambis would score in a nine-inning game, or 27 outs. As you can see, Giambi-1B would score a ludicrous number of runs, with Giambi-DH putting up merely ridiculous numbers. To put this in perspective, a team made up of nine Giambi-1Bs would score 1694 runs, while a team of Giambi-DHs would score 1015 runs. The American League record is 1067, set by the 1931 Yankees.

As for Nick Johnson, I am not going to go into the nitty-gritty, but his 2003 splits look like this:

1B 286/425/488 with 47/36 and 23 xbh (10) in 213ab
DH 284/422/450 with 23/21 and 10 xbh (4) in 109ab

Nick's splits are more symmetrical. The Yankees are fortunate to be playing in the American League, where they can take advantage of both of these great hitters. They were both in the Top-10 in the AL in EqA, with Johnson coming in 9th and the Giambino nestled in the 4-spot, behind A-Rod, Carlos Delgado, and M-Ram. If there were some way to play Nick Johnson at third base and sit Aaron Boone's carcass on the bench for the next three (now two) games, I would probably do it.

So, was playing Nick Johnson at 1B while DH'ing The Great Giambino a smart move? It doesn't look like it from where we're (I'm?) standing. Unless George Steinbrenner is filling out the lineup cards, this particular blunder is all on Clueless Joe. Of course, with the Yanks two wins from yet-another World Series title, the point may be moot. It's something to think about going into next season, however, because after the Yankees trade for Carlos Beltran and sign Vladimir Guerrero, Joe Torre will have some serious lineup-gridlock to diffuse. We all wish we had such problems.

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