Tuesday, September 30, 2008

The Marlins' Infield (guest piece by Sackett)

The Marlins infield (Mike Jacobs, Dan Uggla, Hanley Ramirez, Jorge Cantu) became the first ever to each hit 25 home runs in a season. If Cantu had hit one more, each would have had at least 30. Ramirez led the team with 33, followed closely by Jacobs and Uggla with 32. That's a total of 126 home runs from the infield alone.

The last team to come close to having an infield belt 25 home runs each was the 2005 Rangers, and they came very close. Michael Young was the only player to not hit 25, and he hit 24. The other members of that infield were Mark Teixeira (43), Alfonso Soriano (36), and Hank Blalock (25), bringing the infield total to 128. (Even more impressive, every starter for that team had a home run total in the double digits, with the least amount being Richard Hidalgo's 16. And Hidalgo only appeared in 88 games!)

To further put into perspective how amazing the Marlins infielders' feat was, the Elias Sports Bureau records that only seven teams since 1876 have had three infielders to crush 25 longballs. Only six infield units, the '08 Marlins and '05 Rangers included, have had all four members hit 20.

Cody Ross (with 22 homers himself) commented last month: "A lot of times, teams will have first basemen or third basemen that hit for power, but to also have a second baseman do what Uggla does and a shortstop do what Hanley does ... it's pretty amazing what they've done."

Sunday, September 28, 2008

"It's time to be a MAN."

That's what Johan Santana wrote in the Mets clubhouse before Saturday's game.

Then, Santana, (who we briefly disparaged here) went out and pitched on short rest after notching his career-high pitch count in his previous start. He threw back-to-back complete games, last night's a shutout. When the Mets needed him with their season on the line, he showed his mettle and (temporarily) saved their season.

Then today, CC Sabathia one-upped him, leaving nothing temporary about his performance.

Sabathia went to the mound for the third consecutive time on three days' rest and threw his MLB-leading 9th complete game, this one also a shutout. The Brew Crew went to the playoffs at the expense of the Mets.

These two just put the exclamation point on our argument from Friday, showing what it really means for a pitcher to go the full nine. Props to Johan, who as we pointed out, could stand to record 27 outs a little more frequently. Dropped jaws to CC, who finished his NL season 10-2 with a 1.65 era and four shutouts.

Here is a measure of awe from their teammates and coaches:

"That was probably the best pitching performance that I've ever been a part of." - David Wright
"To me, if you want my own opinion, it’s the best I’ve seen, given the situation.” - Pedro
"That was serious 'gangsta' right there!" - Jerry Manuel

"CC has the heart of a lion," - Robin Yount.
"That was one of the greatest performances of all time," - Dale Sveum
“The short rest thing is what’s unbelievable. There’s no words for that. It’s a new category for him now. He’s got his own category. It’s not even clutch. It’s just being that dude.” - Prince Fielder

-Agent Easy

Thursday, September 25, 2008

No One Goes Nine Anymore: The Case for Roy Halladay

Cliff Lee, the comeback kid, has been getting press all year long and his Cy Young has long been a foregone conclusion, but now that the season is actually coming to a close he is no longer alone in the Cy Young conversation. We give you, Roy Halladay.

Their numbers, with their respective league ranks in parentheses (a big asterisk)*:

Cliff Lee

22 Wins (1), 2.54 ERA (1), 1.11 WHIP (3), 170 Ks (9), 223.1IP (2), 4 CGs (2)

Roy Halladay
20 Wins (2), 2.78 ERA (2), 1.05 WHIP (1), 206 Ks (3), 246 IP (1), 9 CGs (1)

If we go a step further, and use Bill James' favorite pitching tool, Halladay's SO-BB ratio is 5.29 to Lee's 5.00. Going more Jamesian still, Lee has the higher ERA+, sitting at a league-leading 174. The discrepancy is Halladay's pitcher's park and Lee's hitter's park. A 174 ERA+ would be the highest in the AL in five years, but let's not unfairly penalize Halladay while praising Lee, because his splits bear out that he was unaffected by his supposed home field advantage.

The talk in the NL CY Young race has been about the bullpens, specifically how many wins they've cost Santana and Lincecum. The flip side of that argument, that everyone so conveniently ignores in this age of pitch counts, is that if Santana or Lincecum had the fortitude to regularly go 9 innings, there wouldn't be any whining about bullpens.

This is what the AL Cy Young comes down to. Lee's and Halladay's stat lines are quite similar. Either would be a defensible winner, but the tie breaker should be, has to be, those nine Complete Games staring back at you.

Appropriately, last night, Halladay finished his season with yet another complete game, and it is significant that he now has more than twice that of his nearest competitor, that he is the only pitcher in the league that regularly gives his bullpen a rest, that he gives his entire team a boost of confidence. And no, we do not mean the confidence of "the stopper," no, it's more than that; it's the kind of confidence that the Mets' players, for example, do not get to experience when Santana takes the mound, because they know that once his pitch count starts to approach triple digits he'll be out of the game shortly and thus their bullpen-driven anxiety can never quite subside. And yes, that's why Halladay is carrying that ugly looking "11" in the loss column, because, if you want to get into the numbers of it, he leads the league with 5 "tough losses," defined as losses in Quality Starts.

This is no knock on Lee, because 4 CGs is nothing to sneeze at; it would've lead the NL last year. This is in praise of Roy, of Doc Halladay.

Lee has his own tiebreaker working for him, and that's his story, and since it's writers doing the voting, perhaps that will be the tiebreaker they choose to consider. Or maybe convention will dictate that it's preferable for the Cy Young to have a sexy win-loss record and they'll never even get to the point of considering Doc, but the case can be made, and perhaps they should.

*Yes, Lee could make one more start on Sunday, but for now it's uncertain.

-Agent Easy

Friday, September 12, 2008

Miggy - Johan Update 3: Miggy

Johan was yesterday.
On to the Miguel Cabrera trade.


As mentioned here Cabrera is leading the leage in HRs and RBIs since the all star break. His slow start has been forgotten and now Jim Leyland is comparing him to Pujols and Brandon Inge is calling him a "freak of nature."

Lately he's been playing first base and it looks like he'll stay there for the following season.

Dontrelle Willis has worked his way back from A ball in Lakeland and will get a start or two before the season ends. Though his latest AAA starts were "up and down," Dombrowski and Leyland were sufficiently impressed by his more recent simulated outings.


Among their flurry of September 1 moves, the Fish called up Eulogio De La Cruz, activated Andrew Miller of the DL and moved Mike Rabelo to the 60-day DL.

Prior to going on the DL in July, Miller was starting, but now has been brought back as a reliever. He's working on making his delivery more consistent. He struggled in his first week back.

Cruz had his first major league outing in which he didn't give up a run, but immediately followed it by giving up 6 in 2 IP.

Rabelo is still rehabbing his right wrist that he hurt back in June.

Cameron Maybin has played well all season long, and recently has started walking more and striking out less. He wasn't among the Marlins' four call-ups last week, because Fredi Gonzalez wants to wait until the AA Carolina team finishes their post-season before calling up any of their players.

Dallas Trahern spent the entire season in AAA and his numbers have been mediocre across the board. There is not a bright spot to be found among his splits: day or night, home or away, pre- or post-all star break, his ERA is higher than 5.00 and batters hit better than .300 against him.

Burke Badenhop: After a handful of starts and relief appearance he was sent down to the minors, made two appearances there in July and hasn't been heard from since. The most recent news about him is that he was selected the Tigers' best minor leaguer in 2006.


Howie Kendrick came back from an injured hamstring, had a monster July, came back to earth in August, and hurt it again two weeks ago. The injury is not as severe as the one that kept him out for 40+ games earlier, but apparently hammy pulls dont make for precise healing estimates and the team is waiting it out blindly.

Jeff Mathis had been overshadowed by Mike Napoli, who spent most of the first half mashing, but got a chance to establish himself when Napoli went down. He started 27 of 28 games and was able to show off his "greater all-around game." With Napoli healthy again, they'll continue to platoon.

Now that they've clinched their division, the Angels will be resting their starters. Ervin Santana, for example, will get 7 days off between starts. Santana is still all over the top 10 in every significant pitching category.

Joe Saunders is tied with Santana for the team lead in Wins at 15. He had a rough August, but has started September strong, and is still sporting a 3.64 ERA.

Nick Adenhart is still in the minors and "needs more seasoning."


Matt Kemp: The LA times says, "of the players who have been on the roster all season, none has improved as much as the young Oklahoman." Within the same piece Larry Bowa agrees: "He's way ahead of schedule...Right now, he's at the point I thought he might be in two or three years, that's how much he has improved."

He had a "red hot August," but has now cooled considerably and is 4-25 in September.

Clayton Kershaw pitched well in early August - a run of 5 ER in 5 starts - floundered a bit, and looks to be in the groove again, going 2-0 with a 1.45 ERA in his past five starts.

The Dodgers have been careful to monitor his workload, and only last week they allowed him to work into the 8th inning for the first time all season. Kershaw is not thrilled with the 170 inning cap they've installed, but he's already reached a career high in IP.

Andy LaRoche eventually did get dealt for a slugger, Manny Ramirez. Now in Pittsburgh, he's been disappointing. Jayson Stark reveals that,
"Scouts who have followed the Pirates have been buzzing about Andy LaRoche's lethargic play since he arrived from the Dodgers, who traded him because they had the same concerns. 'To see that effort level is really disappointing," one scout said. 'I'm stunned that the effort level has been so poor. To see a kid hitting .170 and not running ground balls out, it's hard to fathom. This isn't the kind of player this team needs. They need more dirt balls and fire guys who scratch and claw.'"
The perhaps politically inclined writers at mlb.com softly suggest that there's "room for improvement."

He's batting .150 in 33 games for the Pirates, prompting local fans to ask their columnists, "...Did the Bucs even scout Andy LaRoche?"

-Agent Easy

A Replay Flap You Might Have Missed

While the use of instant replay in MLB has raised a lot of controversy this year, the quirks of tennis's "Hawk-Eye" replay system came to the forefront the US Open Final. Hawk-Eye's use in determining whether balls were hit in or out has gotten positive reviews. But a glitch in the system hurt Andy Murray's chances to upset Roger Federer. During a second-set rally in which Murray, down 1-0, had Federer at break point, Federer hit a ball that was incorrectly ruled inside the line.

For Murray to have challenged the call, he would have had to stop playing the point - players can only challenge the last hit of the rally - which would have been a huge gamble for a call that was close enough for the line judge to have missed. Instead Murray played out the point and Federer won, going on to avoid the break and, eventually, narrowly winning the set. The fact that Murray couldn't challenge the call after playing out the point may have made the difference between he and Federer being tied 1-1, instead of Federer escaping with a basically insurmountable 2-0 lead.


Thursday, September 11, 2008

Johan - Miggy Part 3: Santana

We're still following all of the players involved in the Miggy and Johan trades and trade talks. This is part 3. A refresher on the whos and the whys: parts 1 and 2.


Santana is having his typically filthy second half: he's won his last 6 decisions and hasn't given up more than 3 runs since July 17.

The Mets pitchers (Wagner, Maine) are dropping like flies, and last year's collapse is still fresh on everyone's mind, so he has that much less room for error.

Hopefully the Mets offense continues to provide sufficient run support, and the wins continue to suppress the bickering. To wit: The NY Post at the end of June:

At least one person in the Mets' clubhouse didn't appreciate Johan Santana pointing the blame at teammates for not scoring enough runs in the four straight decisions the ace left-hander has lost.

Posted anonymously inside the clubhouse was this saying: "Rare is the person who can weigh the faults of others without putting his thumb on the scales."


Carlos Gomez has struggled at the plate, but that hasn't mattered much to his manager. Gardenhire's season-long theme regarding Gomez continues:
"He's exciting," Gardenhire said. "Guys are into it. When he's all over the field like he usually is, the other team they see what we're trying to do here and it affects them. They have to start getting the ball in quicker. And that's what it is all about."

"I'm not saying other guys aren't bringing that energy to the table, but there is something different about that young man that he does," Gardenhire said. "He's got a little charisma."
For the Sabermaticians out there who might snicker at the above praise for intangibles, the Jamesian "Zone Rating" and "Range Factor" both show Gomez to be the top defensive CF in all of baseball.

Phil Humber was the only one of the rest of the batch to get a September call-up. He made his Twins debut last week and gave up 1 run in 2/3 IP of mop-up duty.

Deolis Guerra is still a typical 19 year-old developing in A ball. He can throw 95, but is reworking his arm angle.

Kevin Mulvey has been in AAA all year. He's lowered his ERA in three consecutive months, finishing his August 3-1 with a 3.41 ERA and healthy 8 K/9. Considering that the Twins' bullpen is struggling maybe Mulvey might get a call to contibute in these next couple weeks. Then again, per CBA rules, as a 2006 draft pick out of college, Mulvey isn't required to be added to the 40 man roster until after the 2009 season, so maybe the frugal Twins will elect to keep him from arbitration that one extra year.

Red Sox

After his hot start, Jacoby Ellsbury has definitely been slowed in the second half, not surprising, considering it's his first full season in the bigs. He missed a few games in August with a sore wrist and now it looks like he might miss a few more because of his ailing quad. Regardless, he remains valued for his speed, toughness, and hustle. He still leads the league in Stolen Bases.

Clay Buchholz toiled in the minors for a while, working out injuries and technique, then got called up for a month, only to be sent right back down.

Jon Lester is 14-5, with a 3.23ERA, the latter good for 4th in the league.

The guys at Sports Lounge said it well:
Lester has become everything Buchholz was expected to be, but with a little less hype. He’s been nothing short of spectacular this season, leading Red Sox in innings pitched (167.2) and ERA (3.17). Since Buchholz’s no-hitter on September 1st of last year, Lester has won Game 4 of last year’s Fall Classic, pitched his own no-hitter, and become Boston’s solid number three starter behind Beckett and Dice-K . Dice-K has been terrific this season; he and Lester are the sole reasons the starting rotation has put Boston at the top of the wildcard standings.
Lester said after his last win,
“I think I’m more consistent with my mechanics, that’s making me stronger,” Lester said. “I don’t have to use as much energy, wasted energy, as before. Now it just seems that I’m more efficient and I’m consistent with what I’m trying to do, so I’m not wasting energy on bad thoughts or anything like that."

Phil Hughes spends most of the season on the DL with broken ribs and then rehabbing in the minors. It looks like he's finally healthy and doing well.

Melky Cabrera was playing so poorly (.242/.296/.337 thru 117 games) that he was sent down August 15. Now that Bobby Abreu will miss a few games with a hurt wrist, he'll have another chance, but has "much to prove."

The Miguel Cabrera Trade coming tommorrow

-Agent Easy

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Late Season Surges

The national stories of the past week had been the Rays' swoon and Yanks sinking back to fourth in the East, but the flip side of those stories was that it was the Jays, sweping the Rays, and surging past the Yanks into third place in the Wild Card race. Toronto's 10-game winning streak is the longest current one in the majors.

That rank is a bit deceptive because they're still seven games back of that Wild Card, trailing both Boston and Minnesota, but their recent run has been cause enough for Boston headlines like this.

They're doing it with their bullpen (4 out of those 10 wins) which remains fresh and effective because they get to rest every fifth day when Roy Halladay takes the mound (league leader in IP, CGs), spot starters you've never heard of and a little of the Cito Gaston magic.

As much as they're not in the playoff conversation just yet, they're on the cusp, and they play Boston 10 more times, so at least they control their own destiny.

The Jays' late-closing counterparts in the NL perhaps make a better case to be included in the playoff talks.

Houston is 9-1 in their last 10 and owns the best second half record at 34-16. They are only four games back of the Wild Card, though this too is slightly deceptive as they still have 3 teams to leapfrog in St. Louis, Philadelphia, and Milwaukee.

They first got hot in early August as Carlos Lee went on an RBI tear before breaking his hand and wrist. Without missing a beat Ty Wigginton stepped in led the majors in HRs and Slugging for the month. Then he went down with a groin pull and the 'Stros have won three in a row since. Roy Oswalt is 8-1 since the break and Ed Wade's mid-season pickups Randy Wolf and LaTroy Hawkins have a combined 2.95 ERA since joining the team. Wolf has gone 4-1 as a starter and Hawkins has become the primary set-up man (9 holds).

They control their destiny a bit less that the Jays because they don't play any of the teams ahead of them in the standings, but instead, they might have something better going for them: an easy schedule. They see the Pirates twice and play series each against Cincy and Atlanta. Their only tough matchup, the slumping Cubs, they get at home.

To reiterate, we're not trumpeting either of these teams as playoff-bound. We're just pointing out that they're creeping in that direction. Think of them as the Rockies and Phillies of last season.

Some 2nd half statistical leaders:
AL HRs, RBIs: Miguel Cabrera
AL OPS: Melvin Mora
AL Wins, ERA: Cliff Lee
NL HRs, RBIs: Carlos Delgado
NL OPS: Manny Ramirez
NL Wins, ERA: CC Sabathia

-Agent Easy