Thursday, April 20, 2006
Lost In a Sea of Double Plays
You can look at all these double plays in a positive or negative light.
Positive: The Giants are putting a lot of runners on base, but they're just not having any success getting them in. The law of averages would seem to dictates that at some point all those groundballs will start to find holes and these runners will start to find home plate.
Negative: It's all just a sign of a bad offense. Hell, what does it matter how many runners get on when you have undisciplined, slow-as-molasses hitters like Pedro Feliz and Mike Matheny out there trying to get runs home?
I fall kind of on the in-between. I've always been of the belief that managers irrationally fall all over themselves trying to avoid the double play, and in doing so often times kill rallies. Fear of the double play is what has managers bunting good hitters in the late innings, thinking that one out is better than two, even though they are actually decreasing their chances of scoring. I remember Phil Garner bunting Morgan Ensberg, a guy who had hit 36 homers, in a key situation in the World Series last year.
Think about this situation: eighth inning, tie game, runners on first and second with nobody out. The instinct is to bunt, to get the runner to third to set up a sac fly, and also to avoid a double play. Let's assume the hitter coming up is not particularly good. Heck, let's assume he flat out sucks, that he's Pedro Feliz.
Last year Feliz grounded into 20 double plays in 569 at-bats, which is actually quite a bit. Well, far be it from me to actually defend poor Pedro here, but he also hit 20 homers, smacked 142 hits, and even drew 38 walks. Pedro in 2005 came up to the plate 283 times with runners on base last year, and he had 62 hits in those situations. The probability of him getting a hit is more than twice that of him grounding into a double play. Now assume we have a hitter who is even marginally better than Pedro (and there are many), and the ratio of good thing to double play rises even higher.
We can all agree that double plays are killers, but they're blown wildly out of proportion. Yet everybody frets over them, to an silly point. When the chances of a hit happening are so much higher than a double play, why give up an out that could help end a rally? It's like cancelling a trip to the beach for fear of a tidal wave. Your chances of having a great time are much higher than the chances of being killed by a tsunami.
However, and this is a big "however", the Giants do still have those bad hitters infecting the batting order. The double plays may dry up at some point, but with Feliz, Matheny, et al., they'll probably just turn into strikeouts or weak pop ups. It all goes back to doing the research, finding actual hitting talent instead of hiding behind some coats and hoping everything will turn out okay.
When the Giants could have gone out looking for decent corner infield bats, they stayed with Feliz and Lance Neikro. If Brian Sabean and co. are surprised with the meager results so far, they should be fired. The top of the order hitters like Winn, Vizquel, Alou (when he's in there), and even Bonds (his hitting sucks, but he's still getting on base a lot) have done their jobs, but the other guys, mostly at the bottom of the order, haven't come through, and that's where these double plays are coming from.
If that rant had any coherence, it's the upset of the night. Here are some thoughts about tonight's game.
-I remember DBacks starter Claudio Vargas shutting down the Giants in one start in 2003 when he was an Expo (a year the Expos inexplicably owned the Giants, beating them 7-0 in the season series). Due solely to the memory of that start, I've always regarded Vargas as a good pitcher. However, looking at his career stats, that game may have been the highlight of his career.
374 innings pitched in the majors, 4.96 ERA, 1.45 WHIP and 69 home runs allowed. That ain't good. He's a good bet to have a career as fifth starter/cannon fodder material for bad teams, but I have this sick feeling the Giants will find a way to make him look like Pedro Martinez.
-Tyler Walker's ERA: 15.19. Hey, at least he's got it below the drinking age. When it gets to the point where I think I could probably be a more effective pitcher than Walker by going out there and throwing nothing but crappy circle changes, maybe it's time for the Giants to part ways. The Merkin Valdez Era is hopefully right around the corner.
-Not to discriminate, though, as I have to mention that Jack Taschner is sporting a sexy 34 ERA, and Scott Munter has a lovely 2.65 WHIP. Was that me who called this Giants bullpen a possible strength? Surely you jest.
-We need Noah Lowry back now. Not only because his pitching would help, but because he's probably the fifth best hitter on the team at this point.
-Play Todd Greene!!!
-And because I can't let you go without showing an arbitrary and completely pointless picture:
Not the most dignified way to cash it in.
Wednesday, April 19, 2006
No Stirring Comeback This Time
Once again, the Giants got a lead but quickly coughed it up. I didn't see any of the early parts of the game, so I don't know if Morris was getting tatooed or duckfarted around the diamond. Uusally when you give up seven runs, though, they ain't duckfarts.
Tonight, the Dbacks throw Brandon Webb out to the mound. Webb is a guy who always worries me. He has maybe the heaviest sinker in the league and is just impossible to take yard, so you're basically forced to single him to death. He doesn't walk too many players anymore, either, so he's not beating himself like he did in 2004. His Baseball Reference sponsor calls him "one of the best kept secrets in baseball." I'd have to agree. He's a filthy man out there on the mound.
Matt Cain goes for the Giants tonight, and I worry about his fly ball tendencies in the Chase*. He's done well enough in his first two starts, and his stuff has looked nasty, but he's been prone to the mistake pitch, which could be killer in the thin desert air. If the Giants can get past Webb tonight, they go against a scrubeenee in Claudio Vargas tomorrow with a good chance to win three of four. But I guess we shouldn't get ahead of ourselves. I did expect a Giants win last night against Ortiz, so nothing comes easy.
*Seriously, Chase Field? I know Bank One Ballpark was one of those hideous corporate names, but at least The BOB had a little ring to it. Chase Field is a little more fan friendly I guess, but there's none of that sense that you're going to the park to visit that jovial uncle. It's going to take some time to get used to this.
-And as if you weren't sick enough of my own shameless plugging of my work for my school paper, here's another piece I did on the baseball team's top starting pitcher, who I oddly haven't even seen pitch yet. It's another puff piece, of course, so I couldn't point out that this guy's K/BB ratio is nearly 1:1 and thus he's due for a letdown. Gotta keep those sources friendly, don'tcha know?
-Just for the hell of it, I did a Google image search for "give em some stankeye", and the results were bizarre but not totally unexpected. If you type in those words you get Christopher Walken looking haggard in The Prophecy, and Sideshow Bob ("No, that's german for 'The Bart, the'."). I'd expect Monica Belucci or Hans Moleman to pop up, but what are you going to do?
Tuesday, April 18, 2006
A Great Win in the Dunes
As Duane Kuiper was saying on the KNBR post-game wrap, if the Giants had lost the game, it would have been brutal just because of the fashion in which they squandered it. Losing a game 9-7 after you're down like 9-0 early is one that you can probably bounce back from without too much trouble, but giving up a 7-0 lead and losing, as Krukow put it, "sucks".
Randy Winn had his first cycle-threatening game of the season, something which he seemed to have like twice a week in the last two months of last year. After a slow start we're starting to see the Randy we know and love, and he continues to bizzown the DBacks. Yes, not just own, but bizzown. I loved his hustle around the bases to score when Shawn Green was treating his double like a rabid porcupine.
I think that's about all I want to see of Jeff Fassero starting. Yeah, he gave us basically what was expected of him, but every inning was excruciating, with runners all over the bases. He was lucky he even made it to the fourth inning. He had a larger contribution on offense than on the mound. And the less said about Tyler Walker, the better. When he takes the mound, he might as well attach a gas can to his belt for symbolic value. I'm still willing to give Jack Taschner a little more time, but my patience is waning, and Jim Poole/Alvin Morman-land is starting to open its gates.
Mike Matheny dropping down a bunt in the ninth inning was one of the most inexplicably brilliant plays I've seen. I had just always assumed that Matheny regarded a bat as some sort of strange alien artifact, so the fact that he had the smarts to drop a bunt, when the entire ballpark was expecting him to be hacking away, caught me by surprise. No one looks for a bunt in that situation from a catcher who is as slow as Starr Jones running into a crosswind. Hey, it looks like a line drive in the box score, and Matheny is slowly climbing his way to the point where I might stop harassing his punchless bat so much.
No such luck for poor Pedro, though, who is just completely worthless at the plate. I must say, though, that his glove sure is sweet. If the Giants can find a good lefty hitter who can man third base in a platoon, I'd likely get off Feliz's back a little. But please, not Vizcaino.
Russ Ortiz goes tonight against Matt Morris, a matchup I love for the Giants. Ortiz's 4 year, $32 million contract was a disaster for all involved. It was questionable for Ortiz because he's a fly ball pitcher who walks a lot of guys and a lot of his success came from pitching in pitcher-friendly ballparks, and stupid on the part of the DBacks for not realizing all this.
A little math for y'all: Ortiz+his usual penchant for issuing walks+thin desert air=we're on an express elevator to hell...going down! The Giants have beaten Ortiz like an Irishman in Springfield since he left in 2003, so if they can just be patient and let him walk the bases loaded like he always does, they should batter him.
Of course, if Feliz is in the lineup expect the usual pop ups on first pitch sliders.
Random Stankeye Stuff
-Ok, now we know why the Nationals suck so bad. This explains everything.
-I'm sitting in my school' s computer lab and I see a girl who looks exactly like Charles Grodin. How weird is that? If I go up and start reciting Deniro lines about being sexually attracted to chickens, do you think we could get a whole Midnight Run dialogue going? I'll be Farina, constantly telling the bookman guy from Seinfeld to go grab himself a cream soda.
-Last but not least, Bob Dylan, eat your heart out...
Monday, April 17, 2006
What Was I Saying Again...
As for the Giants, there are a lot of problems with this team, but they're 7-4, so they're still coming out ahead, meaning that if they can get the offensive problems ironed out, they could be really good. Speaking of which, that offense is just brutal. You have Vizquel and Winn doing all right, and Alou is good when he's healthy, but after that it just falls off a cliff. Bonds and Durham will come around in time, but I'm not sure how the Giants are going to score enough runs with a 6-7-8 slot that is so horrible. Granted, Feliz, et al, will come off the interstate at some point, but even so, there are going to be a lot of unproductive, low-pitch at-bats coming from the bottom of the order.
The way the Giants got their runs last night, on a balk and a seeing-eye single by Durham, is the kind of fugly rallying the offense has been so adept at this season. They've been relying a lot on the opponent giving away runs, and it's got to stop. As the season wears on, these kinds of gift runs are going to stop coming, so the offense needs to kick it in gear fairly soon. I am at the point where I wouldn't mind seeing Mark Sweeney get the majority of the at-bats against righties (yeah, yeah, call me impatient).
Brad Hennessey was great yesterday, but it was the kind of low-strikeout performance that usually doesn't repeat itself the second time around. If some of those grounders find holes and those fly balls go over the fence, it could get ugly. Hennessey has to have a flawless defense to have that much success on a consistent basis. But I guess that's what Omar Vizquel is for, and his pickoff of Cody Ross at third in the sixth inning last night was the kind of artistry he's getting paid the big bucks for. There aren't many players who would have the heads-up to make that play.
I know there were some Giants fans grinning when Jeff Kent got nailed, but that was plain nasty. As much as beanball can be fun, you hate to see guys getting hit in the head and whatnot. Plus, even though he's a jerk and he makes Giants fans want to tear off and stomp on his pornstache, I have a hard time hating Kent because of what he did as a Giant. Of course, when Bonds got plunked, I wanted Tim Hamulack's head on a platter, so sauce for the goose, Mr. Saavik, sauce for the goose.
Due to the rainouts, the Giants have to go with a sixth starter for tonight's game, and that man is none other than UAC-excavated relic Jeff Fassero (kewpie doll to whoever gets that reference), which could mean we're in for a good ol' sandlot game tonight. There's no better place (other than Coors Field) to re-energize a laboring offense than Bank One...er, Chase Field. The Giants always have good success in Arizona, so hopefully the winning ways will continue. As an added treat, the Giants also get to tee off on former SF fan fave-turned-overpaid cannon fodder Russ Ortiz tomorrow, so we have that to look forward to.
-Here's more plugging of my baseball beat writing work for my school newspaper, this time of last Friday's game, which Sac State won. Thanks to this interminably rainy weather, I finally, finally got to cover a game in the sunshine, and when the sun comes out so, inevitably, do the hotties. As more and more pretty girls start sitting in the stands and the skirts start to get shorter, it's becoming increasingly difficult to focus on the game at hand. I'm now convinced that staring at hotties at collegiate sporting events is the number one killer of all budding sportswriting careers. Remember what Crash Davis said about the "Bermuda Triangle" in Bull Durham? Truer words have never been spoken. I can feel the pull.
Seriously, my eyes were roaming the bleachers more often than the baseball field, and half the time I was finding some excuse to wander down to the concession stand to oogle some hot chick from San Jose. There are times when I've watched the Hornets play and wished that I hadn't given up so easily at baseball and could be out there playing, but at this point I was more into playing the field than playing on it. At the Thursday game (which I didn't report on), I successfully juggled the amazing trifecta of watching the Sac State game, scoping out cleavage, and listening to the Giants-Astros game on the radio. That, my friends, is talent.
There's also the added excitement of the crazy people sprinkled here and there in the stands. Some guy was sitting a few rows behind me Friday, doing play-by-play of the game, out loud into what I assumed was a phone to a buddy or something. When I snuck a peek back, I found that there was no phone or radio; he was just a weirdo doing color commentary into his Pepsi bottle. A few innings later he wandered away, perhaps to be the Jon Miller of the softball game being played on the adjacent field.
I'll be back Thursday afternoon to cover the game again. Weather reports: sunny. Gigitty.
Saturday, April 15, 2006
"That's the Way To Set Attendance Records. Start Suitin' Up the Dead Guys."
I had this icky feeling all night that the Giants were going to find a way to blow last night's game, even when they took the lead in the ninth. Close game, Jamey Wright on the mound? Ummmm... To his credit, Wright dealt for eight innings. His breaking pitches had good life and he made only one mistake all night, that 0-2 meat fastball to Kent. Maybe I was wrong about Wright. Maybe he does have something in him after all. Frankly, I would have trotted him out there for the ninth inning last night the way he was going.
You've gotta love games that go into the wee hours of the night. There's nothing like kicking back with all the lights out and watching the Giants win as the eyelids get heavy. Official Stankeye Player of the Year, Randy Winn smoked his first home run of the season, and it was the freaking Dodgers, so a great win. Two more, please.
The botched rally in the seventh inning featured one of the most blatant examples of managerial idiocy that you'll ever see. With runners on first and second for the Giants and nobody out, Ray Durham went up inexplicably trying to bunt and struck out. Krukow was saying that Durham might have been bunting on his own, but whatever the case, this was inexcusable. Durham is one of the team's best hitters, you don't make him purposely give himself up in that situation. The equation is simple: Durham=good, Neikro (on deck)=not so good. You let your good hitters decide games for you. As it was, it turned into a totally wasted out. Thankfully, the Giants won, but this is a great way to lose future tight games.
As for Ricky Ledee, what the hell is with this guy? He exists simply to abuse the Giants. Even when the Giants pitch him well, he somehow turns a horrible jam shot swing into a double. He's had infinitely better production as a Dodger against the Giants than he did in his horrid two months with the orange and black. Hate him. Just hate him.
No, we won't have the opportunity (yet) to see the Giants kick Brett Tomko's ass, but I did have a great laugh at this.
And I just thought I'd add that Pedro Feliz is still an unmitigated mess at the plate. I never thought I'd advocate Jose Vizcaino as a starting third baseman, but any more of these first pitch pop outs and I'm going to start a movement.
-If there's a random one-percenter reference that I'm not beating into the ground, I feel that I'm not doing my job. When news came recently that he won a lawsuit against some schoolmates, the strange plight of Star Wars Kid suddenly came back to my consciousness. This whole phenomenon was huge in the summer of 2003, and I've rarely laughed harder than I did when I first saw the video of that kid waving at imaginary storm troopers with sweaty fervor. Since irritating my reading audience with stupid references like this is my specialty, expect many, many more mentions of SWK on Stankeye, right up there with Hans Moleman and Boss Hogg.
Thursday, April 13, 2006
Barry Bonds hit two warning track shots, one of which would have been out in just about any other ballpark. He did rope a long single off the right field wall in the seventh inning, and it looks like his swing is starting to come around. I have to add, that even with his struggles at the plate, Bonds's OBP is .500, so he's still contributing just by standing in the batters box scaring the crap out of pitchers.
Ray Durham had two hits in the game, so hopefully he's breaking out of his little slide. Omar Vizquel continues to hit well, Moises Alou has been the Giants' best hitter so far, and Mike Matheny continues to be unequivocally horrible. At least we don't have to witness his hapless flailing in the nightcap. Speaking of which...
Here's the lineup for the second game:
No Bonds, unsurprisingly, but also no Vizquel or Alou. Feliz in the fifth hole with Sweeney and Vizcaino also in the lineup against Roy Oswalt? This could be a looooong night. At least Felipe had the foresight to put in the catcher who can hit.
You have no idea how disappointed I am the the Giants will not face Brett Tomko this weekend in LA with a chance to pummel his sorry ass all over Chavez Ravine. If I were to revise my Stankeye Top 10 Most Hated List, Tomko would be right up there threatening to unseat Neifi. I just despise this guy. He' s barely been a Dodger for three months and already he's talking crap like he's Curt Schilling or something. Brett, until you can go two starts without blaming your awful pitching on your teammates, just shut up.
Oh, and the Dodgers are now 5-5 and couldn't even win a series against the freaking Pirates, so that whole franchise can pretty much kiss the fattest part of my ass.
Apparently Dick Cheney was booed loudly when he threw out the ceremonial first pitch of the Nationals' home opener the other day. I guess there's hope for this country yet.
And is it too much to ask for the Giants to replace Lou Seal with something like this:
Tuesday, April 11, 2006
Kick Some Astros
I often get depressed seeing the various Felizes and Mathenii in the Giants' lineup, but looking at the Astros I feel a lot better. If I had to root for a team tossing Wily Taveras, Adam Everett, Brad Ausmus, and the corpse of Craig Biggio out there and hoping to score runs, I'd just flat out off myself right then and there. I'll be frank, if the Giants can't win two out of three I'll be extremely disappointed. The success over the Braves has me overconfident. Dammit, if they can't beat a pansy-ass Houston lineup at home, how did they beat Atlanta two of three?
-A lot of people are worrying about Barry Bonds. No, he doesn't look good. Yes, that knee looks like it's bothering him. Yes, the steroid mongers are slobbering at every struggle he has. All I have to say is, it's early, let's not get too worked up. We've seen Bonds go through rough stretches before, then suddenly break out and start launching broken bat homers off of Josh Beckett-types. Give the guy some time, and I'm sure it'll turn out all right. Even now, his ability to get on base every other plate appearance is an enormous asset.
-This weekend the Giants set a record by having the oldest starting outfield ever. As good as Bonds/Finley/Alou might be, do we really want to be associated with this kind of thing? Think of the jokes. When the Giants go into opposing ballparks, they'll be fodder for fans yelling out On Golden Pond references. "Do you want to play ball, or do you want to just suck face?" Hell, if I were a Cubs fan and the Giants came to town, I'd definitely be in the left field bleachers yelling, holding up a sign showing this guy:
I guess the upside would be using the money from the kickbacks the team gets from Depends and Oxfords to nab a key bat at the trade deadline.
Update: As I write this, it seems as though the game tonight has been rained out. Joy. What is with this late-winter crap? Give me some sun already. Here in Sacramento we get brutal heat for three months that everybody bitches about, but I would take some 95 degree weather at this point. I'm starting to feel like a character from The Crow in all this damn rain. "Abashed, the Devil stood", and so forth... Cue the Cure music, and Michael Wincott's gravelly-voiced creepiness.
Monday, April 10, 2006
AL East Preview (Featuring U2)
And so, naturally, it’s my sworn duty as a goofy blogger to completely make light of the message of a song like “One” by likening it to the sad plight of Seth McClung. Nah, not really. It’s pretty easy to show how hideous the D-Rays pitching staff is without disgracing a piece of lyrical beauty. Enough ranting, here we go...
1. New York Yankees (One Tree Hill)
The Yanks will win the division behind a monster hitting attack once again, so let’s blow past the ho-hum stuff and take a look at some lesser-known awards some Yankee players might take home.
Player most likely to be irrationally torn to shreds by idiot media-types for his imaginary lack of clutch ability: Alex Rodriguez
Player most likely to have his sub-par defense praised by said idiot media-types and beer-swilling New York morons: Derek Jeter
Player most likely to go all Ed Whitson up in this bizzle: Kyle Farnsworth
Player most likely to deteriorate into his avert-your-eyes 1997 self: Aaron Small
Player who most resembles Adrian Brody: Jorge Posada
Player who most resembles the thing that popped out of the car at the end of Stephen King’s From a Buick 8: Randy Johnson
Player whose name will feature in the most off-color double entendres: Chien-Ming Wang
Most worthless player who has Leo Mazzone to thanks for a paycheck: Jaret Wright
Coach who is a Stankeye fave due solely to his connection to the ’86 Mets: Lee Mazzilli
Coach who I’m sad won’t be in the national spotlight anymore: Don Zimmer
Blogger most likely to take a bat to his own dome after Joe Buck repeatedly channels Brokeback Mountain with his gushing over Jeter in 2006: John Ryder.
2. Boston Red Sox (A Room at the Heartbreak Hotel)
The Red Sox really don’t impress me that much, but I don’t have the balls to pick the Blue Jays to finish second, so here we are. Yes, even as a random Giants blogger I have a sick fear of a bruised ego.
If Curt Schilling and Josh Beckett can stay healthy they've got a much-improved starting staff, but their bullpen is still a mess, and I think they'll fall short of the Wild Card this season. Some questions remain: Can Manny go two weeks without whining or demanding a trade? Will Kevin Youkilis walk a whole bunch and break out a Mark Bellhorn-type year underappreciated by the Fenway faithful? How bizarre will J.T. Snow look in a Sox uni to us Giants fans? How many FOX commentators will continue to blow the Sox/Yankees rivalry ridiculously out of proportion? How long before the letter bombs begin to pile up at Mike Lowell's doorstep? I'm giddy with anticipation.
3. Toronto Blue Jays (Is That All?)
The Jays are like a 10-year-old kid who stumbles upon a $100 bill. Suddenly the recipient of a heretofore unheard-of amount of money, they go out and blow it all on a bunch of senseless crap, like light-up roller blades or something. The Blue Jays went out and hurled all kinds of cash on B.J. Ryan and A.J. Burnett, apparently not realizing that the former was a reliever who really won't do a whole lot in the win-loss column in the long run, and that the latter was an injury-prone pitcher who really wasn't all that great in the first place. These guys were going to be expensive, yes, but while it's one thing to have to play to the market, it's another to let the market completely bone you.
GM J.P. Ricciardi is known as one of the "Billy Beane-Era" guys, but he doesn't belong in the same sentence. I see them around 87 wins, but that's not enough in this division. Their moves were intended to provide sauce for the goose in the AL East, but instead their goose is cooked.
4. Baltimore Orioles (Running To Stand Still)
The Orioles looked like they had turned the corner early last year, then around the All-Star Break they fell apart and it was business as usual back in fourth place, with a Rafael Palmeiro falling from grace like Tony Montana. Just like Sysyphus, rolling the rock up the hill only to have to start back over again when it inevitably comes falling back down. We'll see how much Leo Mazzone helps that questionable pitching staff, but early returns are ominous.
Just a side rant, Miguel Tejada is a moron. I've never liked this guy, and his irate trade demand a few months back made me want to take a two by four to his cranium. Tejada wanted to be dealt because he claimed he was "duped" by the Orioles, who convinced him they were building a winner. Two years later, they still sucked, and Tejada was mad as hell, and he wanted out. Look, Miguel, you dumbass, in 2003 you left a team that had been to the playoffs four straight years, a proven winner. You could have taken less money to stay with that team, a team you knew had a chance to go to the World Series, but instead you took the big bucks to go to the Orioles. When was the last time the Orioles made the playoffs? 1997, shit-for-brains. There was no indication in the world that Baltimore would contend anytime soon, but all you saw were dollar signs, and now you're bitching that you were fooled. Criminy. Go cry to all your millions. For all his talent, Tejada has been a whiny, stupid player since day one, and this just took the cake.
5. Tampa Bay Devil Rays (Endless Deep)
The DRays are starting to resemble a legitimate franchise but that pitching staff is like something straight out of the Ravenholme level in Half Life 2. They've got to get some quality arms. Dig up some AAA vets, scour the indy leagues, call up Phil Neikro and ask him if he can strap it on. Anything is better than a season of Sseth McClung and Mark Hendrickson.
With the young hitting talent they have on hand here, the Rays will in a few years take on a 1969 Mets quality. One year they'll just suddenly bust out, make the playoffs, and bitch-slap some heavy favorite in the playoffs, all the while being cheered on by America because of their former lovable loser tag. They're worth watching now, because they've got some good young bats, and with new management coming in there's some hope. They're trying their hardest to no longer be the David Lynch entry in the AL East film festival.
Sunday, April 09, 2006
The Giants now stand at a solid 4-2 after taking 3 of 4 from Atlanta. Here are some weekend thoughts:
-Omar Vizquel is just on fire. I was bitching about his presence at the top of the order a few days back, but if he keeps getting on base at this rate, forget I said any of it.
-Jason Schmidt's performance today was much better than his start in San Diego, even if he did give up more runs. Schmidt's velocity was back up and he was dominant until faltering in the sixth, striking out 10 guys in all. His ERA took a hit, but this was an encouraging outing nonetheless.
-Thursday's game was a classic example of why I hate Pedro Feliz. He have a long string of at bats where he looks like his usual crappy self at the plate, but then suddenly out of nowhere he'll rip this huge game-changing double that makes everybody think he's not so bad after all. Feliz has displayed his usual aloofness toward the strike zone, so expect many more weak grounders to shortstop.
-The Giants bullpen is an early abomination, and there was no better testament to that than Friday's 7th inning horror show, starring Tyler Walker in the lead role. I loved Jon Miller's desperate attempt to will Walker out of a hopeless situation by recalling Walker's miraculous 9th inning escape job in a game in Detroit last year. Unfortunately Walker just continued to implde, and Felipe kept him in there waaaaay past the point of no return. It's only a week into the season, but already I'm having 2004 flashbacks, minus the Pierzynski/Tomko feud.
Also, my enthusiasm for Jack Taschner is in danger of fading into Jason Christiansen-esque hatred, but we'll give ol' Jack some time to iron out the kinks. You have to be a really big piece of crap to draw as much stankeye from me as Christiansen did.
-Noah Lowry is on the DL, disappointing because I was really excited about Lowry's season. Hopefully his injury isn't serious and he'll miss only a couple of starts. Meanwhile, Kevin Correia gets his shot to prove that his spring wasn't a fluke, though he didn't help himself any by serving up that bomb to Ryan Langerhans.
-He's not that good or anything, but I'm officially starting the "Todd Greene for Starting Catcher" campaign. Good God, anything that keeps me from having to sit through another interminable Mike Matheny at bat.
-Steve Finley has started two games and already he's contributed more than Edgardo Alfonso did all of last year. Plus, the guy's 41 and he runs fast as hell. Gotta like that.
-And because Monday is looming, just to cheer you up, here's a still from the greatest scene in film history.
Wednesday, April 05, 2006
2006 NL East Preview
What this little hiatus does do, is allow me to continue my divisional predictions. Here is the NL East, though this time without a gimmicky song title to accompany each team. I was going to to The Cure, but I think by the end everybody'd be reaching for the Draino, and this is after all, a happy blog. Enjoy!
1. Atlanta Braves
Why fight it? The Braves will win this danged division once again. Every year experts think up reasons why the Braves will finally tank, and yet at the end of the season there they are atop the NL East, kings of all they survey. This year will be the same. People will pick the Mets or Phils, arguing that the Braves can’t possibly do it again.
I ain’t fallin’ for it. Their pitching staff is literally their worst since the ‘80’s, and their hitting is above average but no great shakes. It doesn’t matter. Some crappy pitcher will magically turn in a great year and some random rookies will step it up and the Braves will do enough to win the division once again. Whatever Faustian bargain Ted Turner struck long ago will come through again.
2. New York Mets
Any discussion I have of the current Mets always dissolves into a long-winded love-in over the Mets of the mid-to-late ‘80’s, so instead of fighting it, I’ll just dive right in. I’ll always have a place in my heart for the Mets because when I first got into baseball at a very young age, the Mets were the team I loved (with the Giants a close second, of course), and there was no player I loved more than Darryl Strawberry. And you know what? To this day, Strawberry is still my favorite player of all time, even with the drug problems and sleazy rap sheet. When the Giants got Straw in 1994, man, it was a dream come true, even though he had just been booted off the Dodgers for a combination of injuries and coke problems.
Strawberry was laid back and sometimes quite lazy, which ironically made him atypical of the kinds of players who the Mets of that era would employ. Those Mets teams, and the 1986 product in particular, were the perfect, shining example of how every baseball team should be constructed, through a smart combination of homegrown and imported talent, a solid starting rotation that mixed veterans and younger guys, a deep bench, a great defense, and a great bullpen. And the personalities. Oh the personalities. These guys were mean, they were rowdy, they picked fights, they talked shit, and best of all they backed it all up by whupping everybody’s asses in the standings. Most of all, they would have rather taken a knife to the gut than lose a game, and it showed. I’ve always loved guys who play with almost psychopathic fire (this is where my Pierzynski fetish comes from), and it stems from my love of this team.
Anyway, enough pointless raving about a team that was winning the World Series when I was three. Twenty years later, the ’06 Mets team looks like a good bet to stay neck and neck with the Braves. They have enough pitching, and their hitting is spotty but effective (David Wright is a stud, but Jose Reyes is just awful). Normally I would pick a team that looks this strong on paper to win the division, but these aren’t normal circumstances. The Braves are currently the darling of whatever god rules over the NL East, and until they crash his Jaguar into a tree or Jeff Francoeur knocks up his daughter, the Mets will have to settle for the Wild Card.
3. Philadelphia Phillies
The Phils are picked seemingly every year to win the East, but every year they fall short. Even with Larry Bowa, baseball’s answer to a bloodthirsty war criminal, gone the team still underachieved. Perhaps they’re just not that talented. Anyone care to refute that? My guess is that they hover around 85 wins while I continue my love/hate relationship with Jimmy Rollins (whose inconsistency on my fantasy team gives me ulcers).
4. Florida Marlins
Yeah, they suck, but there’s talent here and don’t be surprised if they’re making a kamikaze run at the division in 2008. A lot of people are pooh-poohing the second nuking of this franchise since 1997, but this situation is far from hopeless. They already have two stars in Miguel Cabrera and Dontrelle Willis, and there’s a horde of young talent coming up in a hurry. This is a team that could be scary for any contender coming into Florida in the thick of a pennant race come August or September. They have a lot more going for them than the 1998 team did, and it took the franchise only five years to rebound from that disgrace. It shouldn’t take nearly as long this time around.
5. Washington Nationals
There’s an episode of The Simpsons called Radioactive Man (“I’ve said ‘Jiminy Jilikers’ so many times, the words have lost all meaning!”) where a huge Hollywood production comes to Springfield to shoot a film about the titular comic book hero. There is a funny scene where Krusty the Clown tries desperately to convince the makers of the film to cast him as “Krispy the Clown”, even going so far as to giving the men cheesy glossy stills of himself in various dramatic poses to supposedly illustrate his wide acting range. The producers refuse to give him the part, but instead cast him in a less glamourous role as the villainous “Dr. Clownius”.
This is how I see Nationals GM Jim Bowden, desperately wheeling and dealing and signing free agents to show some other team that he’s got what it takes, so that when the new Nats ownership dumps him, he’ll get hired somewhere else. Unfortunately, the moves make no sense and Bowden ends up playing “Silly Sailor”. Bowden has made some bad moves (Christian Guzman, anyone?), but the Soriano trade this winter was the cherry on top of the big cake of crap. We all know Bowden is a lame duck GM, but this trade was shocking even for his moronic standards. Maybe he’s just doing his best to bring the franchise down from the inside before he gets canned, as sort of a last-gasp display of the middle finger, like dropping a grenade right as you get cut down by shotgun fire in Halo.
The Marlins are the sexy pick to be the NL’s worst team, but at least there’s talent lying around. The Nationals, on the other hand, are just hideous, and they’re my Cinderella pick to lose 100 games. They have no hitting, their pitching sucks, and they have arguably the worst farm system of any major league franchise. Yes, they are worse than Florida.
Tuesday, April 04, 2006
Not Supposed To Start This Way
Jason Schmidt didn't look too bad. His velocity was still down and he had no control of his changeup, but all in all, he wasn't terrible. If he hadn't grooved a fastball to Khalil Greene his night would have looked pretty good. And the Padres absolutely own Schmidt for some reason, so I'll reserve judgement until his next few starts. Still, I don't think 2003 Schmitty is coming back anytime soon.
The Giants look to bounce back against Shawn Estes tonight, and yes, I'm as amazed as you are that Shawn Estes is the Padres' #2 starter.
If my sources are correct, this is the Giants' first Opening Day loss since 2000, when they fell to Alex Fernandez and the Marlins. What did the Giants do that year? They got off to a horrible start and rallied to finish the year with 97 wins before being downed by a fat Hawaiian guy and a crap-throwing veteran in the playoffs. And at least the Giants fared a little better on Opening Day than the A's did, sheesh.
As for the classless Padre fan who threw a syringe at Bonds, as Mike Krukow would say, "that's BUSH!"
Just to help wash away the disappointment of last night:
Just can't resist.
Monday, April 03, 2006
Opening Day Tuneup
Here's the likely starting lineup tonight:
CF Randy Winn
SS Omar Vizquel
2B Ray Durham
LF Barry Bonds
RF Moises Alou
3B Pedro Feliz
1B Lance Neikro
C Mike Matheny
How does this lineup shake out in the long run? In short, look for some trades to be made come July 31st.
Winn- Love the guy. I'll love him even more if he stays hot this year.
Vizquel- Has no business at the top of the order, but the Giants don't have anybody else. If he hits .290-ish with walks and some steals, with that defense, who's going to complain?
Ray Durham- Not your typical #3 hitter, but, again, this is a Felipe Alou/bizarro batting order we're talking about. Durham will almost certainly fight nagging injuries, as usual, but when he plays he's a very, very good hitter. He's definitely a Stankeye fave.
Barry Bonds- Please, please stay healthy. We all know what happens if he doesn't.
Moises Alou- Another age/injury time bomb, but when he's out there he produces. He could have a big season with Bonds getting on base all the time.
Pedro Feliz- Okay, Pedro, you have one year to prove to me that you're not worthless. Get that OBP over .320, that OPS over .800, then I'll consider you a ballplayer. Until then you're just a black hole.
Lance Neikro- Wait, did...did we not, trade for another bat to stick at first base? Oh, lordy. As Joe Cabot said in Reservoir Dogs, the only thing you can do in this situation is shit your pants, dive in and swim.
Mike Matheny- I've often been hard on poor Matheny on this blog, often for good reason. His magic game-calling abilities do wonders for upstart pitchers and starving children everywhere, but his bat is just awful. If he hits 13 homers again, he'll sorta be okay, but it'd be nice if he drew some walks once in a while.
Pitching and Barry Bonds are the keys to the season. Let's get it started on the right foot. Go Giants!
-Some other notes from Opening Day:
-The ceremonial drubbing of the Reds' pitching staff is under way in Cincinnati, as the Cubs obliterated the Reds 16-7. And the sad part is, Aaron Harang was the starter who gt rocked, and he's their best pitcher! Bad for the Reds and their fans, good for the Cubbies and my fantasy team, which includes both Derrek Lee and Aramis Ramirez.
-There's nothing like sitting back and watching the Dodgers get smacked around by Atlanta. You know, I was a little worried about the Dodgers when Ned Coletti made all those big name moves this winter, but when I looked at their Opening Day lineup and saw Sandy Alomar Jr., Jason Repko, and Olmedo Saenz in there, those worries went right away. Leave it to Grady Little to give a corpse like Alomar more playing time than he deserves.