Phillies fans have no shortage of reasons to gripe. The offense has ranked somewhere between non-existent and spotty, only ahead of other disappointments like the Nationals, Dodgers, White Sox and Marlins. The pitching has been almost as bad, ranking 22nd of the 30 MLB teams. So it’s not surprising that the Phillies are under .500 and 5 1/2 games back.And while Cliff Lee and Kyle Kendrick have been dominating, the loss of Roy Halladay to shoulder injury and the struggles of Cole Hamels (who has actually been much better than his numbers suggest) have undermined what looked to to be...
Toronto Blue Jays starter J.A. Happ took his sign, came set and checked the Tampa Bay runners on second and third on May 7. He then delivered the pitch, and almost instantly, a collective gasp could be heard not only at Tropicana Field but also on television sets nationwide.Desmond Jennings lined the pitch off the side of Happ’s head, and Happ went down hard. He had to be carted off the field in a stretcher and suffered a skull fracture that has landed him on the disabled list.In watching the gruesome incident over and over again, it raises the question:...
It was easy to look at the Texas Rangers before the season started and wonder if their glory days were already behind them. They were stunned in the wild card playoff by Baltimore last year, and the departure of Josh Hamilton and Mike Napoli looked to weaken their lineup considerably.
Age was certainly becoming a factor. Too many of their key players were on the wrong side of 30 and the team's answer to the loss of Hamilton was the signing of 37-year-old Lance Berkman.
Yu Darvish leads an impressive Rangers staff.
Photo by Keith Allison, used under creative commons license.
The team didn't...
No matter who is on their roster, the St. Louis Cardinals always field a relevant team.
Success in the playoffs usually involves a team that gets hot at the right time, but just to be there consistently like the Cardinals have been is a testament to the baseball factory that St. Louis produces.
There's a tradition of winning, and whenever a new player dons the Cardinal red, it seems that he just automatically gets it. The team may not have a bona fide superstar, but whatever Mike Matheny is doing is working.
The heart of the Cardinals offense.
Photo by Keith Allison, used under creative...
The Baltimore Orioles were one of the feel-good stories of 2012. They hadn’t reached the postseason since 1996 but defeated the heavily favored Texas Rangers in the new one-game playoff and put up an impressive showing in the ALDS, which they ultimately lost to the New York Yankees in five games.But let’s be realistic: Despite their success from a year ago, no one really considered them a threat to be legitimate playoff contenders this season.Baltimore plays in arguably the toughest division in baseball, and everyone jumped on the Toronto Blue Jays bandwagon this offseason.However, Buck Showalter has his team playing...
Book Review: Black Sox in the Courtroom: the Grand Jury, Criminal Trial and Civil LitigationAuthor: William LambPages: 222Like many baseball fans, I’ve always been intensely interested in the Black Sox. I’ve read at least a dozen books, written articles on them and even defended one or two of the players based on what I’ve learned. This book takes it a lot further -- clearing up some points, debunking others -- based not upon the media hype or artistic license taken by many writers on the topic, but by examining nothing other than the legal battles fought in both criminal and...
Bryce Harper seems to run at one speed: all out, whether he’s hitting, fielding or running full tilt into walls. And while manager Davey Johnson was capable of joking “I feel kind of sorry for the wall if he keeps running into them,” there is plenty of reason to be concerned for the 20-year-old who has twice now required stitches in his head, precautionary x-rays and concussion fears.But that’s the way that Harper plays. He plays to win. Watching him play he reminds you of Pete Rose. Do whatever it takes, play to win and let the consequences of the...
Last week will not be regarded among the finest hours for umpires. There were the usual gaffes and miscalls that come with having to make split-second judgments, most of which can easily be written off as minor, but there were issues that simply left the fans, not to mention the sports media, scratching their heads or screaming for robot umpires.The first issue was a big one: when is a home run not a home run? Well when Robin Ventura hits it and never makes it around the bases is one scenario. A miscalled foul ball might be another. But never...
Yu Darvish burst onto the scene last season for the Texas Rangers as the prized import of the offseason. He baffled hitters with a variety of pitches and arm slots en route to an impressive first season.But Major League hitters these days have access to so much video footage that they’re able to study an opposing pitcher’s tendencies incessantly. That being said, it was almost a given that Darvish would not experience that same level of success as his rookie season.Darvish, though, has had other plans. His early body of work has brought him into the conversation as the AL’s...
It’s hard to call the Red Sox the surprise of 2013. They were dreadful last year, finishing last in the East with just 69 wins, three more than the Twins and one more than the Indians. But over the past decade we’ve gotten so used to seeing a level of excellence from the Boston nine that their resurgence doesn’t seem unnatural. Well not until you realize that this worst to first transformation seemed to involve gutting the team and dumping salary.The fact is that the front office deceived us. We thought they were rebuilding and that they’d have a number...
Angels ace John Lackey, in a rehabilitation start for triple-A Salt Lake, gave up three runs and five hits in five innings against Portland on Sunday, striking out five, walking none and retiring nine straight batters at one point.
Lackey, sidelined all season because of an elbow strain, threw 75 pitches, 49 for strikes, and there is a good chance that he and right-hander Ervin Santana, who threw five innings for Salt Lake on Saturday, will be activated this week.
The Angels, as expected, will use today's day off to skip Anthony Ortega in the rotation, and Jered Weaver, Matt Palmer and Joe Saunders will probably pitch against Boston this week.
Ortega was optioned to Salt Lake after Sunday's game, and the Angels will probably add a third catcher Tuesday as insurance on the days catcher Mike Napoli starts as designated hitter.
The Angels will make decisions on Lackey and Santana after reviewing tapes of their games at Salt Lake.
"We don't want [them] to waste bullets pitching in the minor leagues," Scioscia said, "but we also want to make sure [they're] ready for the challenge."
While Kelvim Escobar is still a ways away from making an impact, Lackey and Santana should provide depth at the top of the Angels rotation. If they do that, the Angels can rise to the top of the AL West.
The only problem is that Lackey has been injury prone in the past, while Santana has a partially torn ulnar collateral ligament in his elbow. To use manager Mike Scioscia's phrase, how many bullets are in their arms? The Angels season depends on them staying healthy and effective.
The closer's role has become the most overvalued in baseball. Teams like the Yankees are spending $15 million a year for Mariano Rivera, while BJ Ryan, Francisco Rodriguez and Joe Nathan are raking in big bucks to pitch an inning at a time here and there.
Closer, stopper, fireman -- call it what you will. The role of the relief ace has changed greatly over the years, but despite the different ways in which managers have deployed their best relievers, the rate at which teams convert save opportunities has remained constant since the save rule took its current form prior to the 1975 season.
Since 1975, major-league teams have converted 67.8 percent of their save chances. Year-to-year, that rate has never gone above 71.5 percent (1988) nor below 64 percent (2008), and within that narrow range of fluctuation there has been just one discernable peak (70.7 percent from 1988 to 1992) and no multiyear valleys. One might argue that the expansions in 1977, 1993, and 1998 as well as the surge in run-scoring in the late 1990s undermined the gains made by management, but the recent slowdown in run-scoring has not seen a corresponding increase in league-wide save percentage, suggesting that whatever gains might have been counterbalanced were either negligible, transitory, or simply non-existent.
That might seem contradictory for anyone looking at the all-time saves leader lists. Of the top 46 single-season saves totals, only three were recorded prior to 1988, and of the three that occurred between 1988 and 1990, two were by Dennis Eckersley. That's significant because Eckersley and his manager, Tony La Russa, ushered in the era of the modern, one-inning closer in 1988. As this chart by Baseball Musings' David Pinto shows, prior to 1988, more than half of all saves lasted more than three outs. But by 1991, three-out saves were the norm, and their frequency has only increased since, surpassing 80 percent of all saves in 2007.
La Russa's revolution did increase the rate at which closers converted their save opportunities. Eckersley converted 89 percent of his save chances during his five-year peak from 1988 to 1992, compared to Bruce Sutter's 80 percent conversion rate in the five seasons in which he led the National League in saves (1979 to 1982 and 1984). The one-inning save, however, did not improve teams' ability to convert saves, as it left the extra outs to lesser relievers who would blow just enough save opportunities before the ninth inning to bring the league average back down to its established level. Even the LaRussa/Eckersley A's were susceptible to a bad year from their setup men. In 1991, they finished 20th in the majors in save percentage with a 65 percent rate despite Eckersley's typically strong 84 percent in the ninth inning. What the one-inning save actually did was reduce the impact of the closer, despite the inflated saves totals it ushered in. Compare Francisco Rodriguez's record-setting 62-save season from last year to Sutter's then-record-tying 45-save season in 1984. Using Baseball Prospectus' win-probability-based WXRL, which measures a reliever's cumulative impact on his team's chances of winning the games in which he pitches, K-Rod's season was worth 5.167 wins compared to Sutter's 7.647 wins, or just 67.5 percent as much despite Rodriguez's saving 17 more games, in large part because Rodriguez threw just 56 percent as many innings as Sutter.
As Pinto wrote in the article that accompanies the above-linked chart, "teams score less than three runs in an inning 93.6 percent of the time, and shutout innings are thrown 70 percent of the time." That's the average result with a league-average pitcher on the mound. Because getting three outs before giving up three runs is a task most major-league quality pitchers can handle, teams have slowly begun to realize that they needn't invest in elite "proven" closers and can easily convert a solid in-house arm or low-cost pickup into a sufficiently reliable closer. Indeed, a full third of the teams in the majors entered the 2009 season with their closing duties in the hands of a pitcher who had never spent a full season in the role in the major leagues.
The rest of the piece is worth a thorough read. Check it out if you have an opportunity.
It seems as if Corcoran argues (logically, I might add) that closers are being overvalued in this market. Guys who only throw 60 great innings a season aren't worth as much as an average starting pitcher who throws 200. Someone like Francisco Rodriguez, who throws a good but not great 60 innings per season definitely isn't worth that much.
However, teams are reluctant to not have some sort of ninth inning guy out there. A few years back, the Red Sox braintrust, led by Bill James, attempted to go with a closer-by-committee. The plan failed miserably, but that was because the Red Sox did not have the right personnel in place to implement it properly.
But it also could've failed because relief pitchers are so used to the relief role that exists today that they couldn't adapt. Baseball players are nothing if they're not creatures of habit. Guys probably didn't respond well to coming in to the seventh inning one day and then being asked to close the game the next night. They have routines they follow from getting on the stationary bike in the early part of the game, watching video later in the game and stretching in the bullpen.
There's probably a bit of truth to both of those thoughts.
But perhaps the biggest reason teams are reluctant to forego having a closer is because of the media. Should a manager bring in his closer in the seventh inning to secure a rough situation and then the guy who comes in the ninth inning blows the save, the manager will have about 12 questions concerning his move. In this age of hyper media coverage, managers have to protect their jobs.
One interesting point I want to bring up about Corcoran's piece. There are shutout innings thrown 70 percent of the time. That means the average pitcher should be able to save at least that many opportunities, more considering there are save opportunities of more than one run.
So why overspend for the "proven" closer? I don't know. It doesn't make baseball sense.
You know what would surprise me? If a story broke about a player who didn't come up hot on a positive urinalysis; that would surprise me. You know what would floor me? A player who admitted taking steroids. Alas, sometimes I dream the impossible dream.
How appropriate is it that Manny Ramirez was caught using in the present. What planet does this guy live on? Apparently they don't receive newspapers in his world. It wouldn't surprise me for a second if he said he wasn't aware of a steroid epidemic in baseball. He's like a fart in a blizzard sometimes; just floating around reality.
He literally said that his physician prescribed him medication for a "personal health issue" which the Doctor apparently thought was "OK to give me".
You know how long it took for me to find out that human chorionic gonadotropin, (HCG), was a banned substance? Less than two minutes; it's on the front page of the Player's Union website under "Joint Drug Agreement". I literally just "googled" it and there it was. Then again, this whole "Information Superhighway" thing is just now becoming relevent so maybe his physician did not have access.
Last time I checked, I am not a physician, nor do I play one on TV. However, I am constantly reminded that I resemble Hugh Laurie's character, "House" so who knows. But if you are a man and your personal health issue requires you to take HCG, I would think baseball would not be the most important thing in your life. Again, I just look like "House".
I'm just sick and tired of these guys coming up with the lame excuses and nobody calls them on it. I would say that they must have balls the size of church bells, but according to the American Medical Association, one side effect of HGH is testicular shrinkage.
On the other hand, when used after a cycle of steroids, HCG helps to restore "normal" testicular size. Wait a second, we may be on to something here.
Maybe the problem is not my perceived audacity by what I deem as lame excuses; there might just be a real problem here. Maybe there is a real emergency. Maybe, just maybe, their testicles have grown so large that they no longer the ability to recognize reality.
It is an epidemic; when a player gets caught or accused of "juicing", they immediately produce unacceptable levels of excuses. Think about it. Sammy Sosa suddenly forgets how to speak English. Mark McGuire doesn't want to talk about the past, Alex Rodriguez cannot remember what he used but can recall when he used. Rafael Palmeiro said Miguel Tejada gave him a tainted B-12 shot. Jose Canseco becomes literate.
This could be serious; I had better watch some more episodes of "House."
Manny Ramirez reportedly tested positive for hCG, which is a women's fertility drug. Steroid users - I'm not calling Manny one, but his stats should be taken with a grain of salt - use this after finishing a cycle of steroids because it boosts their body's natural production of testosterone.
Manny Ramirez is just the latest Major League Baseball player represented by superagent Scott Boras to be linked to performance-enhancing drugs:
Barry Bonds: Former Boras client was indicted on perjury and obstruction of justice charges for allegedly lying to BALCO grand jury when he testified that he never knowingly used steroids.
Kevin Brown: Mitchell Report says former Yankee pitcher put Boras' headquarters as a return address when he overnighted cash to steroid supplier Kirk Radomski.
Eric Gagne: Three days after Boras helps closer land $10 million contract with Milwaukee Brewers, Mitchell Report is released and says Gagne bought human growth hormone in 2004.
Scott Schoeneweis: Former Mets reliever received six shipments of steroids from Signature Pharmacy, target of Albany Internet drug investigation.
Rick Ankiel: Daily News reported in 2007 that Cardinals' pitcher-turned-outfielder received 12-month supply of human growth hormone from Signature Pharmacy.
Ron Villone: Former Yankee pitcher bought three kits of growth hormone from Radomski, according to Mitchell Report.
Ivan Rodriguez: Jose Canseco says in his book "Juiced" that he taught All-Star catcher all about steroids when they were teammates in Texas.
Gary Sheffield: Former Boras client told BALCO grand jury he unknowingly used steroids.
Alex Rodriguez: A-Rod admitted using steroids after Sports Illustrated reported in February that he tested positive during 2003 survey testing.
This is probably nothing more than a coincidence. Boras represents the best players in the game, because those are the players who provide the biggest payday. It just so happens that the best players in the major leagues happen to use steroids or other performance-enhancing substances.
I doubt Boras' history with clients caught in the steroids racket means anything, but it is an interesting fact to keep in mind.
Major League Baseball suspended Dodgers outfielder Manny Ramirez for 50 games on Thursday for use of performance enhancing drugs.
Ramirez, in a statement released by the Major League Baseball Players Association, attributed a positive drug test to a doctor-prescribed medication and waived his right to challenge the discipline.
"Recently I saw a physician for a personal health issue. He gave me a medication, not a steroid, which he thought was OK to give me. Unfortunately, the medication was banned under our drug policy. Under the policy that mistake is now my responsibility. I have been advised not to say anything more for now. I do want to say one other thing; I've taken and passed about 15 drug tests over the past five seasons.
"I want to apologize to Mr. McCourt, Mrs. McCourt, Mr. Torre, my teammates, the Dodger organization, and to the Dodger fans. LA is a special place to me and I know everybody is disappointed. So am I. I'm sorry about this whole situation."
All suspensions are without pay, so the suspension will cost Ramirez, who re-signed with the Dodgers as a free agent on a two-year contract that was to pay him $25 million this season, roughly $7.7 million.
Ramirez has been a key component in leading the Dodgers to the best record in baseball this year. In 27 games, he is batting .348 with six home runs and 20RBIs. He is among league leaders in slugging and on-base percentage and has become the biggest drawing card the Dodgers have had since Fernando Valenzuela, even recently having a portion of the left-field box seats rechristened "Mannywood."
Wednesday night, Ramirez went 1-for-3 with a two-run double as the Dodgers set a modern-day record with their 13th consecutive home win to open a season.
Juan Pierre would be the immediate replacement for Ramirez in left field, while the Dodgers are expected to promote rookie Xavier Paul from Triple-A Albuqueruque to replace Ramirez on the active roster.
Apart from whatever light this sheds on Ramirez (I'm inclined to believe his explanation because I simply do not believe that Manny is the type of guys who does PED, but I could very well be wrong), is this a severe blow to the Dodgers' chances of winning their division? They already enjoy a 6.5 games lead over the next team and while the absent of Ramirez certainly weakens them, you could make the case that they are still the best team in the division without him or at least they are very close. As long as these news do not bring too much turmoil to the clubhouse - and unless they start a long losing streak, why would it? - the Dodgers should be fine in the long run.