I Donâ€™t Mean to Rantâ€¦But lately, a lot of things on the MLB diamond have gotten under my skin. Usually I'm mild-mannered and easy going, but this time, I have to pull out the Richard Nixon Mask and go shake a can of spray paint in front of the fools who raised my blood pressure.
I don't know if you had heard, but he doesn't know how to run a bullpen. Baseball Prospectus' Christina Kahrl can attest, as can Steven Goldman. Torre did a horrendous job organizing his bullpen for the 2003 World Series, and he typically leans on and eventually savagely murders his most trusted relievers. The great closer Mariano Rivera has been a lucky survivor, but many others have fallen beneath the Blade of Joe.
One such victim is current Yankee reliever, Scott Proctor. In the spring of 2006, Proctor came to the realization that his straight 96 MPH fastball wasn't quite enough (crazy notion) and developed a nice curveball to go with it. Proctor made the Yankee roster, and did a damn good job for a while. His first 29.1 innings, a span of April 4th to May 20th, was very good. He whipped up an ERA of 1.84 and held opponents to a Kendall-esque OPS of .540. Torre quickly fell in love, and he began to use Proctor...and use Proctor...and use Proctor.
From May 23rd to July 2nd, a span of 35 team games, Proctor appeared in 20 (21.2 IP.) He was no longer turning hitters into Brad Ausmus, instead, they were transforming him into Jose Mesa. His ERA during that period was a touchdown, and the opponents OPS looks good on a corner outfielder (7.48 and .945, respectively.)
So, from April 4th to July 2nd, a span of 79 team games, Proctor had thrown an outrageous 50.1 innings. To compare, fellow reliever Kyle Farnsworth had thrown 37 innings from April 4th through July 4th. Torre was overworking Proctor, using him in games he had no business being in. Examples include pitching the 7th inning during a Yankee rout of the Boston Red Sox on June 5th; Nine days later, pitching 1.2 innings against the Indians with the Yankees ahead by 5; and finally, starting the ninth inning against the Mets with the Yankees up by 9 on July 2nd. Proctor was showing signs of becoming a valuable reliever, but his awkward usage problems led to some shellings (his first appearance after the Mets game was less than stellar, as he was knocked around for 3 runs in 2 innings. The Yankees were down by 15 runs when Proctor entered that game.)
Proctor went on to throw an incredible 102.1 innings that season, and they all came via relief. He set the Major League record for appearances in a season, and so far in 2007, he's on-pace to do it again.
But that story allows me to tell this story:
On June 26th, Proctor started the ninth inning of a tie game at Baltimore, on 2 days rest. Prior to the 26th, Proctor had thrown 41 innings (that's 38 appearances in 72 team games) and was doing a fairly good job not giving up runs, but he was hardly dominant. A 27-19 K to BB ratio backs that point up.
Anyway, the first batter, Corey Patterson (yes, that Corey Patterson) came up and drew a walk on 8 pitches. Next up, the perpetually underrated Brian Roberts singled after 7 pitches. That's 2 runners on, no outs (with the Yankees great closer Mariano Rivera, sitting in the bullpen, having not pitched since the 22nd.)
Proctor caught a break with the next batter, as Carlos Gomez popped out on a bunt attempt after a single pitch. So, 2 runners on, 1 out, 16 pitches, Rivera not even moving in the bullpen.
Nick Markakis was up next, and he walked on four straight.
Now, look here. After 20 pitches and 2 walks, isn't it clear to everyone that your guy out there doesn't have it? Especially considering it's a tie game in the Ninth, and even MORE so considering the greatest closer of all time is wasting away in the bullpen, on FOUR days rest. But, Torre left Proctor alone, and up came Ramon Hernandez.
After a somewhat grinding 7 pitch at-bat, Proctor missed inside with a 94 MPH fastball, and walked in the winning run.
Now, who's fault was that? Was it Proctor? Can you really blame a guy for not being on once in a while? Sure seems to me that you don't blame the foot soldiers, you blame the General. Your fault, Joe.
Barry Zito and Ivan Rodriguez
I guess winning the big BBWAA awards entitles you to, not only, a piece of hardware, but also a big, huge plaque that makes everyone adore you. Listen, and this is no joke: Barry Zito was not the best pitcher in the American League in 2002. Pedro Martinez was. Listen, and this too is no joke: Pudge Rodriguez wasn't even close to being the best player in the AL in 99 (Derek Jeter was the best hitter, but quite frankly, Pedro deserved that award too.)
During the 2006 off-season, most pundits (read: idiots) were declaring Barry Zito the premier arm on the market (Matsuzaka anyone?) and remarking that he could change a franchise. Well, the Yankees, Mets, and Red Sox apparently missed that memo, as they all passed on the lefty. But the San Francisco Giants caught that drift, and they swooped up Zito, signing him to the largest contract ever given to a pitcher. The deal (7 years/$126M ((2007-13)), plus 2014 club option) was outrageous, and critics, such as Baseball Prospectus' Joe Sheehan and Christina Kahrl, and former BPer and current ESPN.com writer Keith Law, quickly described how awful the deal was.
Zito's highest K/9 was a meager 7.9 during his 2001 year. That's hardly dominant, but Zito had tended to keep his walks down (3.2 BB/9 in 2001, his best K to BB year.) Ever since 2001, Zito has never gone higher than a 7 K/9, and his walk rate has continually rose. I don't know about you, but I think I could find a better way to spend my 126 Million dollars.
Now, on to Pudge. The people (you can read that as idiots too, honestly) voted Rodriguez to start in the 2007 All Star Game over Jorge Posada and Victor Martinez. I have to wonder, do most people even consider looking at stats?
Pudge's Line: .279/.291/.439
Posada's Line: .331/.403/.515
Martinez's Line: .324/.387/.538
I feel saddened that someone would really feel that Pudge has been superior to Posada or Martinez overall. Anyone, no matter how amazing defensively (Pudge is still good, but he's no longer awe-inspiring behind the plate) shouldn't be given 700 PA's if he can't reach base in at least 30% of his Plate Appearances. Sure, that player works well as a back up, but allowing a player to take that many PAs when his OBP is at least 50 points below being just decent, that kind of move is indefensible by my account.
I'm not here to tout the case of Posada, because I know he's on a batting average streak and that's drawing up his OBP to .403. Martinez is the best hitting catcher in the game, and he should be recognized as such. To even think to include Pudge in that discussion is pointless, because you cannot back it up. Whether it be EqA, or VORP, Pudge simply isn't in the same league anymore.