Sunday, June 27, 2010

Top 100 Sports Books

Over the weekend, Joe Posnanski was inspired by this, and wrote this, where he mentions that he will be putting together his list for top 100 sports books.

Asking for reader nominations, here are the rules...
1. All sports apply. What is and what is not a sport is up to you as the nominator and, eventually, me and my panel as the judge. It’s fair to say that the house frowns upon certain sports, but we’re going to try and keep an open mind.

2. Like the above book list, authors can get multiple books on the list. So if you would like to nominate both The Machine AND The Soul of Baseball, well, I’m flattered. Stop. I’m blushing.

3. If you are nominating multiple books, and you think of it, put them in the order of your preference. For instance if you want to nominate all of my buddy Vac’s books, you can put them in order like so:

1. The First Fall Classic (baseball)
2. 1941 (general sports)
3. Emperors and Idiots (baseball).

And so on. OK, let’s do this thing.
We just submitted our ballot, which looks like this...
1. The Soul of Baseball (baseball)
2. The Last Night of the Yankee Dynasty (baseball)
3. Moneyball (baseball)
4. Sixty-One* (baseball)
5. The Boys of Summer (baseball)
6. Love Me, Hate Me (baseball)
7. The Machine (baseball)
8. Where’s Harry? (baseball)
9. Game of Shadows (general sports)
10. Three Nights in August (baseball)
We encourage all readers of this space to include their list of nominated sports books - they don't all have to be baseball books. Readers will also want to check back for our next post, coming up very soon, with a Russell Branyan mention. Until we meet again.

Friday, June 25, 2010

2010 MLB Power Poll

About half the season is over, and although we very recently revisited our predictions, we have not given much thought to who's better and who's best, regardless of which division they're in.

The Andy Pratt Bunch
30. Cleveland Indians
29. Houston Astros
28. Kansas City Royals
27. Arizona Diamondbacks
26. Pittsburgh Pirates
25. Baltimore Orioles

The biggest disappointment here has to be the D'backs. They shouldn't be this bad, but overabbundant strikeouts and inconsistnent pitching and defense have them below the dregs of Pitt.

"There's nothing but fat and grizzle on that plate!"
24. Seattle Mariners
23. Chicago Cubs

The funniest past of "The Great Outdoors", with John Candy & Dan Aykroyd, was when Candy's character orders and tries to finish a 96-oz steak, "The Old 96'er", so their meal could be free. Although he thinks he's done, the restuarant judge says he's got to clean his plate. Watching games from the Pacific Northwest and Northside of Chicago sort of reminds me of that. The teams can be enjoyable, but there comes a point towards the end of the game, when you just want to walk away from the TV.

"Strikes & Gutters, Ups & Downs"
22. Milwaukee Brewers
21. Chicago White Sox
20. Oakland A's
19. Washington Nationals
18. Florida Marlins

Here are some inconsistent teams who have shown some very good flashes, but a variety of flaws that ultimately have them all leaning towards being sellers at the trade deadline.

"Hope is a good thing."
17. Toronto Blue Jays
16. Colorado Rockies
15. Los Anaheim Angels
14. San Diego Padres
13. Los Angeles Dodgers
12. NY Mets
11. Cincinnati Reds
10. Texas Rangers

The largest group remains with those teams who's contender/pretender status still lays in the balance. Trades, prospect callups (Aroldis Chapman), and the pending returns of injured contributors (Carlos Beltran, Troy Tulowitzki, Edinson Volquez, Rich Harden) will push these teams one way or the other in the discussion.

Good Managers & Good Pitching
9. Minnesota Twins
8. San Francisco Giants
7. Atlanta Braves
6. Detroit Tigers

We still have the Giants winning the National League pennant. It's interesting to speculate on what kind of magic the Braves will muster in the second half of the season, as they all try their best for long-time friend and field manager, Bobby Cox.

"The Elite, Best of the Best"
5. Philadelphia Phillies
4. St. Louis Cardinals
3. Boston Red Sox
2. Tampa Bay Rays
1. NY Yankees

Boston is making a case for #2, while the Red Sox and Phillies are basically here on reputation and performance over the past three waeks.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Midweek Players of the Week

Before we get to the usual seamhead talk, can we take a minute to discuss the World Cup? I love this event. The first World Cup I remember was the summer after the Bears won the Super Bowl: 1996. When I was a kid, the best teams were Germany, Italy, Spain, Brasil, and definitely not Team USA. USA hasn't really been very good since 1930 - that as the last time they won their group, before this year.

What I've noticed this year, and mentioned this Monday on Twitter is that South American teams are dominating the group stage of the World Cup. As of this writing, South American teams - Argentina, Brasil, Chile, Paraguay, and Uruguay have 10 wins, 0 losses, and 2 draws. I think this statement is a superlative endorsement that South Americans know how to play better than most. Other than Brasil and Argentina, the other teams don't get the respect they deserve. It feels like one of those years when the Big Ten wins all their first round games in the NCAA tournament multiplied by a hundred, even if that has never specifically happened during March Madness. We may be entering uncharted waters, and I hope Spain puts the dominance to rest when they take on Chile. And yet, we must digress back to baseball...

Major League Baseball and other media outlets that choose to award "Player of the Week" honors usually do so on a Sunday or Monday. In order to further differentiate BAseball Reality Tour from the rest, we're dawning a new day with the Midweek Players of the Week. These are the best players over the past 7 days, from Wednesday to Tuesday.

NL Hitter: Matt Holliday, Cardinals
Holliday hasn't taken a base on balls all week, but when you have a player as hot and powerful as Holliday, you want him swinging. His unbelievable numbers include a .524 Batting Average and a 1.333 Slugging Percentage. (That's a 1.857 OPS!)

NL Pitcher: Jamie Moyer, Phillies
Congratulations to one of our favorite players, Jamie Moyer. In a monumental week, Moyer threw 16 Innings, going 2-0, with a 1.68 ERA, 10 strikeouts, 2 walks, and only 5 hits allowed. The most memorable part of this week, however is that Jamie tied Hall of Famer Robin Roberts for the All-Time record of Homeruns allowed: 505. Extra bonus points go Jamie Moyer's way for being on the Cubs in 1986.

AL Hitter: Josh Hamilton, Rangers
Our second favorite patron of Maloney's*, Hamilton has also not earned a walk this week, but he's hitting .571, while slugging .929. Throw in a stolen base, and Ranger fans are pretty happy with their reborn slugger.

*Our favorite is our buddy Crockett.

AL Pitcher: Jason Vargas, Mariners
How surprising that this honor would go to a little-known player from one of the worst teams in the league. Vargas went 2-0 with a 0.61 ERA, 11 strikeouts, and a 0.68 WHIP.

What has this post proven? Nothing. I'm thinking it should be written on Thursdays, to take 3 days after Sunday, instead of just two. Come to think of it, most teams have Monday off, so this exercise hasn't been so effective.

What's worse as a writer? Is it bad to think the exercise you spent time on is futile? This is rarely a philosophical blog, but at this time, I'll choose futility over apathy.

Hey, at least we're putting forth more effort into our writing than Derrick May put into his 10 years as a Major Leaguer. I'm comfortable with my effort as long as it never dips below the perceived effort that Derrick May put into his 10 year career.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Colonel Mustard Strikes Again!

We use our Preseason Predictions as the standard to review at the end of the year. Still, we like to take another look at what our crystal ball would forecast from different times during this season.

Let's take the pulse of Major League Baseball today, Father's Day, Sunday, June 20.

Yesterday, friends of the blog Weino, Osh, and Colonel Mustard sat in our Cubs seats for an interleague match against the Angels. (photo of Colonel Mustard courtesy of Osh.)

Some of us could see this weekend's series at Wrigley Field as the rematch of the World Series in "Taking Care of Business".

Not to get all Sports Guy on us, but a quick background for the younger readers: "Taking Care of Business" was a 1990 movie starring Jim Belushi & Charles Grodin, with baseball cameos from Mark Grace, Bert Blyleven, and Joe Torre.

The story revolved around Belushi's character taking over Charles Grodin's life, sort of a wickledly less funny Trading Places feel, as he gets his ex-con hands on Grodin's invaluable Filofax. It's interesting how similar movies seem to come out at the same times. "TCoB" was sort of like Dana Carvey's 1990 comedy, "Opportunity Knocks".

I also think a remake could be cool to see if Blackberry, Iphone, Ipad, Motorola Droid, etc would bid over the product placement in a remake. Do you think they could cast Belushi again in the remake?

Here he is in 1990...


And, this is him more recently...

A remake of "Taking Care of Business" might also be the only way I could see the Cubs in a World Series any time soon. They could even play the Angels again, to keep the story in Southern California.

Speaking of the Angels, did anyone else notice that Darin Erstad just retired? I haven't been keeping up with the local sports pages online for a little while, so I'm not too sure what anyone other than Joe Posnanski and the good folks at mlbtr are talking about.

Erstad only made two All-Star teams, but he was a good defender at various positions, while hitting enough to do well in the counting stats. After splitting time with baseball and spring football his sophmore year, he was the starting punter for Coach Tom Osborne's 1994 National Champion Nebraska Cornhuskers. Tommie Frazier and Lawrence Phillips were the offensive stars of that team.

The Head Coach of my High School's Track and Cross Country program, Coach Hanson, went to Nebraska. He used to joke: "Do you know what the 'N' on Nebraska's football field stands for?" Punchiline: "Knowledge".

Okay, I digress, we are almost at the midway point of the season. Here are our predictions for final standings, postseason, and awards:

NL East
Phillies
Braves
Mets
Nationals
Marlins

The Braves and Mets are playing really, really well right now. With the competitive Marlins and improving Nationals, the future of this division is bright. It could become like the NFC East where all the teams can look good on paper headed into some seasons.

NL Central
Cardinals
Reds
Cubs
Brewers
Pirates
Astros

The Cardinals should cruise through September, and the Reds look like they will contend for the next few years. Remember when Dusty Baker teams in San Francisco used to know how to turn it on and win divisions at the end of the year? He might still have that ability to get 25 guys to buy into what they are doing and just go out at win ballgames. I'm not sure how much of that is revisionist history, actual managerial ability, or just plain nonsense.

NL West
Giants
Padres
Dodgers
Rockies
Diamondbacks

Losing Tulowitzki is a devastating blow to the Rockies, but we love this division, too. The Diamondbacks are not that far away from being contenders again. I think that future trades will decide who wins this division. The Giants need hitting, which is easier to get than pitching. Also, the Dodgers supposed ability to absorb contracts will help them in negotiating trades against other clubs who cannot take on money.

NL MVP: Albert Pujols
He doesn't have the best numbers, for once, but my instincts tell me that he's still young and strong enough to have another otherworldly 2nd Half.

NL CY Young: Ubaldo Jimenez
Speaking of otherworldly, Ubaldo is using two distinct blazing fastballs to slice and dice the strikezone from coast to coast. As many of you know, he's a Rockies pitcher with a 13-1 with a 1.15 ERA.

It's true that in these days of the humidor, being a Rockies pitcher doesn't mean what it used to. Balls aren't flying out of Coors Field like during the days of the Blake Street Bombers. The ball is certainly not as lively, but the high altitude still hampers pitching. Breaking pitches, like Curveballs, Sliders, Screwballs, and Slurves, do not break as sharply in the thin air of Colorado like they would at altitudes closer to Sea Level.

NL Rookie of the Year
Jason Heyward
There's a chance Heyward struggles in the 2nd half and/or Stephen Strasburg does something like go 11-0 with a sub-3.00 ERA and 150 Strikeouts, which could spark some lively debate.

NL Manager of the Year
Bruce Bochy
Love the 'stache man.

NLDS
Cardinals over Padres
Giants over Phillies

NLCS
Giants over Cardinals

AL East
Yankees
Rays
Red Sox
Blue Jays
Orioles


To survive in the AL East, you need a team that is almost perfect. You can't really have a hole in the lineup, unless he provides world class defense. You need a starting rotation full of guys who could step up and pitch like an ace more often than not. To us, it feels like the Red Sox starting pitchers are struggling to consistently shut down other lineups the way they should. Beckett, Matsuzaka, and Lackey, we're looking at you.

AL Central
Twins
Tigers
White Sox
Royals
Indians

This team used to be more exciting, I thought, with teams on the rise, etc. Instead, it's a bunch of never has beens trying to compete with the Gardy and the 21st Century M&M boys from Minnesota. The Indians and Royals are having miserable seasons, and it seems like the White Sox are talking a much better game than they've been playing.

AL West
Rangers
Angels
Athletics
Mariners


When I was in Vegas for my bachelor party a few months ago, I placed a bet on Argentina to with the World Cup, at 7-to-1 odds.

I was looking at MLB props and thought the Mariners were a lock to win the Division, and they had pretty good odds, too. It's good that I didn't have too enough Myers & Coke's or Kettle Kaucasians to put my money where my mouth was. The Mariners' inability to score runs was evident in the offseason, which overwhelmed the attributes of a very good defensive team with two bonafide Aces in Felix Hernandez and Cliff Lee.

AL MVP: Miguel Cabrera
Robinson Cano, Justin Morneau, Kevin Youkilis, Evan Longoria, and several other guys can eventually take home the hardware.

AL CY Young: Cliff Lee
If he gets traded to the National League, I would think the race would open up a bit to the likes of Liriano, Verlander, King Felix, maybe even Phil Hughes or David Price.

AL Rookie of the Year: Carlos Santana
Austin Jackson is off to a hot start, although he's had to battle a few injuries. It's unclear to us who all is eligible for this award, but if Santana pops 19+ Homeruns, while catching, couldn't he be the leader? It's strange this year, all the best rookie stats are going to come from the NL, with Strasburg, Heyward, Leake, Posey, Stanton, etc.

AL Manager of the Year: Ron Washington
As we learned in spring training, we don't want to miss the party at Wash's!

ALDS
Yankees over Twins
Rays over Rangers

ALCS
Yankees over Rays

2010 World Series
Yankees over Giants

Who do the brilliant readers think are going to square off in the World Series? Any other predictions out there?

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

What's Up with Yonder Alonso?

When we were in High School, a couple of my buddies and I would call local (Chicago) and National sports talk radio programs and assume the personalities of many, many characters. We were sort of like the "sports jerky boys" before "The Jerky Boys" became thousandaires.*

*is it possible that The Jerkey Boys became millionaires when our sports calls were even funnier but resulted in less than a hundred dollars in revenue?

Among our characters, we had: Highland Park Bob, Reggie from Gurnee**, Christian from St. Louis, Tutti Giovani from the Bronx***, Jorge from Los Angeles (pronounced 'horhay from los anheles'), and there were a few White Sox fans named Milk, Roheet, & Balfro.

**I thought describing our sports talk radio experiences would take its own series of posts, but we're actually going to do it here and now. (Please, whatever you do, do not get me started on "The Adventures of Dickie and Lionel: Along the Way".)

***I looked on google for an image to represent Tutti Giovani from the Bronx, and after typing different derogatory Italian terms, an image from the movie "Doubt" came up. I thought that was oxymornically funny.

Reggie from Gurnee stole the show several times. More than once, he talked about how the NBA was fixed. It has become popular to believe the NBA is fixed over the last 8 or 9 years. This was 1995. For example, Reggie would say, "What's the difference between wrestling and NBA?... Nothing, ain't no difference."

In fact, most of his fame came from the infamous Nick Anderson call with Norm Van Lier on the other end of the line. Reggie wanted to use Nick Anderson's experience missing four consecutive free throws as exhibits A, B, C, and D to demonstrate how fixed the NBA actually was. He evoked the memory of Nick Anderson at the University of Illinois, stating that Nick Anderson would never miss four free throws in a row. The Late Great Stormin' Norman tried reasoning with Reggie by describing the pressure: "when your butthole tightens up so much you can't stick a pin in it." Reggie opportunistically interrupted him by saying, "There ain't no way Nick Anderson misses four free throws in a row." Norm Van Lier gave Reggie a chance to speak for himself... if he could answer about the pressure, by asking him straight up: "You've never missed four free throws in a row?" Reggie valiantly answered with one word: "Never". The radio hosts erupted in approving disgust.

"Ohhhhhh, sign him up!" bellowed Van Lier.

Christian from St. Louis was an effeminate male who spoke up when the National radio show hosts were asking to hear from anyone who'd ever been to a nudist camp. For some reason****, nudists camps were being discussed by the hosts, and the hosts were leaning towards the side of the argument that nudist camps were for wierdo's.

****With Weino's help, we actually recall the reason: There was a Little League team that unexpectedly survived late into the tournament for the Little League World Series, but their unexpected success left them without hotel rooms for the upcoming games. So, they (a little league team) were basically forced to stay at a nudist colony.

To continue, Christian calls in talking about how there is nothing wrong with nudist colonies. They are "beautiful". "People's bodies are beautiful. There is so much beauty in the worlds besides sports. Don't get me wrong; I love sports. I love watching my athletes perform. There is nothing more beautiful than the human body. Etc, etc."

Jorge defended Christian with his famous with his line: "When I get hot, I get naked!" As he valiantly defended his actions: "What's wrong with that? I am with my family. It's okay. Nobody cares because it is at home, with my family. It's okay."

Can we continue talking about more characters? We haven't talked about any of our "Sox Fans", with all their Harold Baines stories, Cal Ripken opinions, and thoughts about society in general.*****

*****It turns out, we were right in the first place. We cannot possibly come close to describing all the remarkable calls we had in one post. Hopefully, we'll have another time soon to delve into these experiences a bit more, if you brilliant readers are interested. Roheet, Milk, and Balfro will need to wait for their own moment to shine in the BAseball Reality Tour spotlight.

After all this, the inspiration for this post has remained unspoken. There was one time when we thought it'd be funny to mimic callers who would call and say, "Hey, what's up with So-and-So?"

Normally, they would call up asking about someone who was potentially injured/recovered or someone who was vaguely rumored about in certain circles.

We thought it'd be funny to call and ask "What's up with So-and-So, when 'so-and-so' was neither in the news nor remarkable in any way." We discussed it and decided Will Perdue was the one athlete in Chicago where absolutely nothing was up with him. He was the backup Center for the Bulls. He was a role player with little, to no, personality.

Michael Jordan would infamously call him Will Vanderbilt because he went to Vanderbilt and was not good enough of a player to namely represent a (as my best friend likes to say) 'quote unquote' state school.

The Chicago media froze. They clammed up. They'd say things like, "what do you mean, 'what's up with him'?", and we would stand firm and say nothing more than, "what's up with him?"

It honestly lead to comedy gold - or at least bronze. There's no doubt the comedy was in the money. There was absolutely nothing "going on" with Will Perdue. So, we knew we chose the right guy.

Earlier tonight, I was thinking about one of the prospects I was most excited about this offseason: Yonder Alonso. I first became really aware of Mr. Alonso when mlbtr's Mike Axisa blogged about him this past offseason.

He was one of the more clearly blocked prospects in the game, as a heavy hitting 1st baseman behind 26-year old Joey Votto.

We aren't surprised by the Reds competing this year. So, it's interesting to check out if Yonder Alonso is performing well to gauge his interest/abilities as a trade chip or late season thunder in the lineup as a pinch hitter or corner outfielder.

So far this season, in 143 plate appearances, he's only producing a .244/.301/.359 line. He's just 23 years old, but that is not exactly the production of a future super stud. Maybe it's a result of a small sample size, or perhaps he's been overrated to this point... after careless consideration, we will lean towards him being a bit overrated. If he's going to be "the guy to get them the piece needed to put them over the top", he might have to perform a little bit 'quote unquote' better."

Monday, June 14, 2010

Unlikely All-Stars

I went to the Yankees game on Memorial Day, which was the first time this season I got an All-Star ballot. As usual, I rode the fence between the players with the best performances and my favorite players. Let's take a look at which chads I punched out on the Subway back to Manhattan.

National League
C: Brian McCann, Braves
1b: Todd Helton, Rockies
2b: Chase Utley, Phillies
SS: Hanley Ramirez, Marlins
3b: Ryan Zimmerman, Nationals
OF: Jason Heyward, Braves
OF: Colby Rasmus, Cardinals
OF: Matt Kemp, Dodgers

This side of the ballot is completely irrational and indifensible, when considering the neglect of Albert Pujols and Ryan Braun. I mean Todd Helton is having a terrible season. Hopefully, he'll rebound and have a good rest of the season. We're hoping for a .380 OBP and double-digit homeruns.

American League
C: Joe Mauer, Twins
1b: Miguel Cabrera, Tigers
2b: Robinson Cano, Yankees
SS: Elvis Andrus, Rangers
3b: Evan Longoria, Rays
OF: Carl Crawford, Rays
OF: Shin Soo-Choo, Indians
OF: Nelson Cruz, Rangers
DH: Vladdy Daddy, Rangers

Shin Soo-Choo reminds me of my Portland Beavers days of 2006, when he played with the Tacoma Rainiers. That year, he batted .320 with a .888 OPS, 13 HR's and and 26 stolen bases, in only 94 games. Teammate Adam Jones got most of the attention that summer, but Choo has proven to have established himself in the Major Leagues, while Jones struggles for consistency. The Indians front office deserves a lot of credit for getting him in a trade for Ben Broussard - another less than stellar moment for ex-Mariners GM, Bill Bavasi.

Another Natural: Carlos Santana

Just a quick note this evening... Doesn't Carlos Santana "look" like a good hitter? I'm not talking about the gaudy minor league stats, his minor league MVP awards (plural), nor his successful start in his first three Major League games.

I'm specifically talking about the way Carlos Santana stands in the batters' box: crouched a bit, hovering over the inside corner, and easily whirling the bat high in the air & behind his head as he waits to unleash wicked fury. He keeps his weight back and holds that power in his core, until he throws his hands and bat head at the ball.

Fantasy players who don't have Mauer, McCann, or Buster Posey should be all over this kid. Even if you have one of those guys, it could make a lot of sense to pickup Santana. Keep in mind, depth at catcher is underrated because most catchers fade a bit at different parts of the 2nd half. If you have two capable backstops, you'll have the luxury of playing the best matchup, while being well prepared to handle routine days off and injuries.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Hanging with the Silver Hawks

When I was about 15 or 16 years old, I went to South Bend, Indiana to attend a week-long baseball camp at the University of Notre Dame. This was when Pat Murphy was coaching the Irish. Murphy would leave Notre Dame the following year to the 3rd head coach ever at Arizona State University. What stood out the most about South Bend was the great number of fast food restaurants near campus. In my mind, there was every kind of fast food chain available to midwesterners: McDonald's, Burger King, Wendy's, Kentucky Fried Chicken (before KFC), Popeye's, Brown's Chicken, Long John Silver's, Arby's, Dairy Queen, White Castle, Hardee's, and Taco Bell were each within a two block radius from campus.

This trip down memory lane was brought to us by a colleague of mine who mentioned his buddy was drafted in the 2nd round by the Diamondbacks last year.

He was talking of 21-year-old Eric Smith, from the University of Rhode Island, who's currently excelling in the starting rotation for the single-A South Bend Silver Hawks.

Smith looks like a good prospect. He's 5 and 3, with a 2.73 ERA, while striking out 7 per 9 innings and walking 2.7 per 9. He's given up just 3 Homeruns in 62 innings and has good ground ball numbers due to his heavy sinker.

Good luck, Eric. We hope and expect to root for you in the show one day.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Irasshaimase, Jose Tabata

This week may be remembered as the time the Blackhawks won their 4th Stanley Cup AND one of the great weeks of Major League debuts in history. We already celebrated everyone's All-American, Stephen Strasburg, demolish the Quadruple-A Pirates. Also last night, in Philadelphia, the Florida Marlins unveiled a powerful 20-year old corner outfielder named Mike Stanton. The young slugger sparkled, as he went 3 for 5 with a couple of runs.

Tonight, we heard some chatter about the Pirates starting pitcher amking his debut: Brad Lincoln. Frankly, we considered picking him up off waivers and decided his upside is not high enough to spend innings on. More specifically, I think there is a chance he can pitch well but give up too many homeruns, while getting little run support every time out.

The rumblings about this blog's favorite cougar chaser, Jose Tabata, getting his first moment in the spot lightflew a little bit under the radar. His debut also went well: 2 for 5, with a walk, stolen base, and run scored. We are very excited about his chance to hit the ball hard and contribute right away at the Major League level, as well as on rotisserie teams. If you're so inclined, check out his minor league numbers. The power is not quite there, yet, but his K/BB numbers are those of a patient hitter beyond his years.

*Update: Tabada hurt his hamstring on Wednesday night, so we're not sure how long his coming out party will last.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

JoPo's Strasburg Live Blog

Blog favorite, Joe Posnanski, is doing a live blog for Stephen Strasburg's debut.

We were thinking of doing the same but are more than happy to sit back, relax, and enjoy Poz's thoughts on the inning-by-inning action.

The game is on MLBtv right now, and here is the link to Joe's live blog. I think you'll have to hit "refresh" every once in a while to get the updates.

If you're watching and/or reading, enjoy the action!

Monday, June 7, 2010

Best Picks by Decade: Cubs

This past Friday, I was inspired by Zachary Levine of the Houston Chronicle who highlighted the top draft picks by the Astros, by decade. In his piece, he lists Cliff Johnson (1960s), Greg Gross (1970s), Brian Hunter (1980s), John Buck (1990s), and Jay Austin (2000s, 2008 to be exact).

Unless Jay Austin becomes an outstanding leadoff hitter in the big leagues, the Astros list is not initially all that impressive.

So, what does the list look like for the Cubs? I decided to look at Wins Above Replacement (WAR) numbers from the essential Baseball-Reference.

1960s: Ken Holtzman, 27.5 CareerWAR, 18.2 CubsWAR
1970s: Rick Reuschel, 66.3 CareerWAR, 46.8 CubsWAR
1980s: Greg Maddux, 96.8 CareerWAR, 31.4 CubsWAR
1990s: Kerry Wood 22.9 CareerWAR, 23.2 CubsWAR
2000s: Mark Prior 13.1 WAR, all with Cubs

In the 70's, Lee Smith earned 18.7 of his 30.3 career WAR while stranding runners in scoring position for the Cubs.

Between 1981 and 1985, the Cubs drafted Joe Carter, Shawon Dunston, Maddux, and Rafael Palmeiro.

It's interesting that by the WAR measurement, the Cubs' best picks have all been starting pitchers. The early reaction of the Cubs' first round pick in tonight's draft, Hayden Simpson, is less than enthusiastic. I trust Cubs' Scouting Director, Tim Wilken, but when we hear that he's barely making some people's Top 200 lists & Keith Law says that the last time a scout mentioned Simpson to him was March, I start to wonder.

I don't know about the rest of Cubdome, but I'd be pretty happy if Hayden Simpson becomes the next Ken Holtzman. At the very least, we have to admit that Hayden Simpson's got a pretty neat name.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Public Enemy: Jim Joyce

As Joe Posnanski eloquently alluded to after Roy Halladay's perfect game on Saturday, perfect games and near-perfect games are all the rage.

Tiger fans should be celebrating the franchise's first ever perfect game tonight, as Armando Galarraga got hosed on the 27th batter he faced.

From the game recap:
DETROIT (AP)—Armando Galarraga of the Detroit Tigers lost his bid for a perfect game Wednesday night with two outs in the ninth inning on a disputed call at first base. Replays appeared to show Cleveland hitter Jason Donald was out.

Tigers manager Jim Leyland immediately argued the call with first base umpire Jim Joyce, and was joined by several Detroit players who surrounded the ump after the Tigers beat the Indians 3-0.

-snip-

Donald hit a bouncer that first baseman Miguel Cabrera cleanly fielded to his right. He took his time and made an accurate throw to Galarraga covering the bag.

The ball appeared to be in Galarraga’s glove just before Donald made it to first base, replays indicated. Galarraga smiled, held up his glove hand and started to make an out call with his right hand.

But Joyce, a veteran umpire, made an emphatic safe call and Comerica Park went silent in disbelief. A couple of Tigers put their hands to their heads.

Galarraga merely smiled and went back to work as the crowd started to boo. Cabrera continued to argue the call as Galarraga quickly retired Trevor Crowe for the one-hit shutout.

Joyce faced a group of hostile Tigers—led by Leyland—between the pitching mound and home plate after the final out and was booed lustily by the crowd of 17,738 as he walked off the field.
Congratulations, Jim Joyce. You just became our least favorite official this side of the NBA.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Intriguing Trade Chips

In light of today's two trades, Dontrelle to the D'Backs and Dana Eveland to Pittsburgh, we thought it would be fun to look at two intriguing trade chips in each division that we believe are flying a bit under the radar.

For each division, we will highlight one Major League trade chip and one prospect we feel may get dealt, even though we've probably not heard anything more substantial than pure speculation.

NL East
MLB: Adam Dunn
If the Nationals regress, don't get Oswalt, and become sellers, Adam Dunn becomes one of the best rent-a-hitter guns for hire.
Prospect: Jennry Mejia
The current and previous, GM of the Mets have made plenty of mistakes. Mishandling young starter Mejia, by neglecting him in the bullpen, and trading him wouldn't be the most surprising transaction of the Phillips/Minaya administration.

NL Central
The Cubs need to improve their Outfield defense, while getting younger. Getting one good player for Fukudome, plus addition by subtraction, and the 2011 Cubs might be something.
Prospect: Yonder Alonso
As mlbtr's Mike Axisa proclaimed back in April, Yonder is either on the Kyle Blanks Path or Matt LaPorta Path to the Majors.

NL West
MLB: Kelly Johnson
It's tough to see a lot of movement off MLB rosters in this division if all teams can contend. The Adrian Gonzalez and Heath Bell rumors appear to have been too assumptive. Kelly Johnson's performance and affordable contract make him a desirable trade target.
Prospect: Madison Bumgarner
There were reports earlier this spring that Bumgarner lost a noticeable chunk of speed off his fastball. We haven't really heard of much improvement on the radar gun, though he hasn't exactly been getting rocked in the minors.

I mean, he's 4-1 with a 2.72 ERA in Triple-A. His peripheral stats don't jump off the page, and I just feel the Giants are going to want to cash in on his percieved value.

We were going to do the AL tonight, as well, but this got too long and it got too late. Hopefully, we'll get to the AL in the next couple of days. Be well.