May 6, 2008
As some of you may know, I'm no longer writing about baseball
professionally. Well, to be completely forthcoming, I'm not doing
anything with baseball any more and yet I am still enjoying life very
much. Probably moreso. Go figure. Anyway, that
doesn't mean I still don't enjoy watching games or playing fantasy
baseball or Strat-o-matic. Or writing down observations. I
guess I'm just a chatterbox that way.
It's hard to tell much about a player from his debut so I'm not going
to pass judgement on Max Scherzer's first outing as a starter quite
yet. I'm pretty sure he was overthrowing a little, costing some
velocity on his fastball but it was still pretty good. However,
two things concern me - the first is that he's basically a two pitch
pitcher: a very good four seam fastball and a good change-up. His
two seamer was decent but
I don't recall him throwing it in the strike zone any of the few times
threw it. His slider is nothing but a show-me pitch and until he
throw one of those two for quality strikes, his value will be limited
it will be tough to go deep in games with just two pitches. The
basically sat on his fastball and ignored anything else. The
that troubles me a little is his delivery, which has a little recoil on
follow-through. I don't think it will be an injury concern, just
that can get out of whack. Still, that concern is mitigated by
fact that he has one of the better pitching coaches in the majors,
Price, guiding him.
Speaking of pitching coaches, last fall I took more grief about my
position that Leo Mazzone was merely a good pitching coach, not a great
one, and that Atlanta's success was largely due to the presence of Greg
Maddux. Here is some more grist for the mill: the Orioles under
pitching coach Rick Kranitz, have posted a team ERA of 4.27. Last
year at this time under pitching genius Leo Mazzone they had an ERA of
4.33, and that
was with Cy Young candidate Eric Bedard on the staff. Want more
The year before Mazzone showed up the O's posted a 4.56 ERA.
first year with the team they posted a 5.35 ERA and his second full
they dropped a 5.17 on the fans. I'm sure if the O's finish under
this year, the Mazzone worshippers will say it was due to a residual
of his tutelage.
But you want to know who is a great pitching coach? Check out the
Cardinals' ERA: 3.53, 5th best in baseball despite the fact that staff
ace Chris Carpenter is on the shelf and they feature a staff of
Joel Piniero, Kyle Lohse, Todd Wellemeyer and Braden Looper. It's
thing to post great ERAs with top talent the way Mazzone did, but it's
another to do it with second rate arms and retreads the way Duncan has
done his entire career. Sure, he can't reach everyone - see
Marquis, Jason - but a pitching coach's primary job is to make as many
as possible of his pitchers better. Mazzone let several of his
most talented fall through the cracks - Paul Byrd, Odalis Perez, Jason
Schmidt, etc - Duncan has been more successful. Maybe
it's time those stat heads started looking
at the actual stats.
OK, so enough rant. The big question this time of year is "is my
guy ok?" and the big category usually is saves. So without more
are the "big name" closers I don't think will finish the season as
closers based on what I've seen so far.
Eric Gagne will not make it past June as the Brewers closer. He's
nowhere near the same pitcher he was with the Dodgers. Milwaukee
is in contention, they have a team that can win that division but they
can't do it with Gagne as a shadow of his former self. There's
some speculation that either Mota or Torres can step up but even though
they have the physical tools to do the job there is something about
their body language they says to me that they aren't the answer.
I bet the Brewers make a deal for a closer sometime in early July.
JJ Putz has been battling some injuries this year which probably
explains why his velocity is down 5 mph. That's a fine excuse to
to next year but that won't help the Mariners if they want to try to
the playoffs this year, especially since the wild card is wide open.
Yankees fans, your team won't be playing in October: too many gaping
holes. The M's have a couple of good options in the
pen to replace Putz. The safe money is probably on Brandon Morrow
I really like Ryan Rowland-Smith despite the fact that he's a lefty and
numbers don't really say closer at all. I just like the way he
I don't think Huston Street lasts the season. His stuff is good
but not great and he almost never pitches inside any more. That's
not a formula for long-term security. I like the former Jairo
Garcia, now called Santiago Casilla, to be the guy, especially if the
A's do their usual trick of trading a closer away in order to build for
Jason Isringhausen has not looked good, obviously. Kyle McLellan
has looked very good so far and Tony LaRussa is not afraid to go with a
young guy as his closer (see: Wainwright, Adam in the 2006 playoffs).
Kevin Gregg won't last the season as the Marlin's closer. Of the
guys already in a Florida uni I'd go with Justin Miller as his
replacement but he hasn't quite been as convincing so far as I would
like. This is
another team I expect to go shopping this summer for a closer if they
in contention, which at this point looks like it might happen.
I don't have much confidence that Brian Fuentes finishes the season as
the closer in Colorado. Oddly enough, it's been Matt Herges who's
most dominant statistically in the Rockies' pen, but I dont trust him
They may try Buchholz or Speier but they look like short-termers
I liked Kip Wells as a reliever coming into this season but his
have put the kybosh on that. The Rockies don't look like a
this year anyway so I can see them experimenting the whole season
for lightning in a bottle they way they caught it last season with
Bobby Jenks is a boederline case that has me a bit worried as his
velocity has been almost mediocre.
He's come up with another pitch to use so maybe he can trick his
through this season but his long term prospects aren't looking very
Matt Thornton has looked amazing but we've seen this movie
looks unhittable one month then can't find the strike zone the next.
he continues to make hitters look silly through May and the first part
June, buy, buy, buy!
You've probably noticed that I haven't mentioned the obvious one yet:
Brandon Lyon. That's because so far he looks like he can handle
the job for the full season in Arizona. However I would trade him
before next season because there is no way he fools hitters for two
seasons in a row. Call him Matt Herges, Jr.
I also like Kerry Wood to keep his job. Sure he's blown three
saves, but look at his secondary numbers and then watch him. His
stuff is not vintage Kerry Wood, but it's still pretty good and I bet
it improves a tad when the weather warms a little more. He has a
hard time getting loose quickly and the warmer weather should help that.
I like what I've seen from Brian Wilson the past two weeks. He is
beginning to look pretty comfortable with the job, being more
in the strikezone and getting groundballs. He may not get as many
with the Giants, but I think he'll be plenty good to keep the job for
Many doubted Troy Percival's comeback, myself included although unlike
many I wasn't willing to suggest that his ability to close was a joke.
I would not be surprised if he did fine all this season; I don't
think that will continue through next season.
I would not expect anything out of Chad Cordero this season. He's
been used hard for the last four years and the workload has finally
up. Catch him on the rebound perhaps in 2010. Jon Rauch is
guy this year. One other thing about the Nats: I've been down on
their starting staff this season with the exception of saying that
Odalis Perez was a worthwhile flyer. But they ahve some decent
arms out there. I was stunned to see the radar gun read the
mid-90s while watching Joel Hanrahan and Tim Redding doesn't look like
the same Tim Redding I've been watching for the last 10 years.
Maybe the clock will strike midnight on Timderella soon but it's
been fun to watch so far. It has been tough to wtch the clock
strike 1, 2 and 3 AM on Matt Chico. He got away with larceny last
year but it's hard to keep that going.
OK, just a couple quick hits on other players of note:
Conor Jackson has been getting a lot of hype and deservedly so with his
start. I don't think he'll continue this power surge throughout
season but he'll be plenty solid. Here's the thing - James Loney
a year younger, a better defender, a better contact hitter and I think
more power potential. Enjoy the ride with Jackson this year but
is the better play long term.
It doesn't come as a complete surprise that Josh Hamilton is leading
AL in RBI so far this season. He was a former #1 draft pick, has
had immense talent and is playing on a team that has some pretty good
in a good hitters park. But do you know who is #2 in RBI right
Would you believe it's Emil Brown? And he's doing it with
OPS of .725. His 27 RBI to this point puts him on pace to drive
more than 100 baserunners despite probably falling short of hitting 20
Here's a fun fact for you: the last hitter to drive in more than
runs with a .725 OPS or lower without having a 20 homer season was
Van Robays in 1940. He and Heinie Zimmerman back in 1917 are the
two players in history to do it. Furthermore, only a couple dozen
have ever posted an OPS under .750 and drove in at least 90 with fewer
20 home runs and only one - Derek Bell in 1996 - has done it in the
15 years. Emil Brown's value will never be higher. One
be tempted to suggest the same thing of James Loney who is also running
fast company in the RBI department. The difference between the
is that Brown is a career journeyman and Loney is a star on the rise
has never posted an OPS under .900 while playing in the majors.
other performance categories will catch up to his RBI production soon.
So what's the deal with Nate McLouth? Is he for real? I
he's among the league leaders in RBI, doubles AND homers. Well,
was a 25th round draft pick by the Pirates who've not shown much acumen
picking the best talent, his best home run season in the minors was 12
A-ball and his best season overall was in AA where he hit 40 doubles
8 homers. So the anwer is probably no, just like Brian Roberts
a few years ago. I do expect he'll hit for good average though.
Jack Cust is a polarizing player with an increasing number of people
jumping on his bandwagon this spring. They jumped off in April
with his bad start but seem to be changing their tune again with his
performance last week.
Just for the record, I have never been on his bandwagon.
Well, maybe I was as a DH but after watching him play in
Baltimore I was convinced that he was not a player I would want on any
team - real or fantasy - if I
was a GM even after last season. First, he is a liability in the
and on the basepaths. He is perhaps the only man in the history
baseball to fail to score from second base on a base hit with no one
covering home plate. I scored that game in Baltimore for MLB and
I still have
the scorecard somewhere in my office. Secondly, and this doesn't
as much to fantasy as real baseball, he is a poor bet to help the team
they ever make the playoffs. The majority of pitchers he'll face
the regular season are mediocre so he makes an acceptable DH if he gets
enough to make contact because he will either walk or slug mistake
often enough. But during the post-season he faces mostly very
pitchers who don't make those stupid mistakes because they are both
and focused. That eliminates almost his entire game making him a
everywhere except maybe as a desperation pinch hitter. And the
is getting around - except on the Texas pitching staff - that he can't
hard stuff inside. I'm just not seeing a good ending here.
I would just like to mention that in 2006 both here and at one of Ron
Shandler's First Pitch Forums I singled out Justin Upton as the next
ARod/Pujols/Griffey type superstar. I also said that year in both
of the aforementioned
forums that even though he didn't have a great strikeout rate, that
Wang had the same kind of stuff that Kevin Brown had at the same stage
his career and that once he added another pitch, the studliness and the
would come. There's an over-abundance of self congratualtion in
fantasy baseball industry, particularly when it comes to stating the
I thought it was notable that these two pats on the back came after a
of doubters... kinda like that Mazzone thing.