Very Superstitious

The Curse is Lifted
Red Sox fans will one day thank me. 

No, I haven't talked Nomar, Pedro and Varitek into coming back to Boston next season for the major league minimum.  And no, I didn't introduce intestinal parasites into the Yankee's drinking water.  What they will thank me for is realizing that I can never have a Red Sox first baseman on any of my fantasy baseball teams because he will have an absolutely terrible year otherwise.  I had to think like Spock in Star Trek 2: the Wrath of Khan - "the needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few... or the one".  So with the collective psyche of the Red Sox Nation in mind, I finally traded Kevin Millar off my last team that had him, my AL Tout Wars team, on Monday, July 19th to get Joe Crede.  In the three and a half months before July 19, he was hitting .269 with just 5 home runs.  Last year, he hit .276 with 25 homers.  In the four days since I traded him, he is hitting .636 with 5 home runs.

Oh.  So you think I had nothing to do with it? 

In 2002, I drafted Tony Clark.  From 1996-2001, Clark had hit between .250 and .291, mostly in the .280 range, with anywhere from 13 to 34 home runs.  And the year he hit just 13 he was limited to 208 at bats by injuries.  He had averaged 28 homers over the other five seasons.  But the day he was drafted to my AL Tout team was the day he was cursed to hit .207 with 3 home runs for the season.  To add insult to injury, the following season he played for the Mets (and on none of my fantasy teams) and hit 16 homers in just 254 at bats.

Ok, that could be just coincidence - one atrocious year from Clark the only year he was on my team... I can live with coincidence.  Not everything is a conspiracy or ill-aligned stars and planets.  It just seems that way sometimes.

In 2003, I drafted Jeremy Giambi, who had been named as the teams' Opening Day 1B/DH.  While averaging just 313 at bats the previous three years, he had averaged around .260 with 14 homers a season.  In 2003, he was projected to get over 450 at bats, making him a very strong candidate for 20 or more homers.   But that dream ended when I picked him up for my AL Tout team.  He didn't play 3 consecutive games until mid-June on his way to a .197 average with 5 home runs and 15 RBI in just 127 at bats.  Several offers for him came my way during that period, but I declined, thinking patience would win the day.   So to add injury to insult, he was sidelined for the second half of the season with a shoulder injury. 

That's two-for-two.  It's not proof of a curse, but its awfully suspicious.  Sorta like the way Cubs' pitchers seem to come up lame after Dusty Baker leaves them on the mound for several outings of 130+ pitches.  Or the way Bobby Cox's teams almost always seem to come up short in the playoffs.  And with Millar's struggles and his subsequent offensive explosion the instant he was off my team I was three-for-three, leaving no doubt that I control the Red Sox destiny every time I go into a fantasy baseball draft.  But for the rest of this season, the Curse of the Long Gandhi is lifted.

Between Scylla and Charybdis
I just don't get it sometimes.  I know the game is much more than numbers.  There are things that both players and pitchers do that are valuable yet there is no statistic that reveals that value.  And I also know that managers have to deal with injuries, aches and pains when they send their team out on the field, so a lot of their decisions are made for them before the game - who they can use out of the pen, who can sub or pinch run, etc.  Taking that into consideration...

Assume for a second that statistics could be very useful in determining whether or not a pitcher would make a good closer.  I know it sounds far fetched, but bear with me.  You're at the end of the game, you only need three more outs... what characteristics should one look for in the guy who's going to clinch the win for you?  Should he allow lots of baserunners?  Well, if it's a close game, you probably don't want a guy like that out there because heaven knows something freaky might happen like a wild pitch, or an error or a base hit which could tie the game.  So we probably want a guy who doesn't put a lot of batters on base.  What else?... maybe we should get a guy who gets a lot of flyballs... no, one of them could travel far enough for a home run.  How about a guy who gets groundballs all the time?  That might work, but what if it's a one-run game and he comes in with the bases loaded and no outs?  Even if he gets the groundball for a double play, the tying run could score.  No, what we need is a guy who strikes lots of batters out.  OK, so what kinds of statistics might show that a guy gets strikeouts and doesn't allow baserunners... hmmm... how about strikeouts and baserunners allowed?

OK, that ridiculously obvious bit of elementary thinking you just suffered through... apparently still hasn't occurred to Cleveland manager Eric Wedge.  This is a table of the relievers in the Cleveland pen who have either gotten saves either this year or in their careers (stats are from this season as of 7/24/04).

Rafael Betancourt
Bobby Howry
Jose Jimenez
Matt Miller
David Riske
Rick White 1.356
Bob Wickman 2.333

Just looking at the table, it seems like the best candidate for closing is either Matt Miller or Bobby Howry and the worst candidates for closing are Jose Jimenez and Bob Wickman.  Yet who leads Cleveland in saves?  Jose Jimenez.  And who was just named their latest new closer?  Bob Wickman.  Twice Eric Wedge has asked Matt Miller to get his team out of a sticky situation facing the heart of the Angels' line-up and twice Miller has emerged unscathed.  So you don't like a guy who doesn't top 90 mph to be your closer?  Bobby Howry has been very good and is throwing in the mid-90s again.  At the rate Wedge is trying out closers, Sid Monge, Doug Jones and Rick "Wild Thing" Vaughn will get opportunities to close before Miller or Howry.  Whatever the reasons, they don't appear to add up.