Monday, April 28, 2008
It's April, but who cares?
Was this series the most important one in (Devil) Ray history?
Leading the AL East!
Sunday, April 27, 2008
Even better, I just found this question and answer from NFL.com's player profile on Campbell, compiled before the draft:
Q. Growing up, who was your favorite NFL player and why?
Campbell: Barry Sanders. He was unstoppable.
I agree, Caleb Campbell. That's the main reason I became a Lions fan, and have been through many painful years since Barry Sanders left.
The link below is the NFL.com article about Caleb Campbell being drafted by the Lions:
This past week, the Mets traveled to Wrigley Field for a series against the Cubs. During that series, young Mets reliever Joe Smith apparently decided he had had enough of the hecklers to whom relief pitchers become so accustomed. Follow the link below to HomerDerby and the video is available on that site.
I like Joe Smith. I do. I think he was our best guy before Wagner in the 'pen before Dirty Sanchez came back (who has looked good so far, so my hopes are high). But I don't like this.
...Speaking of Billy Wagner, today he allowed a hit for the first time this season. I guess this windup of his (which I still find weird whenever I see it) is working. Wagner still has not allowed a run in 2008.
Oh, and by the way, that Longoria guy is pretty f-ing incredible. He made a couple amazing grabs at third today plus after striking out twice against Josh Beckett, he comes back in his third at bat and blasts a homerun against him. I love Longo more and more every day...
And Shields pitched a monster of a game tonight. Pitching a complete game, two-hit shutout against the Red Sox? That's just something else.
On a completely random subject, apparently the Rays are a great deal if you want to go see them at home. There's free carpool parking, plus college kids can get tickets for $5 on Friday nights along with $1 hot dogs. If only I lived in Tampa...
-Wright is unfortunately in a slump.
-Ryan Church is still hitting the ball hard, against both righties and lefties.
-Aaron Heilman has taken over the top spot on my list of undesirables. He is absolutely terrible.
-Brian Schneider has missed the last several games with an injury. Raul Casanova has filled in for him. Casanova has a homerun today off of John Smoltz.
-The Mets knocked Smoltz out of today's game after only 4 innings. The Mets were leading 4-0. It is now 4-3.... Crap.
Hopefully I'll have time for another substantive post soon.
Tuesday, April 22, 2008
Beyond the Boxscore
This is a very intelligent baseball sabrmetrics blog, written in large part by my favorite blogger from DRaysBay, RJ Anderson. If you want a sample of the sort of articles they publish there, take a look at their most recent post above. It's a really great article detailing the reasons (and pretty in-depth ones at that) why despite his slow start, David Ortiz still has some pop in his bat.
Rob Neyer's new book
Definitely add this to my list of books I'd like someone to buy for me. Actually, I'll probably buy it for myself before my birthday comes around. For anyone that loves baseball history and lore, this looks like a must read.
Interview with Rob Neyer about said book
After reading this interview, I've decided that Rob Neyer is one of the few ESPN analysts that I can actually respect. Come to think of it, I can't remember ever having a problem with any of the things that he's written. He's definitely a cool guy and seems to know what he's talking about.
Honestly, this is a few days old news by this point, but ESPN just finally put an article up about it. The Orioless got so lucky that they unloaded Tejada to the Astros this offseason. First the Mitchell Report and now this. And hmm...to be honest, I actually don't like this article that much but it's worth skimming to get the gist of the situation.
Monday, April 21, 2008
That's so depressing, though. Why can't athletes just be content with the skills they naturally have? Oh, that's right...
$$ *bling bling!* $$
Sunday, April 20, 2008
"Oh, somewhere in this favored land the sun is shining bright;
The band is playing somewhere, and somewhere hearts are light,
And somewhere men are laughing, and somewhere children shout;
But there is no joy in Mudville - mighty Casey has struck out."
For years, this quote from Ernest L. Thayer's immortal "Casey at the Bat" was very fitting for the Devil Rays franchise. If you slightly changed the last line, just imagine how many different situations it applied to:
"But there is no joy in Tampa - mighty [insert name here*] has struck out."
* Choose one: Aubrey Huff, Jared Sandberg, Greg Vaughn, Jose Canseco, Vinny Castilla, Ben Grieve, Toby Hall, Jorge Cantu, Joey Gathright, Elijah Dukes, Dewon Brazelton (struck out as a pitching prospect), Lou Piniella, Josh Hamilton (damn the Reds!), etc.
If you couldn't get my drift or you've been in a coma for the last ten years, the Devil Rays sucked. No ifs ands or butts; they’ve been utterly atrocious ever since they first joined the league ten years ago in 1998. Through a combination of bad luck and a horrendously bad front office, the Devil Rays managed to bungle their way to a 645-972 record (a .399 winning percentage), losing over 100 games in three of ten seasons. They’ve become masters at being “forgettably bad” – not bad enough to become lovable losers like the 1962 Mets or 2003 Tigers and not good enough to justify people actually liking them. Instead, they’ve just wallowed in the moldering bog of suckiness, swallowing any player with actual talent and turning them into Dewon Brazelton.
After the 2005 season, though, everything started to change. Vince Namoli and his cronies left town after eight loooong years (sound familiar?), bought out by the baseball equivalent of Barack Obama - Stuart Sternberg. While Sternberg wasn’t nearly as elegant or good looking as Barack Obama, Sternberg came in very inexperienced but preaching about, “dramatic change for this organization.” Him and Matthew Silverman (President/GM) reshaped the team’s infrastructure and started pampering to their fans, enticing them with free parking and many new upgrades to Tropicana Field. Even if the team on the field wasn’t much different the next year, the mindset in the front office had definitely changed. “There are teams that spend quite a bit of money and don't have much success,” Sternberg said, “There are teams that spend a bit less and have a lot of success. We just want to have success.”
Now, if Obama could be as successful turning our country around as Sternberg and Matthew Silverman (president/GM) has been turning the Devil Rays around, I wouldn’t be surprised if within three years, we all have global health care and Iraq has a settled, stable government. Ever since Silverman took over, the Devil Rays have significantly improved to the point where this off-season, they finally shed themselves of their cocoon and for the first time ever, became a major league ball club. They invested money in free agents needed to make the team better, they signed key players to long-term contracts, and they finally committed to the idea of winning now. No more of this “winning-in-five-years” crap, thank goodness. And what better way to symbolize this change than by changing their team name, logo, and uniforms? Oh, and they released plans for a new stadium. In short, the Devil Rays and their ten years of suckiness are no more. The Rays, gay burst of sunshine and all, are here to play and they mean business.
In the end, though, how much can we really expect from the Rays this season? Sure, they front office may have added Troy Percival, Cliff Floyd, Trevor Miller, Jason Bartlett, and Matt Garza this off-season, but how much does this all translate into in terms of wins? If we’re just evaluating in terms of these off-season moves, potentially, not a lot. We’ve already seen both Cliff Floyd and Matt Garza go down with injuries this year, while Bartlett and Miller haven’t exactly lived up to expectations yet. Regardless, PECOTA (currently the most reliable stat-based projection system) predicts that the Rays will go 88-74 this year, ending up in third place in their division. PECOTA has a reliability of around 4 games, meaning that it’s normally only ever off by plus or minus 4 games. Where is this coming from?
Two words: defense and pitching. The Rays were absolutely horrible last year in terms of both defense and pitching, actually hitting the realm of historically bad in terms of defense. According to Baseball Prospectus, the 2007 Rays had a .662 defensive efficiency rate, the lowest they have on record. All this means when turned into other stats and juggled a little bit is that last year, the Devil Rays, “…were nearly six percent worse than the league average at converting balls in play into outs.” Ouch.
Also, the Rays had horrible pitching. Heck, their Opening Day rotation last year included both Casey Fossum and Jae Seo; I don’t know about you, but that certainly looks like a winning combination to me (irony alert!). Their team ERA was 5.53, while their bullpen ERA alone stood at 6.16. Their pitching staff let up 944 runs, which is over 50 runs higher than the next closest team. Granted, their pitching couldn’t have been helped by their historically inept defense, but I still don’t think Edwin Jackson’s 5.76 ERA was completely a result of bad defense.
Now, the addition of Bartlett, the promotion of Longoria, the development of Upton in centerfield, and shifting Aki to second base all bolster the Rays’ defense. To what degree is debatable, as Bartlett hasn’t been perfect at short (though he is a definite step up over anyone else we’ve ever had at short) and Upton still has a lot to learn. There was also a recent article published at Baseball Prospectus that goes into some detail why they believe PECOTA overestimates how much improved the Ray defense will be this year. Even if the Rays’ defense isn’t incredible this year, though, it’s still got to be much better than last year.
In terms of pitching, the pitching depth that the Rays have in the minor leagues is finally starting to manifest itself in the majors. Over the first 18 games of this season, the Rays have been without their staff ace Scott Kazmir, but they still have a 4.04 team ERA and a 2.93 bullpen ERA. This improvement even without Kazmir (and Garza, for that matter) stems from one main thing: minor league depth. The Rays farm system has been ranked for the past two years in a row as the best system in all of baseball, and the results are finally now beginning to appear in the majors. Flamethrower J.P. Howell seems to have finally found his niche as the long-relief man in the bullpen (2.53 ERA in 10.2 IP), while Jason Hammel has managed to turn his potential into results for the first time (1 W, 4.26 ERA, 19 IP). Even Edwin Jackson has finally strung together a couple good starts, though whether this success is temporary is up for debate. Top prospect Jeff Niemann was just called up from AAA and if he strings together a few more solid starts, it may be tough to send him back down. So whatever way you look at it, the Rays are finally in a good place for pitching. Maybe Jackson and Hammel won’t keep pitching as well as they currently are, but it seems like the days of Ray pitchers with 6 ERAs are long gone. Oh man, and speaking of pitching, I can’t wait for David Price to arrive on the scene next year…
So when all is said and done, PECOTA’s prediction of 88-74, while optimistic, might actually hold true. At the very least, you can make a solid argument as to why the Rays could potentially put up that record. Personally, I’m predicting the Rays to finish with a season record at 81-81, plus or minus 3 games, with it being more likely they’ll end up on the minus side. PECOTA’s prediction is just a tad too optimistic even for me, one of the world’s largest optimists. I think the Rays’ defense is going to better, but not as good as PECOTA predicts. Aki is going to need time to adjust to second base and we’ve already seen Upton misplay some balls in the outfield this year. Our pitching staff I have more faith in, though I am very skeptical of Edwin Jackson’s early success and feel that we should trade him while his value is high. We have enough pitching depth and I would much rather give Niemann 30 starts right now than Jackson.
However the Rays turn out this year, though, I think there’s something everyone can agree with – this is going to be one hell of a fun team to watch. Whether it’s going to be Pena blasting a homerun, Crawford stealing bases like crazy, Kazmir striking out people left and right, Longoria being damn sexy, or Johnny Gomes swinging for the fences, it's going to be a wild ride. So excuse me while I go turn on the game. Jackson’s on the mound, so let’s keep those fingers crossed. Go Rays!
Tuesday, April 15, 2008
I know I'm a Heilman-hater, but I'll mention here that he pitched a scoreless 8th inning, despite giving up a double.
More on Duaner Sanchez, I just want to include a story here. I've already written the story of how Xavier Nady learned he had been traded after Sanchez's injury created a need for a relief pitcher. As clueless as Nady was that him being traded was a possibility, the rest of the Mets may have been even more shocked. Apparently, Nady was in the hotel lobby on July 31 and preparing to leave to join the Pirates. A bunch of the Mets players were set to go out to dinner and just assumed that X-Man would either join them or be going out on his own. It was then that Nady told them all he had been traded to Pittsburgh. He also told them at this time about Duaner Sanchez's car accident and injury, which the players seemingly didn't know about before. Needless to say, the collection of Mets players was speechless. Nady was an extremely popular player among both his teammates and the fans, and obviously everybody recognized how critical Sanchez was to the team's success.
With Sanchez returning, it's an appropriate time to look back. Aaron Heilman, Guillermo Mota (yes, that steroid-using, lead-blowing @$$****), and Roberto Hernandez all tried to fill Sanchez's role, and none were particularly successful in the end (i.e. the playoffs [Yadier Molina? Are you kidding me, Heilman?]). Heilman is still blowing leads for the Mets, so not much has changed there. Mota was sent to the Brewers in a form of addition-by-subtraction, since the player the Mets received in return, Johnny Estrada, was released just a couple weeks later. Roberto Hernandez went to the Indians to start 2007, but was released by them on June 20 of that year, and signed onto a minor-league deal with the Dodgers. He struggled through a stretch with the Major League club, and is currently a free agent at 43 years old. Xavier Nady is now the main offensive threat of the Pittsburgh Pirates (or a close second to Jason Bay), and still a very popular player (not to mention an early winner of the Non-Mets Player Mets Player of the Day Award here on this site).
As part of Jackie Robinson Day, which Commissioner Selig decided to center at Shea Stadium this year, the Mets unveiled the newly constructed Jackie Robinson Rotunda, the Ebbets Field-inspired museum portion of the Mets future home, Citi Field. I haven't had a chance to watch any video of the unveiling yet, and probably won't until late tonight when my college's internet speeds up after everybody else who isn't a history major is asleep. But I'm really getting excited about that new stadium every time a ball is hit to left and it appears in the background.
From a Broadcast last season: "And David Wright has just hit the first homerun in Citi Field." -after Wright's homer landed in the construction area
I realize I haven't posted a Non-Mets Player Mets Player of the Day in quite a few days. I've just been extremely busy lately.
Saturday, April 12, 2008
Dear Mr. Stark-
I for one was shocked and appalled by your reference to Rocco Baldelli in your article "So many key players on the shelf". To be specific:
"(Before we launch into this list, just be aware that those with long-term afflictions -- Tommy John rehabbers, sufferers of Rocco Baldelli-itis et al -- were deemed ineligible."
Are you aware that Baldelli was diagnosed this spring with a rare and debilitating illness that could not only mean the end of his baseball career, but also impact all aspects of his life?
The poor guy can't play a game without getting winded and well, baseball isn't exactly like soccer. He's having trouble with stamina and because of that, his entire life could be impacted. His baseball career is most likely done (unless they can somehow find a way to cure it) and this illness could also end up keeping Baldelli from leading a normal, active life. And you find this as something to poke fun at?
I know there are tons of people out there that are injury prone and as a Ray fan, I've gotten frustrated with Rocco before. But at this point, all I can feel is ridiculously sorry for the guy. Do you think he wants to get winded after light workouts? He's going through a rough enough time as it is and I don't think he should have the media poking fun at his illness on top of it all. I notice you didn't say anything about anyone suffering from Doug Davis-itis...how is this any different? As someone that's had cancer myself, I sincerely hope that you would never, ever say something like that. You don't insinuate that someone else may have a debilitating illness, especially when it draws away from the seriousness of that illness. It's disrespectful to everyone involved.
And one more thing...at least they know what to do to help Doug Davis, you know? He could potentially be ready to go by the All-Star Break. But what can Baldelli do at this point? Yes, it's not cancer, but it is a rather serious disease that seems to be getting worse and worse, which no one has any idea how/why it started or how to stop it.
So I guess all I'm asking is that you use more discretion and care in the future. Sorry this was so long winded, but I hope you stuck it through to the end. Thanks for listening.
Sign up here to join the official Casey Fossum Fan Club. You know you want to...
Apparently, sending Longoria down in the first place was entirely an economic decision and the Rays management seems content to not pretend any differently. They're calling him up after only about 10 games, during which Evan has only 5 singles. Certainly doesn't seem like he's proved anything amazing while down there those few days. However, Longoria literally just passed the deadline so that his service time will extend an extra year. I'm perfectly fine with this decision since at this point, we'll have Longo for an extra year one way or the other, plus Longo didn't really miss much of this season.
For all of you out there that may have no idea who I'm talking about Evan (not Eva) Longoria is currently the top ranked prospect in the Rays organization and one of the highest rated in the game at the moment. He's basically the consensus pick to with the AL Rookie of the Year award, though obviously we've got to play the games first and see what happens. However, he is an excellent defensive third baseman that hits for average, power, and has a pretty good batting eye. In AA last year, he hit .307 with 21 homeruns in only 105 games. He was promoted to AAA at the end of the season and although his average dipped, his on base percentage increased and his power numbers remained steasy. In short, he's a hell of an upgrade over their current third baseman and should be a solid presence in the middle of the Rays' batting order for years to come (knock-on-wood...).
He's starting tonight vs. the Orioles! Don't miss it!
PS - I don't feel that bad anymore about the Rays getting cleaned up by Wang earlier this week. The Red Sox just got owned by him last night to the tune of 9 IP, 1 ER, 2 H, 0 BB, and 3 K. Heck, the Rays got 4 hits and 2 walks off him over 6 IP - that's positively brilliant in comparison.
Wednesday, April 9, 2008
With most of the runs resulting from walks and errors, the only real offensive highlight for the Mets was an RBI double by Angel Pagan.
The most exciting part of tonight's game was probably the names in two matchups in the 8th and 9th innings: Pedro Feliciano vs. Pedro Feliz, and Carlos Muniz vs. Carlos Ruiz.
Today's Non Mets Player Mets Player of the Day was Phillies SS Eric Bruntlett, who filled in for the injured Jimmy Rollins. Bruntlett had 2 of the Phillies 4 errors, and they were costly.
Tuesday, April 8, 2008
The whole event was made even better (to me, at least) by the fact that the music played at the stadium for Buckner's entrance was from one of my all-time favorite movies (Glory).
I'm happy for Bill Buckner to finally be able to return to the city where he played a major part in simply getting the team to a World Series. I always enjoy when old players return to stadiums for events, and this one with Buckner was particularly moving.
Don't get me wrong, though. I love the event that caused Buckner's 22 year exile from Boston. (I realize the Red Sox brought him back at the start of the 1990 season, but he was driven out of town by the end of June of that year.)
It didn't surprise me that no teams were interested when the Mets put Schoeneweiss on the market this offseason. However, I don't understand why management continues to refuse to include Aaron Heilman in trade talks.
Throw the bums out.
- Obviously, Johan Santana received the loudest and most sustained ovation. He was also the only new Met who received an introduction including the words, "Welcome to New York..."
- The next loudest ovation was predictably for David Wright. In 3rd place? John Maine. I am personally a big John Maine fan (I'm wearing a Maine jersey today), so I appreciate that the crowd at the game recognizes like I do how well Maine pitched for us last year despite his tail-off in the August.
- Scott Schoeneweiss received -- if nothing else -- a quieter reception than he was expecting (Said Schoeneweiss over the weekend about the upcoming player introductions: "I'm scared to death of it because I always get booed. Can't I just wear my hoodie out there?"). I heard more boos than cheers, but it wasn't as loud as I expected.
- Aaron Heilman was not booed, despite already having given up a few costly runs this season, along with his checkered past including that homerun he gave up to Yadier Molina in the '06 NLCS.
Anyway, today's the final Home Opener for Shea Stadium. So I leave you with these song lyrics:
Now we see them rushing
To the stadium in Flushing.
Big Shea will see its last game in the Fall.
We've got Maine and Ollie Perez,
Moises and Chavez,
Santana's our guy and we're finishing high
So let's play ball.
We're talking baseball (Jose Reyes and Mr. Wright)
Talking baseball (Delgado's bat is dynamite)
Pedro, Church, and Billy -- they're all set.
And Carlos Beltran -- he's as good as it gets.
We're talking baseball. Baseball and the Mets.
Sunday, April 6, 2008
On a negative note, though, Shields didn't have the best day out there. He did manage to limit the Yanks to 2 runs over 5 innings, which is always a good thing, but he let up a heck of a lot of baserunners. Not many walks at least, but the Yanks got a lot of hits off of him. This probably means nothing besides that the Yankee offense woke up a little bit today, but we've just come to expect better from Shields. In the end, though, he only let up 2 runs and that's what counts the most.
One slightly worrisome piece of news: Longoria has yet to get a hit or draw a walk in his first three AAA games this year. I know it's a small sample size and all, but come on man....we need you to destroy the league so you can be up in a month. Start mashing the ball already, geez.
I really want to try this sometime this season...
Also, add this book to my wishlist, for sure. Highly recommended by RJ Anderson from DRaysBay, probably the one blogger whose opinion I respect the most (well, minus anyone from this site, obviously).
But anyway, take a look at the Rays! 3-1 and they've knocked the Yanks around some during these past two games. Sure, a couple games don't necesarily mean anything in the long run, but if you're a Rays fan, you can't help but be really happy right now. Since when have the Rays ever done something like this in the past? They've gotten solid starting pitching so far, awesome bullpen outings, and they've managed to win two games in a row on the road. Heck, the Rays were atrocious on the road last year (29-52), while going 37-44 at home. If the Rays can keep up this intensity and, most importantly, pitching, things are definitely looking up for the season. Of course, I'm not going to expect E-Jax to maintain his 1.50 ERA or anything, but he did show a lot of resilience last night, settling down after starting off really shaky. At this point, Jason Hammel is going to have to pitch ridiculously well tonight to keep his spot in the rotation when Kaz comes back...
More Ray news will be forthcoming, but for now, I'm going to leave you with a link that I've found particularly interesting recently. It's an interesting look at the DH and why pitchers should never hit. Sorry, Joe, but I actually might agree with this article. The AL certainly has its pluses and honestly, I'm all for tradition and keeping things the way they always have been, but pitchers hitting doesn't seem to make much sense these days. The DH has permeated every level of the game down to high school ball and is even there in the minors, so why should things only be different in the NL? But anyway, read the article for yourself and decide.
Why Pitchers Should Never Hit
Saturday, April 5, 2008
Today's Non Mets Player Mets Player of the Day was Aaron Harang of the Reds. Harang picked up a no-decision in his start today, but lasted 7 strong innings against the Phillies, keeping his team in the game before a Corey Patterson homerun and Paul Bako RBI groundout gave the Reds a lead and eventually a win. So congratulations to Aaron Harang for becoming the least-deserving Non Mets Player Mets Player of the Day so far this season.
Thursday, April 3, 2008
Also in Atlanta, Mike Hampton was scratched about 10 minutes before the scheduled start of the game due to discomfort he felt during his warmups. This would have been Hampton's first Major League start in almost 3 years. Remember when he left the Mets to sign that 8 year, $120 million+ contract with the Rockies (which has since been transferred to the Braves)? I considered him as the Non Mets Player Mets Player of the Day, since that Braves rotation with him back in it was supposed to be the factor that would allow them to reclaim the East from the Mets and Phils. Now, who knows what his situation is... However, I like Xavier Nady much more, and he actually won the game for the Pirates.
Wednesday, April 2, 2008
For tonight, though the Mets, Marlins, and Braves are still playing, I can announce the winner of the "Non-Mets Player Mets Player of the Day" is Washington Nationals starting pitcher Tim Redding, who pitched 7 scoreless innings in a 1-0 win over the Philadelphia Phillies. This is the 3rd selection for a member of the Washington Nationals organization, with the entire teaming winning the honors for two days in a row to start the season.
"The Non-Mets Player Mets Player of the Day" is a daily feature on this blog which recognizes the player outside of the Mets organization who makes the greatest contribution that day to the Mets defeating the Phillies and Braves in the NL East. Based on those qualifications, it is possible for Washington Nationals and Florida Marlins players to win this award, as neither are considered serious contenders in the division.