Saturday, July 12, 2003

Around the Majors

It's been awhile since I did this, so I'm going to take a look around the league and mention a couple things about each of the 15 games that were played last night. Actually, I'm not going to talk about the games themselves as much as the players and teams involved in them.

ATL/CHC - Vinny Castilla plays third base and now has 15 home runs, but he's a below average offensive player. The first problem is that he's batting just .261. The second problem is that he had just 17 walks. The third problem is that he's grounded into 14 double plays. So, his .459 SLG is negated by the fact that he's made 249 outs in 336 plate appearances.

In case you haven't noticed, Sammy Sosa is back. He's now hitting .307/.407/.570 (.977) and his two homers yesterday give him seven already in July and 17 for the season. I wouldn't be at all surprised to see him finish the season with at least 40 home runs.

FLA/MON - When you talk about the most underrated players in baseball, Derrek Lee has to be near the top of the list. He's only hitting .263, but his 54 walks give him a .372 OBP and his 18 homers and 18 doubles give him a .486 SLG for an .858 OPS. He's also stolen 14 bases in 18 attempts (77.8-percent success rate). Oh yeah, he gets killed by his home park. He's hitting just .216/.362/.345 (.707) at home, but he's hitting .301/.380/.601 (.981) on the road. Put him in a neutral home park and he'd be an All-Star. Put him in a favorable home park and he'd be an MVP candidate.

How great a season would Javier Vazuez be having if he could keep the ball in the park? He has a solid 1.19 WHIP, an excellent 9.98 K/9IP average and a very good 3.97 K/BB ratio. The reason he has a 3.95 ERA is that he's allowed 22 home runs (1.58 HR/9IP). After allowing two more homers yesterday, he's on pace to give up 39 home runs this season. His career high is 31 homers allowed, when he had a 6.06 ERA as a rookie. He's averaged 25.3 home runs allowed (1.02 HR/9IP) over the last three seasons.

BOS/DET - Jason Varitek is starting to get a little ridiculous. I expected him to have a good season now that he's finally healthy, but he hit his 16th home run yesterday. His career high is 20. He's now hitting .307/.372/.594 (.966) and he leads the Red Sox in SLG! That's right, the team that leads the AL in SLG by a considerable margin is led in SLG by a catcher who was not originally picked for the All-Star team.

Ramon Santiago is the most powerless hitter in the AL. His .059 Isolated Power is the lowest for anybody in the AL with at least 200 at-bats (former teammate Omar Infante had a .030 IsoP before being sent to Class AAA). After going 0-for-3 last night, Santiago's SLG is down to .283, but it's only that high because he's hitting .224. Of his 53 hits, only 12 have been for extra bases (11 doubles and one home run).

CWS/CLE - Ben Broussard raised his OPS 70 points yesterday by going 4-for-4 with two home runs and a double. He's now hitting .280/.348/.488 (.836) and has three home runs in his last two games after going 19 games without hitting one. Maybe the Indians have finally acquired an older prospect who will put everything together on a new team after trading away so many of them.

Carl Everett is now 6-for-31 (.194) with two doubles and two walks since being traded to the White Sox. Hitting .274/.356/.544 (.900) before the trade, he's now down to .267/.346/.517 (.863) after going 1-for-5 and leaving six men on base yesterday.

NYY/TOR - The top five hitters in the Yankees lineup each had two hits yesterday, going 10-for-24 with a walk, four doubles and a home run. That's a .417/.440/.708 (1.148) line for the top half of the lineup. Once everybody's fully healthy, the Yankees will have a very potent offensive attack.

Nice to see that some things don't change even if you throw a perfect game in the minors. The last time John Wasdin was in the majors, he had a 7.03 ERA in 24.1 innings for Colorado in 2001. Yesterday, he started for Toronto and was pulled before getting an out in the second after giving up eight hits and a walk in the game. He was charged with five runs to bring his career ERA up to 5.14 in 599 innings. I wonder how much longer it'll take him to get that 600th inning.

PHI/NYM - After being outscored 21-9 during their recent four-game losing streak, the Phillies have outscored their opponents 32-12 during their current four-game winning streak. Can this team just pick a consistent level of performance and stick with it for at least a month or so? Please?

Aaron Heilman earned run totals in order for his four big league starts: 1, 3, 5, 8. His innings pitched in order for his four big league starts: 6, 7, 4, 4.1. His ERA after each of his four big league starts: 1.50, 2.77, 4.77, 7.17. Not good. Not good at all.

PIT/HOU - If there's a less-talked about stud hitter in baseball right now than Morgan Ensberg (.316/.419/.627 for a 1.046 OPS), then I'm not paying enough attention. He already had five multi-hit games this month and seven games (out of 11) in which he's reached base safely at least twice.

How does a pitcher as dominant as Octavio Dotel (2.09 ERA, 0.89 WHIP, 10.45 K/9IP) allow a home run to Abraham Nunez? Nunez only had five career home runs in 1,133 at-bats before yesterday and had a career SLG of just .297.

CIN/MIL - Ken Griffey Jr. has one hit in each of his last four games and they're all home runs. He now has 12 homers this year and he's hitting .247/.365/.557 (.922). He's 20 home runs away from the 500 Club and I have no doubt he'll get there before Fred McGriff (12 away).

Brooks Kieschnick pitched a scoreless inning yesterday to lower his ERA to 4.35 and drew a walk for his first plate appearance of the season that wasn't an at-bat. He's now hitting .341/.356/.636 (.992). How is this guy not getting more notoriety? How many pitchers can say they've hit more homers (4) than they've allowed (3)?

KC/TEX - Is there a better basestealer in baseball right now than Carlos Beltran? He stole his 24th base of the season last night and has only been caught once (that's a 96-percent success rate). For his career, he's stolen 133 bases in 150 attempts (88.7-percent success rate). Basestealing isn't that important in today's baseball ... unless you can steal bases like that.

What does it say about the Rangers that they intentionally walked a player (Jarrod Patterson) who has one hit in 11 at-bats in the majors this season and just 12 career hits in the majors? What does it say that they also intentionally walked a catcher (Brent Mayne) who was hitting .251/.316/.355 (.671) at the start of the day?

SD/STL - Where would St. Louis be without Woody Williams? After allowing two runs on two hits and two walks with two strikeouts in eight innings, Williams is now 12-3 with a 3.01 ERA. He's also third in the NL in WHIP and innings pitched.

Is it time for Jesse Orosco to hang 'em up? He now has a 7.78 ERA and has allowed five home runs in just 24.1 innings (1.85 HR/9IP).

LA/COL - How did Colorado score more runs than Los Angeles when LA had six more hits (13-7) and no errors to Colorado's three? The Rockies hit .250/.400/.571 (.971) for the game and the Dodgers hit .310/.326/.357 (.683) for the game. Yet another shining example of how overrated batting average is (and no, Joe Morgan, it's not because batting average doesn't tell you when the players are getting their hits). Also, if the Dodgers can't show patience and power at Coors Field, the Dodgers can't show patience and power anywhere.

Todd Helton is now hitting .390/.477/.743 (1.220) at home and .294/.399/.479 (.878) on the road. He's getting back to the formula that made him great the last few years: be a good hitter on the road and bash the everloving crap out of the ball at home.

BAL/OAK - Nine innings, no runs, three hits, one walk, nine strikeouts. Maybe now people will realize that Tim Hudson is the best of the Big Three this year. Well, they probably won't, but he has a 2.71 ERA and Oakland is 16-4 when he takes the mound.

Of course, one of the three hits came from Melvin Mora, who is hitting .356 and still has an OPS above 1.025. This can't continue, but I recently read that Baltimore doesn't want to trade him for minor leaguers (aka prospects). Nice to know the Orioles are still stupid.

MIN/ANA - At what point does Brendan Donnelly become a pitcher who should be considered when writers fill out the middle part of their Cy Young ballot this season? The man's allowed two earned runs in 47 innings! Just to put things in perspective, though, Donnelly has allowed 25 hits, 12 walks and 54 strikeouts in 47 innings and Eric Gagne has allowed 23 hits, 11 walks and 76 strikeouts in 44.1 innings. Somehow Donnelly has a 0.38 ERA and Gagne has a 2.03 ERA.

Johan Santana allowed three runs on five hits with four strikeouts in six innings in his first start as an official member of the rotation. His ERA is now 3.00 and I expect it to still be around there at the end of the year.

TB/SEA - Ichiro Suzuki is on a 10-game hitting streak, but in nine of those games he has exactly two hits. He's 19-for-43 over the streak and has raised his average from .340 to .352. Does anybody really think Ichiro won't win another batting title this year?

Rocco Baldelli now has 73 strikeouts and just 13 walks. He's hitting .305 and it's only a matter of time (a short time) before he dips below .300. Even worse, I think his OBP will fnid itself south of the .300-mark by the end of the season as well.

SF/ARI - Barry Bonds has homered in four straight games and has seven homers in July. He's hitting .316/.494/.712 (1.206) and is now, without a doubt, the MVP in the NL.

Shea Hillenbrand is doing his best to make the Red Sox look stupid for trading him. In 77 at-bats with Arizona, he has eight doubles (one every 9.6 at-bats), six home runs (one every 12.8 at-bats), five walks (one every 15.4 at-bats) and is hitting .364. In 185 at-bats with Boston, he had 17 doubles (one every 10.9 at-bats), three home runs (one every 61.7 at-bats), seven walks (one every 26.4 at-bats) and hit .303. Fortunately for the Red Sox, Byung-Hyun Kim is now doing his best to make the Diamondbacks look stupid for trading him.

Friday, July 11, 2003

Evaluating Sidney Ponson

I’m always interested in figuring out whether a young pitcher is finally turning into a good pitcher or just having a fluky streak of success (or successful-looking performances). I’m especially interested in the case of Sidney Ponson, because he may be the best starting pitcher available at the trading deadline.

Ponson is a 26-year-old righthander for the Orioles who will be a free agent at the end of the season. After pitching a complete game with one run allowed yesterday, he is 12-5 with a 3.64 ERA.

From what I can tell, the Orioles will make him a contract offer in the near future. If they don’t think they will be able to work out a deal that is to their liking, then they will try to trade him at the deadline. However, it sounds like they are going to ask for a lot in return. The question is whether or not it’s worth giving a lot to get him.

The problem is two-fold. First, there’s the problem of whether or not he’s really worth giving up a lot to acquire at all. Second, there’s the problem of whether or not you’ll be able to sign him to a contract extension after trading for him. I don’t have much insight into the second part, but we can look at whether or not he’s worth acquiring.

As I said, Ponson allowed one run in a complete game yesterday. In fact, he’s allowed two runs or less in three of his last five starts and two of those have been complete games (the other was an eight inning performance). In the other two of his last five starts, he’s allowed five runs in five innings and five runs in six innings.

Before his last five starts, he was 9-3 with a 3.64 ERA. Now, as I said, he’s 12-5 with a 3.64 ERA. So, his recent performance tells us that he’s up-and-down, but that he has the potential to pitch very well.

Let’s take a look at the rest of Ponson’s stats for this season.

Ponson has a 1.27 WHIP, which isn’t great, but also doesn’t indicate that his nice ERA is a house of cards ready to be blown over at any moment. He has 89 strikeouts (6.36 K/9IP) and 35 walks (2.54 K/BB). The strikeout rate isn’t tremendous, but it’s acceptable especially when coupled with a fairly nice walk rate like his. Ponson has allowed nine home runs (0.64 HR/9IP), which is very nice, especially for him.

Aside from how well he’s pitched, there’s also the matter of how much he’s pitched. Ponson has thrown 126 innings, which is ninth in the AL and works out to exactly seven innings per start. His four complete games have him fourth in the AL. It’s nice to have a good pitcher, but it’s even better to have a good pitcher who can consistently pitch deep into ballgames.

How does this season stack up against the rest of Ponson’s career?

Well, Ponson’s best season came last year when he had a 4.09 ERA, 1.34 WHIP, 6.14 K/9IP, 1.91 K/BB, 1.33 HR/9IP and 6.29 IP/GS (176 innings over 28 starts). As you can see, he’s improved this season in every single category. The most notable improvement is that he’s allowing home runs less than half as frequently.

It’s nice to see a young pitcher taking what was his best year and building on it even more, but Ponson was really not very good before last year.

He broke into the majors in 1998, when he pitched 135 innings moving between the rotation and the bullpen. From 1998-2001, his best ERA’s were 5.27, 4.71, 4.82 and 4.95 and his WHIP’s were 1.47, 1.46, 1.38 and 1.43. As I said, not very good.

However, he is young and he has gotten better two years in a row. His peripheral numbers do not indicate (at least to me) a pitcher who is getting by with smoke and mirrors. If his decrease in home runs allowed or his decrease in walks allowed or his increase in strikeouts are flukes, then that’s another matter. But based on those decreases and increases, his ERA does not appear to be a fluke.

One knock of Ponson I’ve heard is that he’s not always motivated, especially when it comes to staying in shape. He is a large man, listed at 6-1, 249 pounds, and if it’s true that he lets himself go at times, then that is a problem. However, I have no insight into that, so I can’t really comment on it.

Personally, I’d probably be willing to trade one good prospect and one medium-level prospect for him. Then, you try to work out a deal and if he refuses to sign for a reasonable amount, you offer him arbitration and take draft picks when somebody else signs him.

Now that we know a little more about Ponson, what does the rest of the trade market for starting pitchers look like?

Well, I’m sure the Orioles would also be willing to trade Jason Johnson, but he’s 29 years old and has a less impressive 4.13 ERA this year (and a much less impressive 1.51 WHIP).

The Yankees will probably try to unload Jeff Weaver, but I hope other teams realize that Weaver never has been and probably never will be anything special. If the Yankees are able to get anyone of consequence for Weaver, I will be very disappointed.

If the Blue Jays fall out of contention over the next two weeks, they will probably try to trade Cory Lidle and Kelvim Escobar. Lidle has a 5.96 ERA and a 1.43 WHIP. He’s had stretches in his career where he pitched brilliantly (like his 0.20 ERA and 0.68 WHIP in 45.1 innings last August) and stretches where he is utterly unusable (like his 8.71 ERA and 2.03 WHIP in 20.2 innings last May). Escobar has a 3.39 ERA since moving into the rotation this season. His 1.36 WHIP is a little high, but his 8.09 K/9IP is very nice and 2.21 K/BB is acceptable. He’s always had a good arm and may finally be figuring out how to pitch. Maybe.

There was a lot of thought that the White Sox might give up and trade away Bartolo Colon before he becomes a free agent. However, with their recent trades (even though they haven’t worked), Chicago probably has to ride this season out and hope to get back in it.

Cleveland will be trying to trade Brian Anderson, who had a 4.15 ERA and a 1.34 WHIP to go along with a reasonable $1.5 million salary. Beware the 31-year-old’s awful 3.25 K/9IP (36 strikeouts in 99.2 innings), however. Also, he’s never really had a good season.

The Angels do not look like they’ll be able to defend their title and they have a couple of veteran starters they’d probably love to trade. Kevin Appier has a 4.78 ERA and a 1.45 WHIP, but I’m sure there are teams that will say he still "knows how to pitch." Even if somebody wanted him, however, his salary ($11.5 million) will prevent them from trading for him. Aaron Sele has a 5.37 ERA and a 1.53 WHIP since returning from injury, but he’s been excellent in his last three outings (although they’ve been short). He’s gone five innings in each of those starts, allowing one run over the 15 innings. However, he’s had fewer strikeouts in that stretch (4) than walks (5).

The Rangers would love to get rid of Ismael Valdes and his 6.14 ERA and 1.46 WHIP. His salary is a manageable $2.5 million, so it could be a worthwhile gamble if he comes cheap. His career ERA is still 3.89, after all.

The Marlins say they’re in for the long haul, but they could try to move Carl Pavano and Brad Penny. Pavano has a 4.41 ERA and a 1.22 WHIP and he’s only 27 years old. His biggest problem has been injuries, as he’s never pitched more than 136 inning in a season in the majors. Penny has a 4.56 ERA and a 1.44 WHIP. He’s been all over the place with his performances this season, so who knows what you’d be getting if you trade for him.

The Mets would probably be willing to trade Al Leiter (5.57 ERA, 1.77 WHIP), Tom Glavine (4.83 ERA, 1.51 WHIP) and Steve Trachsel (4.61 ERA, 1.46 WHIP), but I don’t know why many teams would be interested in any of them.

The Pirates are apparently tired of waiting for Kris Benson, now 28 years old, to become their ace and are willing to trade him. He had a 3.73 ERA at the end of May and the got smacked around in June (10.13 ERA in 18.2 innings). In each of his two July starts, he’s allowed one run in six innings and he now has a 4.63 ERA and 1.52 WHIP for the season. If teams feel he’s healthy, he could be a good player to take a chance on (as long as the Pirates aren’t asking for too much).

Pittsburgh may also be willing to trade Jeff D’Amico, who has a 3.87 ERA and a 1.26 WHIP. He’s had a lot of injury problems, but he’s generally pretty good when he’s healthy and he’s still just 27 years old.

The Dodgers are definitely trying to get rid of Andy Ashby (5.35 ERA, 1.38 WHIP in 37 innings), but I don’t know why anybody would want him. Los Angeles is apparently also considering moving Odalis Perez (4.25 ERA, 1.27 WHIP and only 26 years old), but you’ll need to give them a hitter who they’re sure can solve their offensive woes to get him.

The Padres are trying to trade Kevin Jarvis, but it’s because they want to dump his $3 million salary, not because they think they can get something in return for his services. He’s had two nice starts in a row (four runs in 13.1 innings), but he has a 4.84 ERA and 1.53 WHIP for the season.

I’m sure the Rockies would love to get rid of Denny Neagle, but his salary ($9 million) and his performance (6.26 ERA, 1.39 WHIP) both make that almost impossible.

So, like I said, the pickings are pretty slim this year. And since there are so many teams looking to buy, the few pitchers there are will probably be priced too high to make them worthwhile. Ponson definitely looks like the best bet. After him, it’ll be trade and pray.

Thursday, July 10, 2003

Thank you

The counter on my site just hit 5,000 and I would like to thank everybody who has stopped by, especially today. Based on the number of hits I've been getting, I expected to hit 5,000 sometime tomorrow. To get there before lunch today is very nice.

I'd especially like to thank Aaron Gleeman for giving me a nice plug this morning. Aaron is one of my favorite bloggers (as you can tell from the column of links to the right) and it makes me feel good to know that he is a fan of my blog as well.

Just as I didn't expect to reach 5,000 visitors quite this fast, I also didn't expect to set a new record for visitors in a month in July due to my two vacations. However, it now looks like I may do just that. I had 1,850 visitors last month, and I already have had 800 visitors this month before noon of the 10th day. If that keeps up, I may get 2,000 this month even with my vacation next week and I'm very happy about that.

As always, please feel free to email me for any reason whatsoever. I love hearing from my readers.

Strange month

I'm going to show you a table and I'd like you to try and spot the row that doesn't belong (it won't be very hard).

2.75 1.03 8.25
2.43 1.01 9.30
2.18 1.15 7.36
3.35 1.17 6.69
3.48 1.16 8.82
2.51 1.07 7.74
6.43 1.57 5.91

As you can probably all tell, the row that doesn't belong is the last one. But what do these rows refer to? Well, some of you may already know, but I'll add another column for the rest of you.

Kevin Millwood ERA WHIP K/9IP
June 2002 2.75 1.03 8.25
July 2002 2.43 1.01 9.30
Aug. 2002 2.18 1.15 7.36
Sept. 2002 3.35 1.17 6.69
Mar/Apr 2003 3.48 1.16 8.82
May 2003 2.51 1.07 7.74
June 2003 6.43 1.57 5.91

As you can now tell, those rows are Kevin Millwood's monthly breakdowns dating back to last June. The question is, what happened this June?

From the beginning of June 2002 to the end of May 2003 -- a full calendar year -- Millwood was one of the best pitchers in baseball. Over that time, he had a 2.77 ERA, 1.09 WHIP, 200 strikeouts (8.04 K/9IP) and 69 walks (2.90 K/BB) in 224 innings.

He then followed that up with possibly the worst month of his big league career.

Normally, when a pitcher who has been as good as Millwood had been for a full year has a month as bad as Millwood had in June, the reason is an injury. However, that does not seem to be the case here as Millwood has come back strong in his two starts in July.

After throwing a complete game shutout yesterday, Millwood has allowed one run on four hits and six walks with 13 strikeouts in 16 innings in July. His ERA was a sparkling 2.94 at the end of May, but had shot up to 4.03 by the end of June. With these two starts, he's gotten it back down to 3.60.

So, if injury isn't the reason for his awful performance in June, then what is? Well, if you look on his player page, you'll see that there's a story by Jayson Stark saying that Millwood and the Phillies will not talk about his contract until after the season. That story is dated June 30.

It seems possible, if not downright likely, that Millwood felt that the Phillies weren't offering him as much as he's worth and that he let that affect his pitching in the month of June. And now that he doesn't have to think about it until the end of the season, he's free to pitch like an All-Star again.

You may scoff at the idea (and I certainly have no inside information to prove that's what happened), but let's play make believe for a bit. Imagine that you and your boss are trying to work out your salary for next year. You want a certain amount because you feel you deserve it and your boss wants to give you an amount that's significantly lower than that.

There would probably be three common reactions. First, don't let it affect your performance and just keep negotiating. Second, try to do even better to prove your worth and end up hurting your performance. Third, wonder what more you could possibly be doing and get discouraged.

If it wouldn't be unusual for normal people to react in any of those three ways, then I don't see why it would be unusual for a baseball player to react in any of those three ways.

The main problem is that Millwood picked a really bad time to have a bad month.

Millwood had a good record (17-8) and a decent ERA (4.08) in 1998. Then, he had an even better record (18-7) and an outstanding ERA (2.68) in 1999 and people were proclaiming him to be the next great Atlanta pitcher.

Unfortunately, he slumped badly (10-13, 4.66 ERA) in 2000 and struggled with injuries (4.31 ERA in 121 innings) in 2001.

Last year, he came back strong and went 18-8 with a 3.24 ERA, but he didn't get the recognition he deserved. He started off slowly in April and May before being one of the best pitchers in baseball from June through the end of the season.

This year, he started strong, but has now had a terrible month in the middle of the season that will hurt his final numbers. Most people won't realize that he had a full season's worth of games where he put up awesome numbers.

Instead, they'll see his 3.24 ERA from last year and his 3.60 ERA for this season and say things like, "Yeah, Millwood's good, but I don't know if I'd trust him as my ace."

Well, anybody who doesn't trust Millwood to be an ace can send him my way, because he is one of the best pitchers in the game of baseball right now.

Wednesday, July 09, 2003

Royally underappreciated

I don’t think the Kansas City Royals can be considered contenders to win the AL Central anymore. I think they now have to be considered the favorites. At 48-39, they currently lead the division by 4.5 games over the Minnesota Twins and by 5.5 games over the Chicago White Sox.

I’m not saying it’s more likely that Kansas City will win the division than that they won’t win it, but I do think it is now more likely that Kansas City will win the division than that either of the other two teams will win it.

I’m not doing this to write about the Royals specifically, however. I really want to talk about a specific Royal who I feel is being overlooked. With the Royals in first place, we might ask which player deserves the most credit for them being there.

Well, Kansas City has two "All-Stars" (I’m more disappointed in the All-Star game this year than I have ever been, hence the quotation marks), so maybe it’s one of them. Mike MacDougal does have a 2.72 ERA, but he also has a 1.36 WHIP and has only converted 24 of his 29 save opportunities (82.8 percent). Mike Sweeney is hitting .321/.440/.540 (.979), which is very nice, but he’s only played in 62 games and his 266 plate appearances do not qualify him for the batting title (he would need 270).

There are several players you could argue for as the Most Valuable Royal, but there is one candidate that almost nobody is talking about, so I’m going to take this opportunity to talk about him here.

Darrell May is only 3-4, but he has a 3.62 ERA and 1.21 WHIP in 107 innings. He’s made 16 starts and has not allowed more than four runs in any of them.

Big deal, you might say, I’m sure there are plenty of good pitchers who haven’t given up more than four runs in a game this year. Well, there aren’t. I didn’t go through every single pitcher, but I did look at 26 pitchers who would probably be considered in discussions of the best pitchers of the season. Here’s what I found, in no particular order.

Pedro Martinez is 6-2 with a 2.44 ERA. He allowed 10 runs in 4.1 innings on April 12 and five runs in five innings on May 9.

Mike Mussina is 10-5 with a 3.14 ERA. He gave up six runs in 5.1 innings on June 4 and five runs in 2.2 innings on July 1.

Esteban Loaiza is 11-4 with a 2.28 ERA, but he’s given up more than four runs twice. He allowed five runs in 3.2 innings on May 2 and five runs in seven innings on June 29.

Roy Halladay is 12-2 with a 3.48 ERA, but he’s allowed at least five runs five times. He gave up five runs in 6.2 innings on April 15, five runs in 6.1 innings on April 20, five runs in seven innings on May 6, seven runs in 6.2 innings on June 1 and five runs in eight innings on June 27.

Barry Zito is 8-6 with a 3.49 ERA. He allowed seven runs in five innings on April 13, six runs in six innings on June 28 and seven runs in 5.1 innings yesterday.

Mark Mulder is 11-6 with a 3.10 ERA, but he gave up eight runs in 3.2 innings on June 3.

Tim Hudson is 6-3 with a 2.89 ERA, but he’s been tagged for at least five runs four times. He allowed six runs in six innings on April 11, nine runs in 3.2 innings on May 30, five runs in six innings on June 4 and six runs in seven innings on June 21.

Roger Clemens is 8-6 with a 3.75 ERA and he leads the AL with 122 strikeouts. He allowed five runs in five innings on May 16, eight runs in 5.2 innings on May 26, six runs in six innings on June 1 and eight runs in 5.1 innings on July 5.

David Wells is 10-3 with a 3.85 ERA and just six walks. He allowed five runs in five innings on April 16, five runs in 7.2 innings on May 14, five runs in five innings on May 24, five runs in six innings on June 12 and eight runs in 5.2 innings on July 4.

Kevin Brown is 10-4 with a 2.30 ERA. He allowed five runs in five innings on April 18 and five runs in five innings on July 3.

Jason Schmidt is 8-4 with a 2.30 ERA, but he allowed five runs in 6.2 innings on May 16.

Mark Prior is 8-4 with a 2.69 ERA. He gave up five runs in six innings on April 14 and seven runs in 6.2 innings on May 23.

Kerry Wood is 8-6 with a 3.36 ERA. He allowed five runs in 5.1 innings on May 21, five runs in six innings on June 1, five runs in six innings on June 13 and seven runs in three innings on July 4.

Randy Wolf is 9-4 with a 3.40 ERA. He gave up five runs in 5.1 innings on April 18, six runs in 6.2 innings on April 29 and six runs in five innings on July 6.

Dontrelle Willis is 8-1 with a 1.98 ERA, but he allowed five runs in three innings on May 20 (his third start in the majors).

Gil Meche is 10-4 with a 3.35 ERA. He allowed six runs in five innings on April 5, six runs in six innings on June 26 and five runs in four innings on July 6.

Jamie Moyer is 11-5 with a 2.99 ERA. He gave up eight runs in 4.1 innings on April 2 and five runs in six inning on April 30.

C.C. Sabathia is 8-3 with a 3.27 ERA, but he allowed seven runs in 4.1 innings on June 5 (in fairness, this game was in Colorado).

Hideo Nomo is 9-8 with a 2.71 ERA, but he allowed six runs in six innings on July 1.

Woody Williams is 11-3 with a 3.06 ERA. He gave up five runs in 6.2 innings on June 10, five runs in 5.1 innings on June 15, seven runs in six innings on June 26 and five runs in seven innings on July 1.

Kaz Ishii is 7-3 with a 2.74 ERA. He allowed five runs in 3.2 innings on April 3 and five runs in five innings on May 27.

Miguel Batista is 6-3 with a 2.80 ERA. He gave up five runs in five innings on May 16 and five runs in six innings on May 21.

Carlos Zambrano is 6-7 with a 3.19 ERA. He allowed six runs in 7.1 innings on May 9, five runs in six innings on June 6 and five runs in six innings on July 3.

Mark Redman is 7-3 with a 2.80 ERA. He gave up five runs in 3.2 innings on June 4 and five runs in six innings on June 25.

Joel Pineiro is 10-5 with a 3.32 ERA, but he allowed six runs in five innings on May 24.

Finally, Brandon Webb is 6-2 with a 2.18 ERA. He has made 13 straight quality starts since joining Arizona’s rotation and his worst start was on June 13, when he allowed three runs in six innings.

So, there you have it. Out of the 26 pitchers I looked at, only one of them has managed to avoid allowing more than four runs like May has.

Of course, I’m not saying that May is a Cy Young candidate or even that he belongs in this group of pitchers. And while he hasn’t allowed more than five runs in a game, he has failed to go five innings in two starts.

Still, he’s been very consistent for the Royals this year and he has generally given the offense a chance to win the game. Considering how difficult his career has been, he should be getting more recognition.

May was drafted by the Atlanta Braves in the 46th round in 1992. He was then excellent in the minor leagues for four seasons before reaching Atlanta for four innings in 1995.

In 1996, he was waived by the Braves and claimed by the Pittsburgh Pirates. He pitched most of the year at Class AAA Calgary, where he posted a 4.10 ERA with 75 strikeouts (5.13 K/9IP) and 36 walks (2.08 K/BB) in 131.2 innings. He then put up a 9.35 ERA in 8.2 innings with the Pirates before being released and claimed by the Anaheim Angels, where he pitched 2.2 innings and allowed three runs.

In 1997, May posted a 3.26 ERA with 62 strikeouts (6.98 K/9IP) and 31 walks (2.0 K/BB) in 80 innings at Class AAA Vancouver and a 5.23 ERA with 42 strikeouts (7.32 K/9IP) and 25 walks (1.68 K/BB) in 51.2 innings with the Angels.

After 1997, May went to pitch in Japan for four years before returning last season to sign with the Royals. He pitched 16.1 innings in the minor leagues, allowing two runs with one walk and 14 strikeouts. In the majors, he had a 5.35 ERA with 95 strikeouts (6.51 K/9IP) and 50 walks (1.9 K/BB) in 131.1 innings.

Now, he’s succeeding in the majors for the first time in his career. And nobody’s talking about it. And that’s a shame.

Tuesday, July 08, 2003


I know I was in the middle of reviewing 21 teams that were still close enough to a playoff spot to be considered in contention when I left for my trip, but I regret to say I'm not going to finish the rest of the teams. They were taking quite a bit longer than I expected and I don't have a ton of time this week before I go on another vacation next week.

I will continue making posts the rest of this week, but they will not be midseason reviews of contending teams. I'd like to thank everybody who expressed an interest in those reviews and I'm sorry I won't be able to do the rest of them.

I hate New York

Well, I'm back from my trip. I had a good time overall, but it obviously did not go nearly as well as I had hoped it would.

I arrived on Saturday around 12:30 and we played stickball for more than two hours shortly thereafter. My team lost and I didn't do a thing at the plate, but I pitched quite well and had a good time (we were listening to the Red Sox pound the Yankees for the second day in a row while we played, so that made it even more fun). Then we went back for a cookout, which was very good, and then we watched baseball and movies the rest of the night.

Sunday was the first big day. My second trip to Yankee Stadium and my first trip there to see the Red Sox play. I was in very good spirits after Bill Mueller homered in the first inning, but things quickly went downhill from there and it was not a great day at the park. Still, it was nice to be there watching baseball and I did not dwell on the loss too much. I get upset after every loss, but the ones where I don't see a way the Red Sox could have won are easier to get over. Every team's going to lose game's and I'm fine with that, as long as I don't feel like the Red Sox blew a game they should have won.

The rest of the night was pretty similar to Saturday. Dinner at a very good seafood restaurant, more baseball and another movie.

Then came yesterday, the really big day. Pedro Martinez against Mike Mussina. Boston against New York. Yankee Stadium. Final game of the series. The difference between trailing the Yankees by two games and trailing the Yankees by four games. A chance to even the season series against the Yankees and win a series against the Yankees for the first time this year.

Needless to say, I was very excited. I bought a program and kept score so that I could look back on the game if it turned out to be a great one. However, I was so upset when the Red Sox lost that I just threw it out. I pretty much remember what happened though.

Things started off well as the Red Sox scored a run in the first inning on a Todd Walker single and a Manny Ramirez double.

I've since heard (or read) all sorts of people saying that Boston's run in the first was a fluke because Manny's double should have been caught. That's a load of BS. I was sitting a few feet in foul territory just behind the right field foul pole, so I was maybe fifty feet from where Manny's hit landed. He smoked that ball and Curtis Pride was nowhere near catching it. It would have been a helluva catch for any outfielder to make. Mussina pitched an outstanding game, but don't ruin it by prattling on about how he should have had a shutout. He shouldn't have. Manny smoked a pitch to deep right field for a double. End of story.

In the bottom of the first, Pedro should have had an easier inning than he did, but Derek Jeter reached base by fouling a pitch off his hand on a check swing. The stands predictably errupted in outrage as Jeter was tended to by the trainer's, but Pedro did not hit Jeter.

Yes, a ball thrown by Pedro hit Jeter on the hand without hitting anything else, but Pedro did not hit Jeter. Jeter swung at a pitch and was able to hold up, and said pitch hit his hand while his hand (and the rest of the bat) was over the plate. In fact, had Jeter not been able to check his swing, he would not have gotten first base.

In fact, people in the stands didn't know it at the time, but that exact thing happened to Alfonso Soriano leading off the inning. He swung at a pitch and fouled it off, but in addition to hitting his bat it also hit his hand. I had to explain this to about a dozen people yesterday, but it didn't matter that the ball hit Soriano's bat.

What matters is that he swung. If you swing at a pitch, it does not matter if that pitch hits you. It's a strike. I remember at least a couple instances where batters have swung at (and obviously missed entirely) pitches that hit them in the stomach. The did not get to take first base. They did get another strike against them.

Of course, the New York fans were even more incensed at Pedro when Soriano came out of the game after that inning. Let me ask you this though. If Soriano thought the pitch was good enough to swing at (and make contact with), how could Pedro possible be blamed for throwing at him?

The Red Sox went in order in the second inning, but by the third, the Yankees lineup looked like this:

C - John Flaherty
1B - Jason Giambi
2B - Robin Ventura
3B - Todd Zeile
SS - Enrique Wilson
LF - Karim Garcia
CF - Hideki Matsui
RF - Curtis Pride
DH - Ruben Sierra

Not exactly the most intimidating lineup of all-time. So, I was feeling much better about Boston's chances and didn't even worry that the Red Sox went down in order again in the third. In fact, there were some very nice New York fans sitting around me, and I was having a good time.

The were two older men sitting behind my friend and I and the apparently hadn't paid attention when the lineups were announced. When Flaherty came to bat for the first time, they wondered to each other why he was playing and whether or not Jorge Posada was playing, maybe at DH, and I informed them that he was not. After that, anytime they had a question about something, they asked me. Even said they were depending on me to give them the right answers because I seemed like I knew my stuff. Obviously not important in the grand scheme of things, but it made me feel good.

Sitting next to me was a family of four Yankees fans. A young girl was directly next to me and her mother was on the other side of her. I was not wearing a Red Sox hat or shirt, but I was clapping everytime something good happened for the Red Sox. Several times, the young girl clapped along with me despite the Yankees hat perched atop her head.

In the third inning, I was clapping after a Yankees out and the girl again clapped with me when her mother asked her why she was clapping and informed her that the Yankees had made an out. I leaned over to the girl and said, "I'm a Red Sox fan. You don't want to clap when I do." Her mother laughed and informed her son and husband what had been happening. It was a nice moment, and after that the girl correctly only clapped when the Yankees did well.

After the fourth inning (in which the Red Sox went down in order again), it was very apparent that Boston was not going to score many runs. Mussina had set down 10 Red Sox hitters in a row and would set down 11 more in a row before Mueller walked with two outs in the eighth. I'll get back to what happened next shortly.

As the game went on, I got more and more tense. The Stadium was absolutely electric. It was obviously an important game, especially as far as July games go, and the pitching matchup was simply superb. One thing you miss when attending a game in person is how much the pitches actually move. Sitting approximately 330 feet away from home plate, however, we could tell that Pedro and Mussina were both particularly nasty yesterday.

When the Yankees scored to tie the game in the bottom of the seventh, the entire park erupted in joy. That run, and that sound, absolutely deflated me. I don't know that I smiled the rest of the game and I got even more nervous than I already had been.

Then came the eighth inning. With Mussina's streak of 21 straight batters retired finally over, Jason Varitek came to the plate with two outs. After getting two strikes rather quickly, he hit a long, high fly ball down the right field line. It was clear right away that it was hit hard enough and I began waving my arm, hoping that it would land fair. When the ball passed directly over my head and landed in the deck above me, I knew that it had not as I was sitting in foul territory. Instead of stunning the Yankees with a two-run homer, Varitek struck out and for some reason it seemed as though the Red Sox only had three outs left even though the game was tied.

I think I'll stop here, because I don't particularly want to talk about that ninth inning. I will say, however, that yesterday's games was one of the best I've ever been to, if not the best. I know the Red Sox lost, but the pitching duel was so good and the atmosphere was even better. By the way, how are those two pitchers not All-Stars? Here are there stats after yesterday's game.

Pedro - 2.44 ERA, 1.04 WHIP, 9.75 K/9IP in 96 IP
Mussina - 3.14 ERA, 1.01 WHIP, 8.81 K/9IP in 117.1 IP

I was going to vent about New York fans a little more, but there's no point. There are some very, very nice and intelligent Yankees fans (like my best friend, Rob, and Alex Belth of Bronx Banter), but a ton of Yankees fans are idiots and jerks. Oh well, I'm sure the same thing can be said about Red Sox fans.