Saturday, August 02, 2003

Rumble in the Jungle

I was going to make a "State of the Red Sox" post today before I go out for the rest of the day, but ESPN has sidelined those plans. They're currently airing "The Rumble in the Jungle" and, since I've never seen it before, I think I owe it to myself to watch. I'll try to make the Red Sox post tomorrow.

Friday, August 01, 2003

Red Sox improve pitching staff

As you all probably know, the Red Sox made a trade yesterday with the Pittsburgh Pirates that was linked to their other trade with the Pirates. Essentially, Boston traded middle infielder Freddy Sanchez for starting pitcher Jeff Suppan and relief pitcher Scott Sauerbeck.

I talked about Sauerbeck when the initial trade was made and decided that he's a decent pitcher, but not likely to make a huge difference. So, today I'll just focus on Sanchez and Suppan.

Suppan has a 3.57 ERA, 1.26 WHIP, 78 strikeouts (4.98 K/9IP), 31 walks (1.98 BB/9IP) and 11 homers allowed (0.7 HR/9IP) in 141 innings (6.7 IP/GS). He doesn't strike many people out, but he doesn't walk many people or allow many home runs and he gives a team a good number of innings.

Suppan's ERA will almost certainly go up a bit with Boston.'s Fantasy Spin notes that games at Fenway feature the fourth-most runs while games at Pittsburgh feature the 23rd-most runs. That's a little misleading because Boston's offense is very good and Pittsburgh's offense, well, isn't, but there have been 6.2-percent more runs scored in Boston home games than Boston road games and there have been 21-percent fewer runs scored in Pittsburgh home games than Pittsburgh road games. It's probably not a coincidence that Suppan has a 2.88 ERA at home and a 4.36 ERA on the road this year.

So, he won't be quite as good as he has been, but he will be a lot better than Ramiro Mendoza. Even if we just count his starts, Mendoza has a 7.03 ERA, 1.60 WHIP, 14 strikeouts, seven walks and five homers allowed in 24.1 innings. He never went past the fifth inning, averaging 4.87 innings per start.

Sanchez was absolutely tearing the cover off the ball with Class AAA Pawtucket before being called up to Boston (where he hardly played) for awhile. He's cooled off some, but is still hitting .341/.430/.493 (.923) in 58 games. He has decent patience and decent power, and could very well be Pittsburgh's starting second baseman for the next five years.

In fact, the general belief was that he would be the starter at second for Boston next year, so his departure is somewhat of a surprise. It's not a bad thing that he's gone, however, because he was never going to be a star and he got Boston some valuable pitching help.

My one other thought regarding this trade is what does it mean for Casey Fossum. Fossum is currently with Pawtucket "stretching out" and I'm sure you heard it reported (incorrectly) several times that he was the pitcher the Red Sox would not part with to get Bartolo Colon (I've said it before, but I may as well say it again -- the Expos wanted more than just Fossum, and Boston wanted Javier Vazquez).

Anyway, I assumed that Fossum would take Mendoza's spot in the rotation once he was done "stretching out," but now Suppan will take that spot. I suppose Fossum could take John Burkett's spot, but Burkett hasn't been all that terrible.

Another thought occured to me today, and I was hoping someone could help me clarify the rules. How exactly do waiver trades work regarding minor-league players. I know any major league player needs to clear waivers in order to be traded after July 31, but do minor leaguers need to as well?

You can probably tell where I'm going with this. I'm thinking maybe the Red Sox sent Fossum down to Pawtucket so that they could still trade him after July 31 if a good trade presents itself. Obviously, that's not the case if minor leaguers also need to clear waivers, but it was just a thought I had. If anybody knows the answer to this, please let me know.

Also, to recap: good trade for the Pirates because they got a cheap, young player who can start for them for several years and good trade for the Red Sox because they improved on their biggest weakness (the rotation) without giving up their most exciting prospect (Kevin Youkilis, at least in my eyes).

Giants Beane Orioles

As you all probably know, the San Francisco Giants traded for starting pitcher Sidney Ponson, sending the Orioles pitchers Kurt Ainsworth, Damian Moss and Ryan Hannaman.

Did Billy Beane suddenly take over the Giants or something? No disrespect to Brian Sabean, who is a very good GM, but this is exactly the type of trade Beane always makes. You have a good team, you trade for a free-agent-to-be who can help the team (see Damon, Johnny and Durham, Ray), offer him arbitration at the end of the year and take two draft picks when another team signs him.

Is Ponson a great pitcher? No, but he's better than most of San Francisco's current rotation, and he's especially better than the rotation member who just got sent to Baltimore (Moss).

Ponson has a 3.77 ERA, 1.28 WHIP, 100 strikeouts (6.08 K/9IP), 43 walks (2.61 BB/9IP) and 10 homers allowed (0.61 HR/9IP) in 148 innings (7.05 IP/GS). Moss has a 4.70 ERA, 1.60 WHIP, 57 strikeouts (4.46 K/9IP), 63 walks (4.93 BB/9IP) and 12 homers allowed (0.94 HR/9IP) in 115 innings (5.67 IP/GS).

There's no way to look at those numbers and think that Ponson won't help the Giants. There's also no way (as far as I can see) to look at those numbers and think that Moss will help the Orioles. Sure, he's only 26 and he had a 3.42 ERA last year, but he also struck out 111 batters (5.58 K/9IP) and walked 89 batters (4.47 BB/9IP).

Fortunately for the Orioles, they also got two other pitchers.

Ainsworth is 24 years old and had a 3.82 ERA, 1.39 WHIP, 48 strikeouts (6.55 K/9IP), 26 walks (3.55 BB/9IP) and seven homers allowed (0.95 HR/9IP) in 66 innings before suffering a freak shoulder injury. He always showed excellent strikeout rates and fine walk rates in the minors, so he is a very good prospect. However, not many pitchers have broken the shoulder blade on their throwing side, so we don't really now what to expect from him coming back from that injury.

Hannaman is 21 year old (will be 22 at the end of this month) and was San Francisco's fourth-round pick in 2000. He had a 4.71 ERA, 77 strikeouts (11 K/9IP), 32 walks (4.57 BB/9IP) and seven homers allowed (1 HR/9IP) in 63 innings at Class A San Jose. Last year, he had a 2.80 ERA, 145 strikeouts (9.91 K/9IP), 46 walks (3.14 BB/9IP) and nine homers allowed (0.62 HR/9IP) in 131.2 innings at Class A Hagerstown. He walks too many people and he's still at a low level, but he strikes out a lot of guys and doesn't give up a lot of home runs, so he's certainly a worthwhile prospect.

For the Giants, I'm going to assume that they will not resign Ponson. With that assumption, this is a great trade for them. They traded two good prospects (Ainsworth and Hannaman) and one nobody (Moss) for a three-month (people always say two-month, but October is a month and it's probably the most important month) rental of Ponson AND two high draft picks. You can't even necessarily say they're mortgaging their future, because the guys they draft could certainly end up being better than Ainsworth and Hannaman.

For the Orioles, this trade his more difficult to evaluate.

Before they traded Ponson, there were four possibilities. First, they could sign him. Second, they could let him go and receive draft picks in return. Third, they could trade him and then resign him, losing draft picks to the team they trade him to. Fourth, they could trade and then not resign him.

In the first option, there is obviously no change. They keep Ponson, they don't get anything else and they don't give anything up. They obviously wuold have to pay him a decent bit of money.

In the second option, they lose Ponson and get two draft picks. They obviously would not have to pay Ponson anything.

Those two options are now out the window.

In the third option (which is now only possible in one specific way), they essentially trade two high draft picks and two months (they won't be playing in October, so they wouldn't have gotten that month) of Ponson for Ainsworth, Hannaman and Moss. The two months doesn't matter to them, so they must have thought Ainsworth and Hannaman are worth more than two draft picks. And they're probably right. Those two players have already had their signing bonuses paid by the Giants and have already been developed at least a little bit by the Giants. In this situation, they would also obviously have to pay Ponson whatever he agrees to sign for.

In the fourth option, they simply trade Ponson for Ainsworth, Hannaman and Moss. However, they are also trading away the potentiality of receiving two draft picks as compensation when Ponson signs elsewhere had they kept him. As I said before, it's probably better to have Ainsworth and Hannaman than two have two extra high draft picks.

To recap, here are the various sets of things they could have had:

First, they could have simply had Ponson and their own draft picks.

Second, they could have had their own draft picks, plus two more high picks, but no Ponson and no prospects.

Third, they could have had Ponson and the prospects, but no extra draft picks and two less of their own draft picks.

Fourth, they could have had the prospects and their own draft picks, but no Ponson and no extra draft picks.

In summary, this is a great trade for the Giants and simple a good trade for the Orioles. Of course, we've yet to see what this trade actually is for the Orioles. If they sign Ponson this offseason, the essential dynamics of the trade will change, but I think the overall quality will be about the same.

Thank you

I'd like to thank everybody who stopped by to read this blog in July. You may or may not recall, but I wasn't sure I would get more visitors in July than I got in June because I was taking two vacations. Well, I got almost as many visitors this month as I got in the previous two months combined. I was blown away by getting 3,125 visitors this month after getting 3,230 in May and June combined. Thank you everybody and keep on coming back. I really do appreciate.

Since I didn't write anything here yesterday, I figure I should at least link to the story that I wrote for the newspaper. It's my first story about one of the four major leagues -- a story on Buffalo Bills backup running back Olandis Gary.

Rested and ready, Gary's on the go

This is especially exciting for me, because I was able to go to ESPN Insider, click on My Headlines and (since I've got the Bills chosen as one of the teams I get headlines for) see my name on Definitely a first for me, and very cool.

As for today, I plan on writing about the various trades that have been made recently. I do have some errands to run, but I'll try to discuss as many of the trades as I can.

Thursday, July 31, 2003

Day off

I apologize, but I'm going to take today off. I spent this morning writing a story for the paper and then I had to run an errand to try and get paperwork done for an apartment application. Now I'm tired and only have an hour and a half or so before my girlfriend and I go shopping. Enjoy all trades and I'll be back tomorrow.

Wednesday, July 30, 2003

Is Mulder's recent dominance good?

As good as Mulder has been all season for the A's, he's been even better in his last two starts. In each of those starts, he went seven innings and allowed seven hits and a walk while striking out 11. The only difference is that he didn't allow any runs in the first start and two of the seven hits were solo homers in the second start (last night).

You may be asking yourself how these last two starts could possibly not be a good thing.

After all, those numbers work out to a 1.29 ERA, 1.14 WHIP, 14.14 K/9IP and 11 K/BB in 14 innings. Even during his excellent first 20 starts, Mulder had a 3.32 ERA, 1.16 WHIP, 5.47 K/9IP and 2.78 K/BB in 146.1 innings.

So, how could improving from good to dominant be anything but great?

Well, in his first 20 starts, Mulder threw an average of 100.65 pitches and only threw more than 110 pitches twice. In these two starts, Mulder has averaged 115 pitches (114 in the first start and 116 in the second).

The increase in pitches isn't because he's throwing more innings either. Obviously, Mulder has pitched an average of seven innings in these two starts. In his first 20 starts, Mulder pitched an average of seven and a third innings.

The difference is that Mulder threw 3.83 pitches per batter in these two most recent starts. In his first 20 starts, he threw 3.48 pitches per batter. That may not seem like that big a difference, but it's 10-percent more pitches per batter. That means you either need to throw 10-percent more pitches or face 10-percent fewer hitters (or some combination of more pitches and fewer batters).

Yesterday, Aaron Gleeman wrote that Mulder and some other good pitchers can throw so many innings because they limit their pitches to each hitter.

Oakland A's fans may love the fact that Mulder is suddenly striking out everybody in sight, but be careful what you wish for. Mulder's newfound propensity for the strikeout may ultimately not be a good thing.

Surprise offensive achievements

The teams with the best offense in each league have the best offense in part because they've each gotten totally unexpected production from one infielder. Those infielders have recently each done some amazing things offensively.

Boston leads the AL with 658 runs scored and 6.27 runs/game. Toronto is second in both categories with 615 runs scored and 5.8 runs/game. The average AL team has scored 512.3 runs and 4.88 runs/game. Boston has scored about 28.5-percent more runs than the average AL team and 8 percent more runs than the second-best AL offense (using runs/game).

As I'm sure most of you know, Bill Mueller his three home runs last night and became the first player in history to hit a grand slam from each side of the plate in the same game. Even more impressively (although it's all luck), the grand slams came in consecutive innings.

Theo Epstein has gotten a lot of credit for building an amazing Red Sox offense partly with low-cost pieces that other teams didn't want, and deservedly so. However, giving Epstein credit for what Mueller has done this season is like giving George Washington credit for what America has become. He was part of a group of people that had a great idea, but he couldn't have foreseen it working out this well.

Coming into this season, Mueller was a career .286/.370/.399 hitter. The Red Sox liked him because of that career .370 OBP. After last night, Mueller is hitting .330/.403/.584 (.987), ranking 2nd/10th/5th (4th) in the AL, and would have to be a prime contender for the AL MVP award if the season ended today.

Coming into this season, Mueller had 41 homers in 2,674 at-bats (65.2 at-bats/homer). This year, he has 13 homers in 327 at-bats (25.2 at-bats/homer).

Coming into this season, Mueller had 152 doubles in 2,674 at-bats (17.6 at-bats/double). This year, he has 34 doubles in 327 at-bats (9.6 at-bats/double).

Mueller is having a career year of immense proportions. Strangely, he's actually drawing walks (which is what the Red Sox got him to do) less often than he did in the past. Coming into this season, he had 357 walks or one every 7.5 at-bats. This year, he has 36 walks or one every 9.1 at-bats. I guess there's no need to take walks when you're suddenly the best-hitting third baseman in baseball.

Atlanta leads the AL with 610 runs scored and 5.75 runs/game. St. Louis is second in both categories with 592 runs scored and 5.58 runs/game. The average NL team has scored 497.8 runs and 4.69 runs/game. Atlanta has scored about 22.5-percent more runs than the average NL team and 3-percent more runs than the second-best NL offense (using runs/game).

As with the Red Sox, there have been several people responsible for Atlanta's high-scoring ways. The Braves probably have the best offensive outfield in baseball and their catcher is having one of the most improbable seasons ever. However, they only have one great offensive infielder right now, and that's more than a lot of people thought they might have.

Marcus Giles was a great hitter in the minor leagues, but he played just 68 games in the majors in each of the last two seasons and was below average offensively in both seasons.

This year, he's hitting .320/.387/.514 (.901) with 35 doubles, 11 home runs and nine steals in 10 attempts (90-percent success rate). Recently, however, Giles has been especially hot.

First, he's riding a 10-game hitting streak during which he's gone 25-for-44 (.568) with six doubles and three home runs (.909 SLG).

Second, his last three games have been among the most amazing ever. On Sunday, Giles doubled in each of his first four at-bats, tying the major-league record for doubles in consecutive at-bats. Giles struck out in his last at-bat and they made an out in his first at-bat on Monday. He then picked up two singles and two homers in his final four at-bats Monday. Yesterday, Giles had five at-bats and singled in each one of them.

With hits in his last nine at-bats, Giles is one shy of the NL record. He's also currently the best offensive second baseman in the NL and has a chance to become every bit the offensive star that his brother is.

Speed racers

When the Florida Marlins added Juan Pierre to a lineup that already included Luis Castillo this offseason, I wondered (like a lot of people, I'm sure) how many bases the two of them would steal together. I also wondered how much Pierre's addition would really help the offense, regardless of his lofty stolen base totals.

Pierre had burst onto the baseball scene in 2001 with the Rockies, hitting .327/.378/.415 (.793) with 202 hits and 46 steals. However, even Coors Field could only help him hit two home runs, he only drew 41 walks and he was caught stealing 17 times (73-percent success rate). Last year was even worse, as he hit .287/.332/.343 (.675) with 170 hits, 31 walks and one homer, although he did steal 47 bases in 59 attempts (79.7-percent success rate).

Oddly enough, moving from the best offensive park in baseball to one of the worst offensive parks in baseball has helped Pierre. He's hitting .305/.363/.362 (.725) with 51 steals in 62 attempts (82.3-percent success rate). He doesn't have any home runs, but he's on pace for 204 hits, 58 walks and 77 steals, all of which would be career highs. In fact, if he stole 77 bases, it would be the most since Marquis Grissom stole 78 in 1992.

While Pierre ranks 68th in the NL in OPS, he ranks 53rd with 5.43 RC/27 outs. His .274 EqA is around the middle of the pack for NL centerfielders, and his 62.5 EqR ranks third among the Marlins. So, Pierre's addition certainly has helped Florida's offense, and he's racking up the gaudy stolen base totals that I thought he would.

Then there's Castillo, who is having a very strange season by his standards. First, he's hitting .316/.380/.409 (.789), which is very nice production from a second baseman in that park. The strange thing about that line is that his SLG is higher than his OBP. Castillo has never had a season with a higher SLG than OBP.

There are two reasons why Castillo has never had a higher SLG than OBP. First, he usually draws a decent amount of walks, which he is doing again this season. Second, he hardly hit any home runs, until this season. This year, Castillo has six home runs, which is exactly as many as he had in his previous four seasons combined. He's on pace for nine home runs, which would be more in one season than he had hit (8) in his 2,749 career games before this year.

The other strange thing about this season for Castillo is that he's only stolen 14 bases, which puts him on pace to steal 21. In his four full seasons, his lowest stolen base total is 33. Castillo has not stolen a base this year since June 25 and he has not attempted to steal a base in his last nine games. In fact, he's only attempted one steal this month.

The other surprise regarding his basestealing is that he's been caught stealing 10 times this season. That means he's only been successful 58.3-percent of the time. Coming into this season, Castillo was successful on 73.2-percent of his 313 career attempts (229 steals).

So, let's see how accurate my thoughts on Pierre and Castillo were before this season.

First, I thought they each my steal 50 bases this year.

Wrong. Pierre is already there, but Castillo has completely lost the ability to steal.

Second, I didn't think Pierre would help the offense at all.

Wrong. He's certainly not an All-Star, but he's been at least average offensively in center field and he's only costing them $1-million.

Oh well, if I was right all the time, life wouldn't be very interesting.

Tuesday, July 29, 2003

A call to bloggers

I'm trying to find out if there are any other bloggers out there who live in the Rochester, NY area or are from the Rochester, NY area (or maybe even went to school in the Rochester, NY area).

As most of you know, I work in the sports department for the newspaper in Rochester. I'm trying to sell my editor on a story about baseball blogs, and it is something that he would be more interested in if I could write about a local person (I obviously can't write about myself). He said he would think about it, which is a start, but he is worried that it would be like us promoting our competition (which I can kind of understand).

Anyway, let me know if you write a blog and have any connections to the Rochester, NY area or if you know any bloggers who do. Otherwise, just cross your fingers and hope he lets me write the story.

Palmeiro wakes up

At the beginning of the season, all of the talk regarding Rafael Palmeiro was about the fact that he needed just 10 more home runs to join the 500-homer club.

Well, he started the season well enough and was hitting .269/.382/.544 (.926) at the end of May. He had joined the 500-homer club and had 13 homers, 11 doubles, 37 RBI, 31 walks and 25 strikeouts on the season.

Then, he started to slump. He hit just .247/.369/.471 (.840) in June, although he did hit six homers, drive in 15 runs, draw 17 walks and strike out just 11 times. In July, he was even worse.

Heading into Monday's game against the Mariners, Palmeiro was hitting just .171/.239/.280 (.520) with three home runs, eight walks and 13 strikeouts in the month. For the season, that dropped him to .241/.347/.464 (.811).

Apparently, he just now remembered that he is a great hitter, going 2-for-4 with two home runs and seven RBI against Seattle. He is now hitting .244/.349/.476 (.825) with 24 home runs and 69 RBI.

Allow me to give you an idea of how unusual those numbers are for him.

In the 10 seasons before this one, Palmeiro only had one with an OPS below .925 -- when he had an .814 OPS in 1997. 1997 was also the only time in the 10 seasons prior to this one that he had an OBP below .350 (.329) or an SLG below .545 (.485). Before 1997, his only sub-.350 OBP in a year with more than 250 plate appearances came in 1988, when he posted a .349 OBP in his first year with more than 250 plate appearances.

When people talk about Palmeiro, they probably mention that he has had eight straight seasons with at least 38 home runs and 100 RBI. That streak is not in grave danger, as he is on pace for 37 homers and 106 RBI. He's already on pace to keep the RBI streak alive and he has a definite chance to keep the home run streak alive, especially if Monday was an indication that he is getting back on track.

However, Palmeiro has also had five straight seasons in which he has hit at least 29 doubles, four straight seasons in which he has drawn at least 97 walks and seven straight seasons in which he has played at least 155 games. All of those streaks are in danger, as he is on pace for 19 doubles, 86 walks and 153 games played. To keep those streaks alive, he would need to miss just one more game, quadruple his doubles output and increase his walk rate by about a third.

Earlier this season, Aaron Gleeman wrote that he thought Palmeiro had done enough to merit induction into the Hall of Fame. However, he cautioned, Palmeiro was (and is) still active, and had not experienced the decline in skills that most players go through before retiring. The severity of (and length of) Palmeiro's decline, he said, could determine whether or not Palmeiro ultimately deserves to be in the Hall.

Hopefully, last night was an indication that Palmeiro's skills have not yet begun to seriously decline. If he has begun to seriously decline AND he decides to continue playing past this season, he could damage his rate stats to the point where he becomes an even more borderline Hall-of-Fame candidate than some people already feel he is.

Somebody get ESPN under control

Have you all seen this story?

Apparently ESPN is running a two-hour show about the making of SportsCenter. This is just the latest in a long trend of ESPN thinking that it is a part of the sporting world -- rather than a reporter of the sporting world -- and something that deserves to be reported on itself.

First, there were anniversary shows. Then, there was Kenny Mayne "reporting" from four different sporting events in one day (note: he did not do any reporting. He took part in each event and was filmed being "funny."). Recently, I saw a commercial for Stuart Scott advertising tylenol. Now, ESPN is moving its own show to its lesser channel in order to report on said show.

Enough is enough, people.

There are sporting events every day. People watch ESPN because they want to know what happened in those events. They don't care if Kenny Mayne can fly around the country in a day and not go crazy. They don't care if Chris Berman can make up a nickname for every athlete in history (in fact, they'd prefer if he didn't).

All the posturing, the catch phrases, the games for the "experts" and so on and so forth just takes away from what ESPN should really be doing -- reporting what happened. Giving intelligent insight into various sports would also be nice, but that insight should be accurate. Otherwise it's just crap. Which is what ESPN is becoming.

It's funny. I, but I can't stand ESPN anymore. The only time I watch ESPN is when there's a game on that I want to see or I'm really, really bored.

It's probably because on, I can just avoid the stuff that's like what they do on ESPN. If I read a column by Joe Morgan or a chat with Rob Dibble, I've got nobody to blame but myself. On ESPN, however, I'll be innocently watching a highlight of a game when, before I know it, Stuart Scott is running all over the place shouting, "Boo Yah" and Chris Berman is flirting with his reflection in the camera lense.

Al Bethke is right. Somebody should start an all-sports station that just gives it to you straight. I know there are a lot of people out there who are fed up with almost all of ESPN's personalities.

Monday, July 28, 2003

Who leads AL Cy Young race?

Almost every night before I go to bed, I look through that night's baseball box scores and jot down notes to myself about things I may want to blog about the following day. Last night, one of the notes I wrote to myself was the following:

Roy Halladay for Cy Young

Today, I saw David Pinto's post taking the Baseball Tonight crew to task for saying that Halladay is the clear choice for the AL Cy Young right now. David correctly points out that wins and losses should not be the driving force behind any argument for the Cy Young award.

First, it is definitely not an obvious thing that Halladay is frontrunner for the AL Cy Young Award. Second, the reason I was going to write that I think Halladay is the frontrunner is because he's thrown so many innings. However, I quickly noticed that Tim Hudson has only pitched nine fewer innings this season.

Not only is it unclear who definitely leads the pack of pitchers in the AL right now, it is clear that at least five pitchers need to be considered when discussing the AL Cy Young Award at the moment. Aside from Halladay and Hudson, you also need to think about Esteban Loaiza, Pedro Martinez and Mark Mulder (all of whom David mentions).

Halladay has pitched 175 innings with a 3.29 ERA and a 1.10 WHIP. He's struck out 6.53 hitters per 9 innings, walked 1.18 hitters per 9 innings and allowed 1.08 home runs per 9 innings. He's allowed batters to hit .277 off him when they put the ball in play. Coming into this season, he had allowed a .299 batting average on balls in play for his career.

Hudson has pitched 166 innings with a 2.60 ERA and a 1.05 WHIP. He's struck out 5.69 batters per 9 innings, walked 2.28 batters per 9 innings and allowed 0.54 home runs per 9 innings. He's allowed batters to hit .246 off him when they put the ball in play. Coming into this season, he had allowed a .282 batting average on balls in play for his career.

Loaiza has pitched 143.2 innings with a 2.19 ERA and a 1.06 WHIP. He's struck out 7.20 batters per 9 innings, walked 2.07 batters per 9 innings and allowed 0.69 homers per 9 innings. He's allowed batters to hit .266 off him when they put the ball in play. Coming into this season,h e had allowed a .314 batting average on balls in play for his career.

Martinez has pitched 116.2 innings with a 2.31 ERA and a 1.02 WHIP. He's struck out 10.03 hitters per 9 innings, walked 2.31 hitters per 9 innings and allowed 0.46 home runs per 9 innings. He's allowed batters to hit .281 off him when they put the ball in play. Coming into this season, he had allowed a .277 batting average on balls in play for his career.

Mulder has pitched 152.2 innings with a 3.07 ERA and a 1.15 WHIP. He's struck out 5.90 hitters per 9 innings, walked 1.95 hitters per 9 innings and allowed 0.65 home runs per 9 innings. He's allowed batters to hit .285 off him when they put the ball in play. Coming into this season, he had allowed a .287 batting average on balls in play for his career.

There are several things that become apparent to me when looking at all of those numbers.

First, Martinez is, without a doubt, the most dominant pitcher of the group. However, as much as I love him, there's no way he can be the best pitcher in the AL this season if another top AL pitcher has thrown half again as many innings as he has.

Second, Hudson is a better choice for the AL Cy Young than Mulder. He strikes out fewer batters and walks more batters, but he allows fewer home runs and has pitched 13.1 more innings. Also, he has been much better at preventing hits on balls in play this season.

If you find yourself saying, "Who the hell took over Ben's body and made him say something like that?" allow me to explain. I know Voros McCracken argued that, counterintuitive though it may be, pitchers do not have much to do with whether or not balls in play are turned into outs. I mostly agreed with him, but Tom Tippett has just released a study that says that pitchers have more control than we thought.

I do think Hudson is getting more than his fair share of luck this season, but the evidence (his career batting average allowed on balls in play is also lower than Mulder's) suggests that even without luck he has more ability to prevent hits on balls in play than Mulder does.

Third, it is very difficult to pick between Loaiza and Halladay at this point. Halladay has pitched 31.1 more innings and walks many fewer batters. Loaiza has allowed many fewer runs and home runs and strikes out more batters. Loaiza has shown an excellent ability to prevent hits on balls in play, but his career numbers suggest that he's getting lucky and/or receiving a lot of help from his park and/or defense. Halladay's career numbers also suggest that he may be benefitting from luck and/or help, but not to the same extent as Loaiza.

So, the best I can do without really forcing myself to just make a gut call is narrow it down to a top three - Halladay, Hudson and Loaiza. If the season ended today, I would not be upset about any of them winning the Cy Young award.

David is definitely correct, though, Baseball Tonight owes it to their viewers to do a better job of explaining why they think there is no question that Halladay is the Cy Young award frontrunner. If they did, maybe they'd make themselves realize that it's not such an open-and-shut case.

Of course, if they are determined to look at wins as the first and biggest factor in whether or not a pitcher deserves the Cy Young award, then there's no escaping Halladay as the choice. At 15-2, he blows away Loaiza (13-5), Mulder (13-7), Hudson (9-4) and Martinez (7-2).

And when somebody is convinced that wins and losses are the most important thing about a pitcher, it's very difficult to convince them otherwise. I remember arguing with one of the columnists at the newspaper I work for two years ago about whether Roger Clemens or Mike Mussina was having the better season.

He said it was clearly Clemens, who finished 20-3 with a 3.51 ERA and did win the Cy Young award. I said it might be Mussina, who finished 17-11 with a 3.15 ERA placed fifth in the Cy Young voting.

His main argument was something like, "What's more important than winning games?"

I replied with something like, "For a team, nothing. For a pitcher, giving his team the best chance to win every game is more important. Whether or not they actually do win it isn't really up to him."

He said something like, "Bah," and that was the end of the argument, which he of course thinks he won.

It seems to me that ranking pitchers by how many games they win is a little like ranking movies by how much money they make. Sure, the better the quality of the movie the more likely it is to make a lot of money, but a lot depends on how it is advertised, when it is released, what demographic it appeals to most, etc.

Of course, anybody who thinks Titanic is the best movie of all-time is free to try and defend themselves. Just ignore all the laughter.

Lima Time looks better than is it

Jose Lima is now 7-0 with a 2.17 ERA and a 1.05 WHIP in 49.2 innings. Last year, he went 4-6 with a 7.77 ERA and 1.57 WHIP in 68.1 innings.

The staggering difference between those two sets of numbers has led to the use of numerous adjectives in front of the word "comeback" when talking about Lima this year. It has also led many people to say that the Royals have gotten very lucky because they couldn't possibly have expected Lima to pitch the way he has.

I don't mean to be contrarian here (well, maybe a little), but the Royals should have expected Lima to pitch almost exactly the way he has so far.


I repeat, the Royals should have expected Lima to pitch almost exactly the way he has so far.

What they should not have expected (here comes the explanation for why I would say such a silly thing) is for him to have as much success as he has so far.

What's the difference? The difference is that he's leaving things up to the fielders about as often as he did last year.

This year, Lima has 23 strikeouts (4.17 K/9IP), 17 walks (3.08 BB/9IP) and three home runs allowed (0.54 HR/9IP). Last year, he had 33 strikeouts (4.35 K/9IP), 21 walks (2.77 BB/9IP) and 12 homers allowed (1.58 HR/9IP). So, he's striking out slightly fewer batters, walking slightly more batters and allowing a lot less home runs.

This year, batters have put the ball in play (i.e. have not struck out, walked, gotten hit by the pitch or hit a home run) 76.6 percent of the time against Lima and have hit just .182 when they have done so. Last year, batters put the ball in play 77.6 percent of the time against Lima and hit .314 when they did.

Even with Tom Tippett's recent findings that pitchers have more control over balls in play than Voros McCracken thought, there is nothing to account for Lima holding batters to a .182 average on balls in play after letting them hit .314 on balls in play last year besides excellent defense or excellent luck.

Put more simply, Lima has been lucky or helped by his defense. He has not really pitched all that well. Since the batting averages allowed on balls in play by the five most-used Kansas City pitchers are (from lowest to highest) .231, .243, .287, .294 and .316, I'd say Lima is being aided mostly by luck.

How do this year and last year compare to other seasons in Lima's career?

Well, in 2001, pitching for Houston and Detroit, Lima had 84 strikeouts (4.56 K/9IP), 38 walks (2.06 BB/9IP) and 35 homers allowed (1.9 HR/9IP). He allowed 76.9 percent of the batters he faced to put the ball in play, and they hit .293 off him when they did.

In 2000, pitching for Houston, Lima had 124 strikeouts (5.68 K/9IP), 68 walks (3.12 BB/9IP) and 48 homers allowed (2.2 HR/9IP). He only allowed 73 percent of the batters he faced to put the ball in play, but they hit .311 off him when they did.

The last time Lima was good, in 1999 with Houston, he had 187 strikeouts (6.83 K/9IP), 44 walks (1.61 BB/9IP) and 30 homers allowed (1.1 HR/9IP). He allowed 74.3 percent of the batters he faced to put the ball in play, and they hit .297 off him.

In 1998, Lima allowed a .275 average on balls in play. In 1997, he allowed a .307 average on balls in play. In 1996, he allowed a .322 average on balls in play. In 1995, he allowed a .299 average on balls in play.

So, Lima has never, even when he was good, shown an ability to prevent hits on balls in play to anywhere near the extent that he has done so this season.

Keep that in mind the next time you hear somebody talk about how lucky the Royals have been to find Lima. It's really Lima who has been lucky to pitch as poorly as he has and not get chased out of the league by a barrage of runs.

Update - Right after I finished writing this post, I went over to Aaron Gleeman's blog. I know that Aaron almost always makes his daily post after midnight before he goes to sleep for the day and I figured I'd read his Monday post before hitting the sack. Sure enough, Aaron also wrote about Lima, but much more extensively than I did (there's a reason many people consider him the best baseball blogger around). Anyway, if you want to read even more about Lima, click here and see what Aaron has to say.

I'm exhausted

I don't think I've ever cheered through a more emotionally draining regular season series in my time as a baseball fan. This series had everything you could possibly want -- an intense rivalry, teams battling for first place, surprises, great pitching, clutch hitting, stellar defense, late rallies, arguments, questionable calls, questionable decisions and more.

If I were to say that I never doubted that the Red Sox would win two of the three games, it would be the biggest lie of my life. To channel Yogi Berra, the only sure thing about this series was that nothing would be over until it was over.

One impressive thing about this series is that the umpires seemed to realize how important it was and, while they made some questionable calls here and there, they let the players play the game. In Friday's affair, both David Wells and Pedro Martinez (Pedro more egregiously) questoined umpire Dana Demuth's strike zone and neither one got tossed.

In Sunday's game, Jeff Weaver hit Nomar Garciaparra in the first inning. In the next inning, Derek Lowe threw two pitches way inside to Hideki Matsui (one was even behind him) and both teams were warned. Later, a pitch got away from Lowe and hit Jason Giambi in the foot, but Lowe was not tossed because it was obviously not intentional. Even later, Weaver hit Bill Mueller but was not tossed because it also was obviously not intentional.

Good job by the umps. In a series this important, do everything you can to make sure the main players decide the outcome.

Who would have thought Weaver and John Burkett would put up the two best starting pitching performances of the series?

Who would have thought Jeremy Giambi would "steal" his first career base?

Who would have thought lefty David Ortiz would triple (the fourth of his career) off lefty-killer Jesse Orosco?

Who would have thought David Wells would walk almost as many batters (5) on Friday as he had walked all season (6)?

Who would have thought Chris Hammond would allow back-to-back home runs after allowing just one homer in 41.2 innings this season?

Who would have thought Enrique Wilson would have two hits and a walk, two steals and two runs on Friday?

Who would have thought both Byung-Hyun Kim and Armando Benitez would pitch in all three games and allow either runs or inherited runners to score each time?

Who would have thought the series would end with Manny Ramirez making a diving, sliding, rolling, snow-cone catch to prevent the go-ahead run from coming to the plate?

Quite simply, it was just an amazing series. After Friday's game, people said there was no way Saturday's game would match it. After Saturday's game, people said there was no way Sunday's game would match the first two. After Sunday's game, ESPN Classic probably just said, "Hell, let's run all three games one after the other every day this week."

I'll finish by saying one more thing that you can either believe or not as you see fit. I was a complete mess during this series, unable to stay seated for more than five minutes at a time during any of the games. However, something strange happened when Hammond came in to face Jason Varitek. I just knew Varitek was going to hit a home run. I wasn't sure the Red Sox would be able to win the game, but I just had a feeling V-Tek would come through.

It was the only calm moment I had in the series, and I just smiled when the ball sailed over the Green Monster. No reason to gloat because I hadn't called it out loud, and no reason to cheer because it was still just a tie game and one with plenty of time left at that.

I'm glad the Red Sox have Monday off, because I need a day to regroup. Check back throughout the day Monday to see what I have to say about other stuff once my brain has cleared enough to think about anything besides how happy I am that the Red Sox won the series.