Friday, August 08, 2003

Another Bills story

I have another story from Buffalo Bills training camp in today's Rochester Democrat and Chronicle. If you would like to read it (sorry there's still no new baseball stuff for you to read here), here is the link:

Crowell learning from Bills' veterans

Like yesterday, if you click on that link and read the story, PLEASE e-mail me. You can also use the link at the bottom of the story. Remember, I'm asking for e-mails so that I can show my editor how blogs can accentuate a newspaper, I'm not doing this to inflate my ego or anything.

Also, I'd like to thank everybody who e-mailed me yesterday. I think I got eight e-mails, which is pretty good considering that this is a baseball blog that gets about 100 hits a day and that was a football story. If any of you read the story yesterday and didn't e-mail me, please do so. If you want to tell me what you thought of the story, that would be great, but mostly I just want to be able to tell my editor how many people read that story because of this blog.


Thursday, August 07, 2003

Exciting day for me

In today's Rochester Democrat and Chronicle, the centerpiece story on the cover of the sports section is by none other than yours truly. This isn't the first time I've had the centerpiece story (I think it's the second or third), but this story is about the Buffalo Bills (specifically, a Buffalo Bill -- cornerback Kevin Thomas), which means a ton of people will read it. If any of you are interested in reading it, here is the link:

Bills' Thomas finds his focus

If you do click on that link and read the story, PLEASE e-mail me and let me know (1) that you read it and (2) what you thought of it. It's very important to me to find out how many people click on that link and read the story, because I want to be able to tell my editor how blogs can accentuate a newspaper. (If my email link isn't working, my address is:

Thank you

Wednesday, August 06, 2003

Roger Klemens

For somebody with six Cy Young awards, one MVP award, 300-plus career wins, 4,000-plus career strikeouts and a sure ticket to Cooperstown, Roger Clemens is managing to somehow have an underrated season at age 40 (41 as of Monday).

I guess I shouldn't be too surprised, because there's one specific area in which he's not getting the recognition he may deserve. That area is strikeouts, which was also largely overlooked when he got his 300th win and 4,000th strikeout in the same game. People seem to think that the former milestone is more important than the latter, even though the 4,000 strikeout club is much more exclusive.

I'm not here to argue about that, I'm just here to point something out. That something is that Clemens currently leads the AL with 148 strikeouts.

If Clemens can finish the season with the most strikeouts in the AL, he will become just the second pitch in baseball history to do three different things -- lead his league in strikeouts at age 40 or older, lead his league in strikeouts in three different decades and lead his league in strikeouts with three different teams.

Clemens led his league in strikeouts for the first time in 1988, when he punched out 291 hitters in 264 innings at age 28 with the Boston Red Sox. Still with the Red Sox, he led the AL again three years later with 241 strikeouts in 271.1 innings. In his final season with Boston, a 33-year-old Clemens struck out 257 batters in 242.2 innings to lead the AL in 1996.

The following season, Clemens was in Toronto, where he struck out 292 batters in 264 innings. In 1998, he led the AL in strikeouts again with 271 strikeouts in 234.1 innings at age 35 for the Blue Jays.

Now, as I said, Clemens is 41 (this will count in the record books as his age 40 season). He is with the New York Yankees (his third team). The year is 2003 (his third decade).

I think you can all guess who the first player to accomplish all three feats was.

Nolan Ryan led his league in strikeouts 11 different times.

The first time was in 1972 with the California Angels at age 25. He led the league in strikeouts with the Angels six more times (73, 74, 76, 77, 78 and 79).

Ryan didn't lead his league in strikeouts again until 1987, when he was playing with the Houston Astros at age 40. He led the NL in strikeouts again the next year, before joining the Texas Rangers in 1989.

He led the league in strikeouts in 89 to become the first player lead his league in strikeouts with three different teams. He led the AL in strikeouts again the next year to become the first player to lead his league in strikeouts in three different decades.

Clemens has a chance to do three amazing (or merely interesting, depending on how you feel about it) things this season. Like all achievements involving strikeouts, however, Ryan did all three things first. Still, I think Clemens should be getting more attention for what he's doing this season.

To still be pitching effectively after age 40 is impressive. To still be the best strikeout pitcher in your league at that age is unbelievable.

Note - I'd like to apologize for the scarcity of posts recently. Covering Buffalo Bills training camp every day while trying to move into a new apartment at the same time has been more hectic than I thought it would be. And next week will probably be just as bad, as Bills camp will still be going on and the PGA Championship will be in town. Eventually, however, I promise that I will get back to posting as much as I used to.

Monday, August 04, 2003

Surprisingly offensive catcher

Quick, name the three best-hitting catchers in the National League this season.

If you said Javy Lopez, Ivan Rodriguez and Mike Lieberthal, you're right. Sort of.

Those are the top three on the OPS list among catchers who have played enough to qualify for the batting title. If you reduce the standards a bit, however, then Lieberthal gets bumped to fourth. And you'll probably never guess who is doing the bumping.

Jason LaRue came into this season hitting .239/.312/.404 (.716) in 301 games in the major leagues. Heck, he had only managed to hit .251/.308/.448 (.756) in 167 games at Class AAA.

This season, however, LaRue is hitting .247/.347/.494 (.841) with 14 homers in 76 games. LaRue generally displayed a little bit of power in the minor leagues, but he never showed any patience at the plate. That hasn't really changed this year, though. He may have an OBP 100 points higher than his batting average, but he only has 24 walks.

What's his secret then?

He's been hit by 16 pitches in 76 games. Not only is he tied for the NL lead in getting plunked (with Craig Biggio), but only one other NL player who has been hit at least 10 times has played in fewer than 100 games (Mike Kinkade has been hit 11 times in 68 games).

While he's not walking much and he's not really getting hit (or hits) enough to make him an OBP machine, he is doing better than last year. Last year, he drew 27 walks (he already has 24 this year) and got hit 13 times (which he's already surpassed this season).

The real surprising thing this year, is just how much more power he's showing.

Last year, LaRue hit 17 doubles and 12 home runs. He already has 17 doubles and 14 homers this year. Three of those 14 home runs have come in his last four games.

On Tuesday, LaRue led off the bottom of the ninth inning with a home run that forced extra innings, where the Reds defeated the Rockies. On Wednesday, he led off the bottom of the 10th inning with a home run to win the game for the Reds. And yesterday, LaRue tried to get Cincinnati back into the game by homering in the sixth inning to cut San Francisco's lead to 6-2.

Impressively, LaRue has gotten better every single month this season.

In his one game in March, LaRue hit .000/.250/.000 (.250) by going 0-for-3 with a walk.

In April, LaRue hit .234/.367/.422 (.789) in 64 at-bats. He got 64 at-bats again in May, but improved to .266/.356/.469 (.825). In June, he hit .247/.304/.534 (.838) in 73 at-bats. He got just 37 at-bats last month, but still hit .216/.333/.541 (.874). This month (two games), he's hitting .500/.750/.500 (1.250).

Everything I've read about him indicates that LaRue is, first and foremost, a defensive catcher. However, he is 29 years old, and some catchers just taking longer to develop their offense.

If LaRue can maintain (or even build upon) this newfound success, then he will be an important part of Cincinnati's rebuilding project -- along with a couple outfielders and some new, young pitchers. Who better to help develop those young pitchers than a catcher whose calling card is defense, especially one who can also give his pitchers some much-needed run support.

Sunday, August 03, 2003

Another Day Off

I know I said yesterday that I would try to make my "State of the Red Sox" post today, but I'm too depressed by their four-game losing streak. Also, my girlfriend and I are moving into a new apartment, which is taking up a lot of time. I should be able to blog every day this week, but some days I may get started later than others. Thanks for stopping by this weekend, and sorry I didn't have anything new to say.