Friday, September 12, 2003

Wilson showing his stuff

Every year, it seems, several fantasy baseball columnists get very excited about Craig Wilson. There are two reasons for this. First, Wilson's a pretty good hitter. Second, Wilson qualifies as a catcher in most fantasy leagues.

The problem is that the Pirates haven't always been as excited about Wilson as everybody else. In his first two seasons in the big leagues, Wilson put up some very solid offensive numbers, but only played in 219 games and only got 526 at-bats (2.4 AB/G).

On the surface, this season looks like more of the same. Wilson has played in only 100 out of 145 games and he only has 250 at-bats (2.5 AB/G). That is mostly because the Pirates ignored him a lot at the beginning of the season and he struggled somewhat when they did use him.

By the end of May, Wilson had sat on the bench for 23 games and was hitting just .208/.326/.375 (.701). Wilson saw more playing time in June (he didn't play in just six games) and hit .325/.400/.450 (.850).

Still, for the season he had just three home runs and eight doubles. He doubled that home run total in July, when he again sat out six games and hit .228/.313/.474 (.786).

Then, in August, Wilson saw the bench a lot again, sitting out for 10 games. When he did play, however, he made a lot of noise. He hit five home runs in 42 at-bats and hit .333/.472/.786 (1.257) for the month.

Now, Wilson has played in 13 consecutive games and he's been on fire the past week. In Pittsburgh's last seven games, Wilson is hitting .423/.500/1.000 (1.500) with five home runs. For the season, he's hitting .268/.368/.528 (896) with 16 home runs.

Wilson's recent performance shouldn't really be that big of a surprise because, as I said before, he's always been a good hitter.

After being drafted by the Toronto Blue Jays in the second round in 1995, Wilson hit .283/.367/.484 (.851) with seven homers in 49 games in rookie ball. The Blue Jays included Wilson as a player to be named later in a trade that winter, and the following season he hit .261/.316/.402 (.718) with 11 home runs in 131 games for Class A Hagerstown. That would be the worst performance of his career.

The next year, he moved to Class A Lynchburg, where he hit .264/.350/.476 (.826) with 19 homers in 117 games. He started at Lynchburg again in 1998, but moved up to Class AA Carolina after hitting .269/.348/.507 (.855) with 12 homers in 61 games. In 45 games with Carolina, he hit .331/.399/.507 (.906) with five home runs.

In 1999, Wilson played for Class AA Altoona, where he hit .268/.367/.508 (.875) with 20 homers in 111 games. The next year, he moved up to Class AAA Nashville and set the league on fire, hitting .283/.383/.604 (.987) with 33 homers in 124 games.

In 2001, Wilson got his first shot at the major leagues, and he hit .310/.390/.589 (.979) with 13 homers in 81 games. Last year, Wilson hit .264/.355/.443 (.798) with 16 homers in 131 games.

After his performance this season, Wilson has a nice major league hitting line of .276/.366/.501 (.867) with 45 home runs in 318 games. The fact that he's cheap and can play catcher, first base and the corner outfield positions makes him even more valuable.

Now, you might look at his splits and say that he shouldn't get much playing time against righties, but that's not really true. Sure, Wilson is hitting .337/.465/.750 (1.215) with 10 homers in 92 at-bats against lefties this year and just .228/.305/.399 (.704) with six homers in 158 at-bats against righties, but those are small sample sizes.

Before this year, Wilson had hit .331/.401/.529 (.930) with nine homers in 157 at-bats against lefties and .255/.350/.469 (.819) with 20 homers in 369 at-bats against righties. So, he's definitely a better hitter against lefties, but I don't think he's so bad against righties that he shouldn't ever be in the lineup against them.

As far as I'm concerned, the Pirates should make Wilson a full-time player next year and see what he can do. They're not going to the playoffs next year anyway, so if he struggles it doesn't really hurt. If he shows that he can play every day, however, it could really help the Pirates down the road.

Football stuff

As some of you may remember, I am now writing a weekly fantasy football column for the Rochester (NY) Democrat and Chronicle. Here's the link to this week's column:

Fantasy football: Keep your RBs

I wanted to ask you to e-mail me if you read the column. I'd love to know what you think of it, and I also am curious to find out how many people go read my column from my blog.

Also, you may have noticed that I added a section to the column on the right labeled "My Football Picks." If you remember, Seth Stohs asked me to make football picks every week this season for him to post on his web site along with the picks of eight other people.

Well, I've decided to list how I do in that league on this blog. Every Tuesday, I will list how I did the previous week and update my overall record, along with my rank among the nine "experts" in both areas.

Last week, I went 10-6, which was tied for the fourth-best. I am also in another picks league (one that has money involved) and I went 12-4 in that one. Sometime between when I turned my picks in to Seth last Wednesday and when I turned my picks in to the guy who runs the other league I'm in on Friday, I changed my mind about the Dallas/Atlanta game and the San Diego/Kansas City game. My second intuition ended up being right in both cases, so I was two games better in the other league (I guess if you're going to do better in one than the other, though, it's nice to do better in the one that has money involved).

Anyway, everybody's picks for Week 2 have been posted over at Seth's Football Picks Page.

Finally, I wanted to once again thank everybody who has stopped by to read this blog. I had 448 visitors yesterday, which is far and away the most this site has ever had in one day. It's only September 12th, and I've already had almost as many visitors this month as all of last month. I really appreciate all of the interest.

Thursday, September 11, 2003

Around the league

Nothing really big jumps out at me today, so I'm just going to note one thing that occurred to me for each game while I was looking through the box scores.

FLA/NYM - I know it's remarkable that he came back from a serious injury to pitch at age 42 and I know Mets fans love him, but John Franco has been very lucky to post a 2.73 ERA in 29.2 innings this season. Franco has a 1.48 WHIP and has allowed batters to hit .274 off of him. His 12 walks (3.64 BB/9IP) isn't terrible, but it is when combined with only 12 strikeouts. He's also allowed five homers in under 30 innings (1.52 HR/9IP).

BOS/BAL - Everybody knows that Pedro Martinez, who pitched eight shutout innings with nine strikeouts against the Orioles yesterday, is a tremendous pitcher, but I don't think everybody understands just how good he's been. Since the beginning of the 1997 season, Martinez is 116-36 with a 2.22 ERA, 0.94 WHIP, 1742 strikeouts (11.29 K/9IP), 312 walks (2.02 BB/9IP) and 93 homers allowed (0.60 HR/9IP) in 1389 innings. That is simply amazing.

DET/NYY - Other people have already written about this, but I'm stunned by the fact that Jason Giambi has a .402 OBP since the All-Star break despite hitting just .205 over that stretch. Giambi is in an awful hitting slump in the second half, but he's drawn 42 walks and been hit by 10 pitches since the break to continue to be an asset to the Yankees offense.

PHI/ATL - The Braves need to rest John Smoltz so that he's healthy for the playoffs? Not a problem. Just have Will Cunnane come in and post a 1.26 ERA, 0.77 WHIP, 13 strikeouts and four walks in 14.1 innings while saving three games. This is the same Will Cunnane whose best ERA in a season, by a full run, was his 4.23 mark with the Padres in 2000.

CHC/MTL - After this season, it would serve the Cubs right if Hee Seop Choi never turns into a good player. Even after being jerked around so much that his batting average has fallen to .220, Choi still has a .353 OBP. If the Cubs had just stuck him in their lineup (against righties at the very least) and left him there, he might have solved their well-documented offensive woes. Hopefully, they haven't damaged his confidence so much that he can't recover.

PIT/CIN - The people who showed up in Cincinnati yesterday were treated to a surprising pitcher's duel. Oliver Perez, making his third start for the Pirates, allowed two runs on three hits and a walk with 10 strikeouts in seven innings. In his last two starts, Perez has allowed three runs on nine hits and four walks with 16 strikeouts in 14 innings. On the other side, Todd Van Poppel was making his first start for the Reds and allowed one run on six hits and no walks with nine strikeouts in six innings.

TOR/TB - Eric Hinske has made a nice recovery from his early-season sophomore slump. Hinske was hitting .232/.322/.387 (.709) when he went on the disabled list in late May. Since coming back, he has hit .257/.347/.502 (.849), which is very similar to the .279/.365/.481 (.846) numbers he posted as a rookie.

MIN/CWS - Johan Santana pitched a nice game yesterday to pull the Twins within a game of the White Sox heading into the final game of their series against each other. Today, Mark Prior is pitching for the Cubs. I know the Twins and their fans are very high on Joe Mauer (who they took with the number one pick in 2002 instead of Prior), but wouldn't it be nice to have Prior going today against Esteban Loaiza with first place on the line?

Although, if the Twins did have Prior, there would probably be two differences. First, the Twins would probably have at least a little bit of a lead in the AL Central. Second, Santana would probably not be in the rotation, because the Twins just don't seem to understand how to best allocate their resources.

CLE/KC - When the Royals traded for Rondell White, I thought it was a too little, too late move. Well, White has been somewhat injured and hasn't played that much for KC, but he's been good when he has played. White is hitting .368/.417/.526 (.943) in just 19 at-bats in the AL this year. If he can play the rest of this season and keep hitting this well (I know, he probably can't do either), then the Royals still have a shot.

HOU/MIL - I've meant to mention this several different times, but Richard Hidalgo is having an amazing season. Sure, he only has 24 homers and 77 RBI, but he's hitting .308/.385/.562 (.947). Also, keep in mind that he was shot this offseason and he was coming off posting an .811 OPS in 2001 and a .734 OPS last year.

COL/STL - We've officially got ourselves a Triple Crown race folks. After hitting two home runs yesterday, Albert Pujols is first in the NL in batting average at .367 (Todd Helton is second at .351), first in the NL in homers with 41 (Barry Bonds is second with 40) and he's second in the NL in RBI with 121 (Preston Wilson is first with 129).

I don't know when the last time somebody led the league in two categories while sitting in second in the third category this late in the season was, but Pujols has a definite shot at winning the Triple Crown, which isn't all that meaningful but sure is a lot of fun.

LA/ARI - Matt Mantei has quietly turned in a solid season as Arizona's closer. He missed some time with injury, but he's saved 22 games while posting a 2.63 ERA, 1.06 WHIP 61 strikeouts (11.44 K/9IP), 17 walks (3.19 BB/9IP) and four homers allowed (0.75 HR/9IP) in 48 innings.

ANA/OAK - Before this season, one of the biggest storylines was whether Oakland's new closer (Keith Foulke) would do better than Oakland's old closer (Billy Koch).

Well, Foulke now has 40 saves with a 2.16 ERA, 0.87 WHIP, 83 strikeouts (9.46 K/9IP), 18 walks (2.05 BB/9IP) and nine homers allowed (1.03 HR/9IP) in 79 innings. Meanwhile, Koch has 11 saves with a 5.55 ERA, 1.58 WHIP, 36 strikeouts (6.66 K/9IP), 24 walks (4.44 BB/9IP) and 10 homers allowed (1.85 HR/9IP) in 48.2 innings.

Now Foulke says he's willing to sign for $6 million/year to stay with the A's. It will be interesting to see if Billy Beane resigns him or lets him go for draft picks.

TEX/SEA - As far as the Mariners and their playoff hopes are concerned, Joel Pineiro picked a great time to break out of his slump.

Back at the end of July, Pineiro was 13-5 with a 3.03 ERA and seemed poised to toss his hat into the Cy Young Award ring. Since then, however, he had gone 0-5 with a 7.88 ERA, 1.84 WHIP, 24 strikeouts, 11 walks and seven homers allowed in 32 innings. Last night, however, he pitched a complete game, allowing just one run on four hits and a walk with 10 strikeouts.

SF/SD - Last night's game was a perfect illustration of why this has been such a tough season for the Padres. Phil Nevin hit his 10th home run of the season after coming back from his dislocated shoulder and Trevor Hoffman pitched his third scoreless inning in his third appearance since returning from his injury. With everybody healthy next season, it will be exciting to see what the Padres can do in the first year in their new park.

Wednesday, September 10, 2003

A strange career path

For some reason, I've had an unusual amount of interest in Carlos Lee for a few years. I guess I thought he would become a really good hitter and I kept watching him closely to see if there were any signs that he was about to break out. Well, last year there was a sign, but he is still not breaking out. At least not in a way that really helps the Chicago White Sox.

In Lee's rookie season at age 23, he hit .293/.312/.463 (.775) with 16 home runs and 13 walks in 127 games. So, he obviously had some nice potential, but he also had a lot of work to do.

In each of his next two seasons (during which he played 152 and 150 games, respectively), he hit 24 home runs and drew 38 walks. He was a free swinger with some nice power and, as can happen to players who don't draw many walks, those two seasons were very different despite identical home run and walk totals.

Lee had 22 more hits in 2000 than he did in 2001, so he was much more valuable on offense that year. In 2000, he hit .301/.345/.484 (.829) and in 2002 he hit .269/.321/.468 (.789).

Then, as I said, Lee had a breakthrough last year. He learned how to draw a walk. After taking 76 free passes combined over the previous two seasons (302 games), Lee drew 75 walks last year in 140 games. He went from drawing a walk every 16.1 plate appearances to drawing a walk every 7.7 plate appearances.

Unfortunately for Lee and the White Sox, his improved plate discipline didn't help his hitting as much as you might have thought it would. He hit 26 home runs and his batting average fell, slightly, yet again. Lee hit .264/.359/.484 (.843) with a career-low 80 RBI.

Still, there's no doubt that last year was his most productive season. Hitters, however, are not sabremetricians for the most part. They still like batting average, runs, RBI and most of them don't care about OBP.

And I guess you can't really blame them. After all, there's no award for the person who wins the OBP title as there is for the player who wins the batting title. And MVPs are generally chosen for their high RBI totals instead of their high OPS's.

So, while I don't have any actual evidence, I suspect that Lee saw that his more patient approach had resulted in the worst batting average and RBI marks of his career without a significant increase in home runs and decided to go back to being a free swinger.

This year, Lee is hitting .292 with 28 home runs and 100 RBI, but he's drawn just 35 walks. As a result, he's hitting .292/.336/.505 (.841). So, even if OBP weren't much more important than SLG, Lee would be having a slightly worse year than he did last year.

If you ask him, or certain media types, however, they would probably say he is having a breakout season. And that's unfortunate, because it means that he's unlikely to go back to drawing a lot of walks. And that means that his offensive value will have nothing to fall back on the next time he gets unlucky and loses 10-15 hits because of any of a number of things that can happen when you put the ball in play.

To more clearly illustrate how walks have affected Lee's offensive value, here are his EqA's from 1999 to this season with his walk totals that year in parentheses.

.261 (13), .278 (38), .272 (38), .291 (75), .280 (35).

If you have Lee on your fantasy baseball team, you have to be thrilled with what he's doing this season. If you're a member of Chicago's front office or a fan of the team, however, you should be disappointed that a hitter with a lot of talent is regressing after taking such an important step last season.

Tuesday, September 09, 2003

Dubious distinction

I was at work yesterday while Mike Mussina was winning his 16th game of the season against the Toronto Blue Jays when a co-worker asked me a question.

His question: Is Mussina the best pitcher who has never won 20 games in a season?

To answer that, we should first say how good Mussina has been.

After yesterday's performance, he now has a career record of 198-109 with a 3.52 ERA, 1.16 WHIP, 2114 strikeouts (7.18 K/9IP), 592 walks (2.01 BB/9IP) and 277 homers allowed (0.94 HR/9IP) in 2651.1 innings. For his career, the average batter facing him has hit .247/.288/.390 (.678).

Mussina has won 19 games twice and 18 games three other times (and he has a shot at reaching 18 or 19 wins again this season).

So, Mussina has obviously been a very good pitcher. In fact, his career ERA+ of 129 (before this season) is tied for 37th among all pitchers who have pitched enough (1,000 innings and 100 decisions) to be listed on the leaderboards at

Now to answer the question.

The answer to the question I wrote at the top of this post might not be yes. There is one pitcher who could currently be considered a better pitcher and who never won 20 games.

According to Baseball-Reference, there are nine pitchers with a better career ERA+ than Mussina who have never won 20 games in a season. None of those pitchers, however, were primarily starters. Five of them (Dan Quisenberry, John Franco, Bruce Sutter, Lee Smith and Kent Tekulve) never made a single start and two others (Doug Jones and Jesse Orosco) made just four career starts. Of those seven pitchers, only Tekulve (1436.1 innings) pitched more than 1300 innings in his career. One of the other two pitchers was John Hiller, who made 43 career starts but pitched just 1242 innings.

Since none of them came close to pitching as many innings as Mussina has, I'd have a lot of trouble calling any of them a better pitcher than Mussina.

That leaves just Hoyt Wilhelm.

Wilhelm made 52 starts in his career and pitched 2254.1 innings. He finished with a 146 career ERA+.

In 21 seasons, he went 143-122 with 227 saves and a 2.52 ERA, 1.12 WHIP, 1610 strikeouts (6.43 K/9IP), 778 walks (3.11 BB/9IP) and 150 homers allowed (0.60 HR/9IP). He won 15 games twice (once strictly as a reliever and once when he made 27 starts in 1959) and 11 or 12 games three other times.

He pitched about 400 fewer innings than Mussina has, but his ERA+ is much better and he probably pitched more "crucial" innings than Mussina has.

Quite frankly, however, I don't care whether or not Hoyt Wilhelm is a better pitcher than Mike Mussina because, while it would answer the question, it wouldn't answer the interesting question.

It's not interesting to learn that Wilhelm never won 20 games in a season because you wouldn't have expected him to ever win 20 games in a season. So, let's modify the question so that it's interesting.

Is Mike Mussina the best pitcher who has primarily been a starter in his career to not win 20 games in a season?

The answer to that question is yes.

Of all the pitchers with a career ERA+ of at least 125 who have made at least 100 starts in their career, only two have never won 20 games in a season. One is Mussina and the other is Max Lanier.

Lanier pitched from 1938-1953, mostly with the Cardinals, and went 108-82 with a 3.01 ERA (125 ERA+), 821 strikeouts, 611 walks and 65 home runs allowed in 1619.1 innings. You'll notice that I didn't make as many calculations for Lanier as for Mussina and Wilhelm. That's because you don't need as many calculations to see that Lanier wasn't nearly as good a pitcher as Mussina has been.

Especially if you consider that Lanier's best seasons (including his career-high 17 wins in 1944) came while many of the best baseball players were serving in World War II.

If you look at all the pitchers who have an ERA+ better than 120, the list of players with at least 100 starts who never won 20 games in a season has four additions -- Kevin Appier, Jimmy Key, Dave Stieb and Johnny Rigney. Rigney only played for eight years, making 132 starts and pitching 1186.1 innings, so he can be eliminated from the discussion immediately.

Appier, who won 18 games with the Royals in 1993, is muddling through a pretty bad season, but he's had a pretty nice career. He had a 124 career ERA+ coming into this season, and he's now 169-136 with a 3.72 ERA, 1.29 WHIP, 1992 strikeouts (6.92 K/9IP), 930 walks (3.23 BB/9IP) and 232 homers allowed (0.81 HR/9IP) in 2591.1 innings.

As you can probably tell, he's not as good a pitcher as Mussina. He's pitched fewer innings with a higher ERA, higher WHIP, lower K/9IP and higher BB/9IP. The only thing he's done better than Mussina is keep batters from hitting home runs.

Key, like Mussina, may have been robbed of a shot at a 20-win season by the last strike. Key had 17 wins for the Yankees when the season was canceled in 1994 and he probably would have gotten 10 or so more starts that season. Mussina, on the other hand, won 19 games for the Orioles in 1995. If the season hadn't started late, Mussina probably would have made three or four more starts that season.

Anyway, back to Key, whose career high in wins was 18 in 1993. Key went 186-117 with a 3.51 ERA (122 ERA+), 1.23 WHIP, 1538 strikeouts (5.34 K/9IP), 668 walks (2.32 BB/9IP) and 254 homers allowed (0.88 HR/9IP) in 2591.2 innings. Like Appier, Key is clearly not as good as Mussina.

Key pitched fewer innings and, although his ERA was about the same as Mussina's is, Key retired before the offenses really started going crazy (hence his worse ERA+). Key also didn't strike out nearly as many batters as Mussina and walked more. Key was slightly better at preventing home runs.

Stieb won 18 games twice and 17 games three times. For his career, he was 176-137 with a 3.44 ERA (122 ERA+), 1.25 WHIP, 1669 strikeouts (5.19 K/9IP), 1034 walks (3.21 BB/9IP) and 225 homers allowed (0.70 HR/9IP).

This might be a lot closer if Stieb had retired after the 1991 season, but instead he pitched 169 bad innings after that. Had he retired, he still would have pitched more innings (2726.1) than Mussina has so far, and his ERA+ would be at least somewhat closer to Mussina's.

Instead, Stieb has a better ERA, but worse ERA+ (thanks to the recent offensive increase) and had many fewer strikeouts and many more walks. He did allow home runs much less frequently, but that can probably be partly attributed to the seasons in which he pitched as well.

So, it seems pretty clear to me that Mussina is, in fact, the best starting pitcher (however you want to qualify that) who has never won 20 games in a season.

Fortunately for him, he has at least a few more years to try and pass that mantle on to somebody else. If not, maybe he'll eventually become the only major-league starting pitcher in the Hall of Fame who never won 20 games in a season.

Right now, the only Hall-of-Famers without at least one 20-win season are relievers Wilhelm and Rollie Fingers and Negro Leaguer Hilton Smith.

Monday, September 08, 2003

Patient Pudge is good as ever

If you look at Ivan Rodriguez and his .867 OPS, you might think he's having a worse season than the last two seasons, when he had OPS's of .895 and .888. And you'd probably also think he's having a worse season than his AL MVP 1999 season, when he had a .914 OPS.

Well, if you thought all those things, you would be wrong.

Not only is Rodriguez just as good a hitter as he used to be, he is also a much different hitter. Before this season, Rodriguez drew a walk every 20.0 plate appearances on average. This season, Rodriguez is drawing a walk every 10.1 plate appearances on average.

During his last two seasons in Texas, Rodriguez played 219 games and drew 48 walks. This year, he has played 127 games and drawn 50 walks.

Rodriguez is hitting .305, which is exactly what his career average is, but his lowest average since he hit .300 in 1996. Because of all those walks, however, Rodriguez currently sports a career-best .379 OBP.

Rodriguez's best previous OBP was .375 in 2000, when he hit .347 but played just 91 games. Aside from this season and that injury-shortened season, Rodriguez has never had an OBP above .360 and has a career OBP of .345 despite regularly hitting above .300.

With a .379 OBP and a .488 SLG, Rodriguez has a .301 EqA this season. Last year, Rodriguez hit .314/.353/.542 and also had a .301 EqA. In 2001, Rodriguez hit .308/.347/.541 and had a .299 EqA.

In fact, if Rodriguez keeps his EqA above .300, it will be the first time in his career that he will finish a season with at least 110 games played and an EqA of at least .300.

When Rodriguez won the MVP award in 1999, he had an EqA of .297. Sure, he hit .332 with 35 home runs and 113 RBI and he stole 25 bases, but he also drew just 24 walks (for a .356 OBP) and was thrown out stealing 12 times (for a 67.6-percent success rate) and grounded into 32 double plays.

I was very upset that Pedro Martinez did not win the award despite posting a 2.07 ERA, 0.92 WHIP, 313 strikeouts (13.2 K/9IP) and 37 walks (1.56 BB/9IP) in 213.1 innings. I was more upset, however, that Rodriguez was the player who did win the award.

Sure, he did all the flashy things (hit for a high average, hit home runs, steal bases, throw out basestealers), but he didn't do nearly as much to help his team win as people seemed to think he did.

This year, however, Rodriguez really is doing a lot to help the Marlins stay in the wild card race. He's getting on base, he's still hitting for decent power, he's playing as much as you can reasonably expect a catcher to play and he's taking more pitches than he ever has.

It seems obvious, but one thing that goes hand in hand with drawing more walks is taking more pitches. The more pitches you see, the more you know what the pitcher's stuff looks like and the more pitches he has to throw. The more pitches the pitcher has to throw, the sooner he has to come out of the ball game.

So, when you take pitches, you help your team in a variety of ways. First, you increase the chances of drawing a walk, which means you're not making an out. Second, you increase your chances of getting a hit, which also means you're not making an out. Third, you increase your teammates chances of getting hits, which means they're not making outs. Fourth, you increase the chances of getting into the opponent's bullpen early, and bullpen's are generally easier to score against.

Rodriguez is seeing 3.69 pitches per plate appearance this season. His career average is 3.38 pitches per plate appearance and his career high was 3.48 pitches per plate appearance (set last year).

So, in his first season in the National League, Rodriguez has turned into a completely different hitter. And it's a good thing for the Marlins that he has.

Not a good day

Today (Sunday) was probably the most excited I've been for sports since February, 3 2002 (that's the day they played Super Bowl XXXVI, in case you didn't know). Well, as you may have noticed, it didn't go as I had hoped it would.

The day started off with the Buffalo Bills marching right down the field to take a quick 7-0 lead on the New England Patriots. The Pats then went three-and-out on their first possession, but they were able to force Buffalo to punt after the Bills had marched back down most of the field.

Unfortunately, the Patriots committed a penalty on said punt, giving the Bills a first down and allowing them to march back into the end zone for a 14-0 lead. NE went three-and-out again, but this time forced Buffalo to go three-and-out and did not commit a penalty on the punt.

Unfortunately (unfortunately was my word for the day), the Patriots didn't even get a chance to go three-and-out this time. On second down, Tom Brady threw an awful pass that Sam Adams picked off and rumbled into the end zone with.

So, just like that, the Bills wre up 21-0 on the Patriots, who looked like they didn't even know what sport they were supposed to be playing. Things clicked a little bit on the next drive, as the Patriots drove to Buffalo's 39-yard line before trying to take a shot at the end zone.

David Patten beat everybody to the end zone and would have had an easy touchdown, except that Brady underthrew the ball. Patten had to slow down, which allowed Lawyer Milloy (yes, the guy who was still on the Patriots last week) to catch up and tip the ball. After Milloy tipped the ball, Nate Clements made a tremendous adjustment to catch the ball, and then he got both feet down in the back of the end zone for an interception.

The Patriots were able to keep the Bills from scoring yet again before half time and went into the locker room trailing 21-0. They got the ball to start the second half and were able to pick up a couple first downs before punting.

Then, on Buffalo's second play of the second half, Travis Henry fumbled and the Patriots recovered, giving New England excellent field position at Buffalo's 26-yard line and a chance to get right back into the game.

The Patriots needed just three plays to get to Buffalo's 3-yard line, and it looked like the game's momentum was shifting. Unfortunately (there's that word again), the Patriots then decided to take out Kevin Faulk (who finished the game with 62 yards on 10 carries) and put in Antowain Smith (who finished the game with seven yards on six carries). The Patriots handed the ball to Smith twice, and twice he did nothing with it.

On third down, the Patriots brought Faulk back in, but a penalty moved them back to the 8-yard line. Luckily, Brady was able to find Patten in the corner of the end zone for a touchdown.

Or so I thought.

Patten caught the ball, got one foot down and was pushed out of bounds. This is all that is required of a receiver for a completion, except for one change that was enacted last year -- you must complete the act of making a reception (in english, you have to hold onto the ball after you hit the ground). Patten hit the ground, and the ball escaped his grasp, thus nullifying a touchdown that would have made it 21-7.

No matter, the Patriots decided to go for it again on fourth down and Brady fired a perfect strike into the hands of Deion Branch in the back of the end zone. Branch dropped the ball and the Bills gained possession.

Well, I thought to myself, at least the Bills are backed way up. Buffalo did open up a little bit of space before calling in Brian Moorman to punt from their own 26-yard line.

Moorman proceeded to boom a punt 71 yards to pin the Patriots near their goal line. Thus backed up, New England picked up one first down before Brady threw his third interception of the game. Shortly thereafter, the Bills scored to go up 28-0. On the next drive, Brady threw his fourth interception. Shortly thereafter, the Bills kicked a field goal to go up 31-0.

Now, one thing that had been keeping me from being completely and utterly unhappy during this debacle of a football game was that the Red Sox and Yankees were locked in a scoreless tie, meaning the Sox still had a shot at sweeping the New Yorkers in Yankee Stadium.

Then, in the seventh inning, Jeff Suppan gave up just his second hit of the game. That hit happened to be a two-run home run off the bat of Bernie Williams. Boston recovered a run in the top of the eighth, but gave it away again in the bottom of the eighth and only mildly threatened to score in the top of the ninth.

So, after starting the day with visions of the Patriots kicking the Bills up and down the field while the Red Sox swept the Yankees out of their own house, I was a very disappointed man about three and a half hours later.

Then, shortly after the Patriots loss was complete, I got the news that the Miami Dolphins had lost to the Houston Texans. Now, being a Patriots fan I really don't like the Dolphins and I almost always root against them. Today, however, I was rooting for them because I picked them in my suicide pool. Since they lost, I'm out of the pool (along with 38 of the other 69 people entered) after one week.

Also, I lost the first game of the season in both of my fantasy leagues this week. Adding insult to injury is the fact that my opponent in both leagues was a female (please don't take any offense if you happen to be a female, I know plenty of females who are big sports fans). In this case, one opponent was my girlfriend, who is not that big a sports fan, and the other one was one of my co-workers, who got stuck with a bad team because the draft was on the night of the big blackout and she hadn't pre-ranked her players.

The only thing keeping this day from being a complete disaster is that I did pretty well in the picks league that I can win money in. I've got three games wrong so far (I picked the Patriots, the Dolphins and the Raiders) and I think I'll have a shot at winning the week if the Eagles win tomorrow night.

Now, it's time to go to sleep and hope tomorrow turns out better than today.

Thanks for stopping by, I'll most likely make a baseball-related post sometime Monday (hopefully in the morning).

PS - I'm absolutely amazed by all the readers I've been getting recently. I had 475 visitors the past two days -- easily my two best days yet -- AND IT WAS THE WEEKEND! I really do appreciate all of the traffic and I hope you'll continue to stop by. Also, don't hesitate to let me know what you think of my blog.

Sunday, September 07, 2003

Very cool

From 6 p.m. to 1 a.m. last night, about 200 people visited this site. Now, back when I was writing every day, I was getting 120-140 visitors a day. Since I had cut back due to working a lot, I was down to about 50-60 visitors per day.

So, I was obviously very curious as to why I was suddenly such a popular blogger. Well, I just found out. My blog is currently listed on Blogger's Blogs of Note.

I am very excited about this and would like to thank whoever decided to list my blog there. I would also like to thank everybody who has stopped by since my blog has been posted there. I hope you liked my post from Friday, because that's about what my blogging used to be like (and I hope will be like again for the foreseeable future) before I got really busy.

Now, as you probably realize, today was a very good day to be a sports fan.

The first thing I did when I got up this morning was watch College Game Day on ESPN (the astute among you will realize that this means I didn't get up until 10:30 this morning). College Football is probably my third favorite "sports league" behind MLB and the NFL (I would say NBA, college basketball, PGA, ATP/WTA and NHL follow in approximately that order) and I liked College Game Day with Chris Fowler, Lee Corso and Kirk Herbstreet last year.

All three of them know their stuff pretty well, and Fowler kept Corso from wandering too far afield with his tangents. Today, however, I noticed that they've added Rocket Ismail to the mix. From what I saw today, Ismail brings excitedness and a lot of yelling when he gets excited. Combined with Corso's occasional excitedness, it was mayhem.

There was actually a point this morning where Fowler had to yell, "Football, people, football. Let's get back to football." It was very funny. Anyway, after an hour and a half of watching College Game Day while doing more fantasy football research, I turned on the U.S. Open.

I was hoping that Andre Agassi and Andy Roddick would meet in the finals, but after just a few games it became apparent that Agassi would have a tough time with Juan Carlos Ferrero. Indeed, Ferrero took the first two sets before it was time for Game Two of the Red Sox/Yankees series to start.

Agassi would win the third set before losing the fourth set to get eliminated from the championship. Of course, while I was watching tennis, I was also watching three college football games. On ESPN, Michigan was playing Houston and that game quickly turned into a blowout, so I didn't watch too much of it.

By the time I turned on the Penn State/Boston College game on ABC, BC was already up 14-0. A few plays later, the Eagles picked off a screen pass and returned it to the 1-yard line, before scoring to go up 21-0. So, I didn't watch too much more of that game either.

The third game, however, was a dandy. On the YES Network, defending champion Ohio State was playing San Diego State University, and the Buckeyes were trailing 7-3 with the Aztecs driving. SDSU had a first-and-goal on Ohio State's 5-yard line when quarterback Matt Dlugolecki made a horrible pass and Will Allen picked it off and went the distance with it. So, instead of taking a 14-3 lead, SDSU fell behind 10-7 and I figured that was the end of that upset opportunity.

However, SDSU held surprisingly tough, trading field goals with the Buckeyes until the score was 16-13. SDSU got the ball back with 4:13 left on its own 35-yard line. The Aztecs were able to go to Ohio State's 46-yard line before running into fourth-and-10 with 2:53 left to play.

Now, 2:53 is a lot of time and SDSU had been playing tremendous defense, so I thought they would try to pin the Buckeyes deep and force a three-and-out. Instead, they went for it, Dlugolecki's pass was incomplete and that was that.

Somewhere in the middle of that, I watched the Red Sox pound the Yankees for the second day in a row, which was very satisfying to me (for those of you who don't know, I'm a fan of the Red Sox, Patriots, Celtics, Bruins and Notre Dame). Aside from the fact that Boston is helping its chances of making the playoffs tremendously, the thing I love most is all the panic going on in New York.

George Steinbrenner sounds like he's about to fire the whole team and people are starting to doubt whether or not the Yankees will make the playoffs. currently has a poll on its baseball page asking which team out of Oakland, Boston, Seattle and New York will miss the playoffs.

Last week, there was a similar poll and the Red Sox were the most popular pick by quite a bit. Today, 14,261 people have voted so far and 52.9-percent of them think the Mariners will miss the playoffs, 25.6-percent think it will be the Yankees, 15-percent say the Red Sox and 6.3-percent say the Athletics.

Tomorrow promises to be one of the most anxious days for me as a sports fan in awhile. At the same time, the Patriots will kick off their season against the Buffalo Bills and the Red Sox will try to sweep the Yankees. And BOTH games will be on TV for me to watch. If both teams win, I will be a very, very happy person tomorrow night.

I mentioned before that I'm a fan of the Fighting Irish, but with so much other stuff going on, I forgot that they would be on TV at 2:30. By the time I turned the game on, the first half was over and the Irish were losing 19-3.

My parent were in town this weekend, and we were going to eat dinner with my girlfiend and her parents tonigh, so I had to leave my apartment at 5 p.m.

When I left, Notre Dame was trailing 19-6 and Andy Roddick (who I also wanted to win) had already lost the first set. When I got home, I found out that Notre Dame had rallied back to win 29-26 in overtime and Roddick had rallied back to reach the U.S. Open final.

Also, I got home just in time to see the fabulous finish to the Miami/Florida game. When I turned the game on, Florida was winning 33-25. Apparently, they had fallen behind 10-3 before scoring 30 unanswered points, but they then gave up 15 unanswered points.

They would give up 13 more points to give Miami a 38-33 lead before true freshman Chris Leak tried to lead the Gators to an amazing win. Leak drove Florida all the way down to Miami's 19-yard line before throwing his first college interception.

Other amazing stuff from today:

South Carolina trounced No. 15 Virginia 31-7

Bowling Green edged No. 20 Purdue 27-26

Georgia Tech topped No. 19 Auburn 17-3, meaning that an Auburn team many people were picking to challenge for a national title is now 0-2 and has scored just three points this year.

Roy Halladay pitched a 10-inning shutout, allowing just three hits. In his last two starts, Halladay has gone 19 innings, allowing one run on seven hits. He has 19 wins, a 3.42 ERA and 234 innings pitched. Simply amazing.

Finally, Oakland and Seattle lost to Tampa Bay and Baltimore, respectively.

As I said, it was a great day to be a sports fan, especially if you were rooting for the same teams I was. And tomorrow could be even better.

I love this time of year.