Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Uncle Pirate


My brother Tampa and his wife are going to have a baby. I got this ultrasound from the proud papa earlier today. His boys can swim!

Of course this means that yours truly is going to become an uncle, probably some time in February. Crazy. I'm not sure what my avuncular duties will be, but I'm going to start stockpiling off-color jokes and bizarre conspiracy theories, just in case.

They don't want to know if it's a boy or a girl, since (as Tampa puts it) this is probably the last big surprise that they'll ever get. My brother is convinced that it's a boy, because it apparently has big feet. I mean, for a fetus. I'm not sure that it works that way, though.

Monday, October 30, 2006

Bittersweet

Well, congratulations I guess, to the St. Louis Cardinals. Despite the fact that I hate them all, the Cards are an extremely well-run franchise, and have been the class of the NL Central for the past five years; and they are the only team that can even pretend to challenge the Yankees for most World Series trophies. Pujols, Eckstein, and Carpenter are all great players that I have enjoyed watching, and they certainly deserved to win based on their performance in this postseason, along with Molina, Rolen, and the entire Cardinals bullpen, and I congratulate them. And I will see you all in Hell.

Because it should have been the Mets there in the Series. I know it’s a bullshit excuse to cry about injuries, but the Mets lost 40% of the starting rotation within days of starting the playoffs. How far do you think the Cards would have gotten if they’d lost both Carpenter and Suppan right before Game 1 of the NLDS? If either Pedro or El Duque was able to pitch in the NLCS, there’s no way the Cardinals even take the series to seven games, much less win. Of course, over a seven game series, you would expect the Cards to win about a third of the time. That’s the problem with baseball – the better team very frequently does not win.*

The silver lining to the Cardinals WS victory, of course, is that maybe people will shut up about the NL being a Quadruple-A league. Take that, AL fans! The DH is for pussies! By the way, I am aware that claiming the Mets are a better team than the Cardinals, despite losing in the small-sample-size-caveat playoffs; while also claiming that the World Series proves the NL is just as good as the AL, is deeply illogical. But I can cherry-pick my arguments if I want to.

* What makes this loss so especially galling, even more than those in ’99 or 2000, is the fact that the Mets were so much better than the Cardinals. Losing to a strong equal is painful, but getting whipped by a .500 team sucks. It’s like getting beaten up by a midget.

Monday, October 23, 2006

Apologies


I have not posted anything over the past three days because I've been busy pretending that this game never happened; also visiting with the parents of Mrs. Pirate, who are in town for an extended weekend.

At some point I'll feel up to posting the Mets Historia Calamitatum, but not right now.

Also, condolences to the family of Nelson de la Rosa, who I guess was famous for being a tiny friend of Pedro Martinez. And Kenny Rogers was definitely cheating. But he was doing it in the time-honored fashion of Gaylord Perry and Whitey Ford: blatantly, right in front of Tony La Russa, the umpires, thousands of fans, and the Hi-def cameras, so I respect him for it. Of course, he's still a no-good punk who walked in the winning run in the NLCS against the Braves in '99 . . . but he's trying.

Thursday, October 19, 2006

I Am Going To Hurt You

No, really. And I ain't going to hurt no woman. But I'm going to hurt you Molina. And not gentle like before . . . but bad.

Game 7

Oh Dear God.

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

That Sucked

Once again, hats off to Jeff Weaver, who has clearly been replaced by his evil alter-ego from a parallel dimension. Meanwhile, in that evil parallel universe, the Evil Cardinals go down 2 games to 3 against the Evil Mets, behind yet another terrible outing from staff ace Weaver. Evil Glavine was aided by the very consistent strike zone of Evil home plate umpire Jeff Kellogg, and the Evil Mets’ bats came through with timely evil hits in the evil clutch.

And is it just me, or are there a lot of Jeffs working for the Cardinals? Suppan . . . Weaver . . . Kellogg? Ha ha! Oh, I kid because I love.

If, along with Star Trek, I can somehow work a reference to Dungeons & Dragons into this post on my sabermetric baseball blog, I will complete the nerd trifecta. Hooray! I wonder what the prize will be? A retroactive date to the Senior Prom? Fingers crossed.

But for real, it seemed like the Cardinals hitters made an adjustment to Glavine from Game 1 to deal with his pitches away, away, away; and when some calls didn’t go his way, it seemed like Glavine didn’t make any adjustments of his own. The bullpen was once again great, giving up only one run in five innings and pitching out of some tight jams. But pitching lights-out from the bullpen doesn’t do any good if you can’t score any runs, as Darren Oliver can attest. And as good as Jeff Weaver was (and he did a fine job, credit where credit is due) he got a lot of help from overanxious Mets hitters, who made something like 37 one-pitch outs.

So far we’ve had two laughers and three close games. But interestingly, in each one the team that has gone to the bullpen first has lost. Which tells me two things: 1) that these teams both have strong bullpens, and 2) that victory or defeat has largely depended on the strength of the starting pitching, which I think means that the Mets are fucked. I guess that’s three things.

So, after the game tonight, does anybody want to run through The Keep on the Borderlands? You can borrow my +2 sword.


Sweet. I am now King of the (d)Orcs.

Monday, October 16, 2006

Sometimes You Win, Sometimes You Lose, And Sometimes . . . It Rains


Well, I don't think anybody really expected to get the game in tonight. I finally figured that I didn't want a rainout. Any benefit of getting an extra day of rest for Glavine is canceled out by the extra day of rest for the battered Cardinals bullpen. Also, Weaver has apparently never been asked to pitch on short rest in his career, which I think means it probably would have effected him more than Titan Tom.

On the other hand, Carpenter hasn't been asked to go tomorrow, so it looks like we'll get him in Game 6 in New York, which is a definite plus. As I said earlier, Carp has a very definite home/road split, and the Mets need all the help they can get against what will probably be the NL Cy Young winner.

More Bullpen Info

Let me just start off by saying that I hope Jeff Suppan didn’t think to ask for more than one great playoff start when he sold his soul to the Devil. Also, I don’t know whether to hope for a rainout tonight or not. A rainout means that Tommy G. gets an extra day’s rest, which is good. It also means a day off to recuperate for a Cardinals bullpen that got taken to the woodshed yesterday; plus the possibility that La Russa could start Carpenter at home tomorrow on three days rest, where his ERA is under 2.00.

In any case, here’s a look at the bullpen usage we’ve seen so far:



What, exactly, this tells us I have no idea. It seems like Guillermo Mota is getting a lot of work, even though I don’t think he’s been exactly lights-out. Of course, these numbers are a bit deceiving, since we’ve had two pretty close games, followed by two blowouts. Darren Oliver really saved the Mets’ bacon on Saturday, and all on only 72 pitches.

My one complaint about last night’s game is that I really wanted the Mets to force La Russa to burn one more reliever. Froot Loop pitched wonderfully, and by getting through the final three innings, he let Tony save both Kinney and Wainwright for today. You gotta kick the Cards’ bullpen while they’re down; and even if all you do is force La Russa to bring in Wainwright for a couple of outs (he was warming up in the bullpen when Jose’s brain went on vacation) that might help you later. Maybe Wainwright would be just a little bit more tired today; or maybe that meaningless AB in the top of the 9th is what gives Delgado another look, and a better read on the Cardinals closer in a situation that isn’t so meaningless.

But what do I know about pitching? Hey, I’m 11-0 against the wall.

Friday, October 13, 2006

I Stand Corrected


“Well there’s your problem, Jeff. You had the “SUCK,” knob cranked all the way up.”

“Well, that explains it. Let’s bring that way down. Thanks, man.”

“Sure. While we’re at it, we should flip this switch from “SHITTY,” back to “GOOD.”

“Good thinking.”


My apologies to Jeff Weaver. If you had told Tony La Russa before the game that Weaver would go 5.2 innings and only give up 2 runs, I’m sure he would have been delighted. Weaver pitched very well, but Glavine was even better, aided by a couple of double plays and the awesome Mets defense.

Carpenter pitches tonight, and all the pressure is on the Cardinals. With mediocre starters behind him, every Carpenter start is a must-win for the Cards. He’s a great pitcher, but there are some silver linings to facing Carpenter tonight that you can read about here.

Man, they must hate Beltran in St. Louis.

Thursday, October 12, 2006

Jeff Weaver

This article at the Hardball Times recently claimed that this Cardinals-Mets series is a lot closer than it looks. That’s possible. Losing 40% of the starting rotation in three days can certainly weaken a team. But one of the reasons that Jeff Sackmann cites is that Jeff “Dream” Weaver, after being released by the Angels to make room for his younger brother, is pitching like a major-leaguer again. Weaver was 2-0 over his last four starts in the regular season, and shut down the Padres on the road in the NLDS.

Frankly, I don’t buy it. His last five starts have been against the anemic offenses of Houston, twice, Milwaukee twice, and the Padres at Petco (or whatever they call that park these days). That’s a lot different than facing the mighty, mighty Mets, in New York, in Game 1. But of course, we all know how well Jeff pitched when he was in New York before.

Rainout, And Cory Lidle

The death yesterday of Cory Lidle is obviously a shock and a tragedy, and my condolences go out to his family; though how anyone can be allowed to fly that close to Manhattan is incomprehensible to me. Let’s just be glad that Lidle and his flight instructor (great work there, by the way) miraculously didn’t kill some poor schmuck who was sitting around in their apartment minding their own god damn business.

The rainout yesterday kinda blows for the Mets. It lets La Russa throw Carpenter out there for Game 2 instead of Game 3, though we still won’t see him more than twice. It also allows La Russa to push Suppan back to Game 3 in St. Louis, where Suppan’s ERA is 2 full runs better (5.36 ERA on the road vs. 3.18 in St. Louis).

The other problem is that, with no off day between Games 2 and 3, Glavine would start Game 5 on only three days rest, not than his usual four. But if you hold Glavine until Game 6, then you’re pitching him on five days rest, which is actually too much; never mind the fact that you’d have to find somebody to pitch on Sunday (Oliver? Heilman? Mitch?) I know that Tommy is one of those pitchers who likes to keep on schedule, but can’t find his record in games started with short/extra rest anywhere.

The lack of an off day until after Game 5 is also going to increase the importance of the bullpens, and the Mets definitely have the edge here:



The Mets ‘pen has the edge in total IP, ERA, strikeouts, walks, and HR per game, as well as Reliever Win Expectancy Added. WXRL is a fancy nerd stat that estimates how many more wins a reliever earned for his team over what a replacement-level pitcher would have over the same amount of innings. Basically, the Mets bullpen kicks ass. If it comes down to the bullpens, I am very confident.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Cardinals NLCS

Believe it or not, this was really hard to find:



Some good news here: no lefty starters, and apart from Carpenter & Pujols, not much else, either. Johnson and Flores, the two lefties out of the 'pen, look pretty good. Wainwright is probably the closer with Isringhausen out, but La Russa obviously won't be afraid to play matchups at the end of the game. I suspect that Looper and Thompson are essentially ROOGYs (Right-handed One Out GuYs), and they don't strike that many people out anyway.

(Correction: Anthony Reyes will probably pitch Game 4, not Jason Marquis, who was left off the roster. That's OK -- La Russa is just swapping out one losing pitcher with a 6.02 ERA for another losing pitcher with a 5.06 ERA.

Your 2006 NLCS Mets

From David Lennon's blog over at Newsday:



Only 11 pitchers on the roster this time. Sorry, Royce Ring. Welcome back, Anderson Hernandez! Does fewer pitchers for a longer series mean Willie's confidence in our starters has increased after the NLDS, or is it a reflection on how hurt Cliff Floyd is?

Starters are in the order Randolph has announced he'll use them, so Glavine in Game 1, Maine in Game 2, etc. The Bullpen is in the likely order of their appearance, should Willie decide to call on them, i.e. Oliver is the long man, Chadro Felicianoford is the R/LOOGY, Heilman sets up and Wagner closes.

I know Chavez has had a better year, but I'm still glad Uncle Cliffy's on the roster. It just wouldn't be right to have the Mets in the LCS and not hear the theme from Sanford and Son.

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Should George Fire Joe?

Well, it looks like he isn’t going to; but should he? Are four games in October a fair judge of the job he’s done managing the Yankees this year? How much influence over a team’s won-lost record does a manager even have?

It turns out that nobody really even knows. There’s two ways that you can look at a manager’s contributions: one, the tactical moves that he makes during a game, on the field (whether or not sacrifice a runner over to second, which pitchers to use in which situation, etc.); and two, all the “intangibles,” of managing a major league clubhouse, full to the brim with a heady mix of major league egos, and also ravenous press who are just as bored of reporting the same old Bull Durham clichés as the athletes are of saying them.

The extremely smart folks over at BP took a look at how much managers were able to effect a team’s record with in-game strategies, and they basically concluded that ALL managers actually REDUCED their team’s W-L record by over-managing. Managers like to do stuff like bunt runners over, steal bases, hit-and-run, etc., because it makes them feel MANAGERLY, and basically shouts “Look at me, I’m MANAGING!” The problem is that most of these strategies actually tend to reduce the total number of runs that a team scores, especially in today’s high run-scoring environment, where shortstops routinely hit 20 HR.

By BP’s calculation, the best job a manager has done over the last 34 years, in terms of increasing his team’s wins, was Dick Williams in 1983 with the Padres, who added a whole .63 of a win. Awesome. Worst, by the way, was Roger Craig, who actually took away six wins from the Giants in ’87. Nice work, Rog. Those are the outliers – most managers tend to take away a win or two each year, but they’re pretty much all the same.

The other part of managing is the clubhouse shit: motivating players, dealing with crazed/incompetent owners, keeping the press on your side, and so forth. Tony La Russa talked about it in Buzz Bissinger’s 3 Nights In August, that these days a manager’s job was more about managing personalities off the field, than managing strategy on it. So, how much is that worth, over a season? A couple of wins? Five? Sabermetrics doesn’t have a stat for that, so I can’t really say.

Managers are probably a lot less important than we think – that’s why the 30 ML managing jobs are always taken up the same rotating roster of 45 guys. One’s probably just as good as another. But if a guy can keep the press, the players, and George Steinbrenner happy, for 10 years, he’s probably doesn’t deserve to get canned.

Unless you decide that you want to make a change just for the sake of making a change. Go ahead, what could it hurt?

Friday, October 06, 2006

Billy Beane's Shit Finally Works In The Playoffs

I didn't even watch the game, but keep your eyes peeled for countless stories about how this A's team finally won a playoff series by manufacturing runs, with hustle and with defense; not just sitting around like a jerk waiting for some fat guy to hit a three-run homer.

Also, Joe Morgan finally confronts his fear of numbers.

Thursday, October 05, 2006

John Maine Does Not Take The Fifth

Man, that was one scary game. The Mets were one freakish double play at the plate away from losing it. Anyway, despite that, I was a little surprised yesterday when Willie came out with the hook for John Maine in the fifth inning. Yes, he’d given up a single and a walk; but with a one-run lead and starting pitching in short supply, I thought that Willie might leave him in. He was just a ground ball away from getting out of the inning and qualifying for the W, and Maine had struck out Kenny Lofton twice already.

My impression about Maine from his regular season starts was that he would pitch well for like four innings, before imploding in the fifth; and I guess that’s what Willie was thinking. Anyway, to see if my impression matched up with reality, I did a little research and found this:



Those are John Maine’s lines from each inning in his 16 appearances for the Mets this year, including a single inning in relief. Wow. He’s Johan Santana for three innings, and then he’s Jose Lima. Good call, Willie Randolph.

After the third inning, his walks and HR allowed go through the roof. But why? Is he getting tired? Where does his control go? He still strikes people out at a decent rate, and his BAA is good, but too many of those hits in the 4th and 5th are going for home runs.

Tomorrow, maybe, I’ll have time to go into what I think is going on with this. But right now I need to go drink some beer and watch me some METS, baby!

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Why Doesn’t Anybody Still Understand Moneyball?

From Slate’s How To Fake Your Way Through The Postseason by Justin Peters:

A's talking points: Odds are you've heard of Michael Lewis' Moneyball, which documented GM Billy Beane's strategies for winning with a low payroll: Draft college players and emphasize on-base percentage. Old-school baseball analyst Joe Morgan will send you flowers if you note that Beane's 2002 draft has produced a mere two major leaguers, and only four A's regulars have OBPs over .360. If someone says you're using selective evidence, shut them up by shouting, "Oakland's made the playoffs five times since 2000 and hasn't won squat. Five bucks says Billy Beane's shit doesn't work in the playoffs this year, either."


Congratulations, idiot: you have just completely missed the point of all 320 of Michael Lewis’s pages. For the last time, Lewis wrote in his book that Billy Beane was able to field a winning team with a low payroll by finding players who are undervalued by the rest of baseball. That used to be college players and OBP, but thanks in part to everybody reading Moneyball but nobody understanding it, that is no longer true:

People who have the highest on-base percentage are the highest-paid players in the league. We can’t find it where it’s undervalued anymore. There are no bargains any more in that area.

The sort of team we put together is probably going to be dissimilar to others. When everyone else is zigging, we’re going to zag. We changed dramatically over the last few years. People accused us of being a slow-pitch softball team: Get men on base and have someone hit a three-run homer. But we’ve become more defensive-oriented.

-- Billy Beane

God I hate you.

PS - The New York Yankees have made the postseason six times since 2000, and haven't won squat yet, either.

Monday, October 02, 2006

Why Doesn’t Billy Beane’s Shit Work In The Playoffs?

The good people at Baseball Prospectus, in their fine book “Baseball Between the Numbers,” which I can’t recommend highly enough, tried to come up with a way to look at what qualities correlated with success in the postseason. They somewhat arbitrarily gave each team 3 points for making the postseason, and then +1/-1for every victory/loss, and a bonus of like 10 points for winning the World Series. They called these Playoff Success Points, and then looked at the correlation between various team qualities (prior playoff experience, number of veteran players, team offense, strikeout rate for the top 3 starters, etc) and the number of PSPs.

Common baseball wisdom is that Wild Card teams in particular can enter the playoffs “on a roll,” and streak their way to a championship. But one of the things that the Prospectors found did not correlate at all with postseason success was a team’s record in the last month of the season. In fact, there was a slight negative correlation between a team’s record over the last month of the season and subsequent playoff success, meaning that the teams that performed the best after September 1st were less likely to advance than teams that slumped into the playoffs.

Of course, often it’s the really good teams that back their way into the postseason. Clinching early, resting starters, and starting the B-team are probably what caused that slump in the first place.

Having said that, I was still really happy when the Mets won their last four in a row. At the very least, it means that I won’t have to hear my friend Paul give me any crap about following the team with the second-best record in New York.