baseball gods productions

Thoughts about baseball, from the perspective of sports psychology and the role of sports in society. It includes team and player analysis, predictions, and what I think needs to be changed in Major League Baseball. Brought to you from the heart of baseball, Brooklyn, by baseball gods productions.

Saturday, August 30, 2008

Labor Day Observations

I never thought I would say this, but I almost feel sorry for Alex Rodriguez. Here is an interesting set of statistics (RISP=running in scoring position):

RISP w/2 Outs: AB Hits RBI Ave.  bbOBA  SLG   OPS
Alex Rodriguez   53  13    18    .245    .452    .415   .867
David Wright b    66   15    26    .227    .363   .409   .772

In Flushing, David Wright is a MVP candidate, beloved by the fans, and a perennial All-Star third baseman. Over in the Bronx, Alex Rodriguez is also a perennial All-Star third baseman, but is constantly booed, and is the face of the "underachieving" Yankees. 

Rodriguez, like Wright, is struggling in clutch situations, but his extremely high on base average also indicates that pitchers aren't giving him anything to hit. If he ever becomes willing to take the walks in those situations, his numbers, and his teams', will improve.

Season: bb AB Hits  RBI  Ave. OBA SLG OPS
Alex Rodriguez 423 130   79 .307 .395 .579 .974
David Wright b 520 152 100 .292 .385 .515 .900

I have been watching David Wright the past few days in clutch situations, and he really seems to be pressing, just like ARod. Wright's excellent behavior and relatively low salary give him a pass from the criticism that ARod has to deal with all the time. Poor, poor, rich ARod. Maybe he can find solace in the Kabbalah.

Right now, David Wright is more clutch defensively than offensively. He is playing an exceptional third base these days, and deserves another Gold Glove (more than the one he got last year).

As for the Mets, the obvious team and maybe NL MVP is Carlos Delgado. Another sentence I can't believe I'm writing! I've never seen a turnaround like his, in all my baseball watching life. And it is another reminder that baseball is not about brute strength, because Delgado was hitting some monster homeruns even while he was struggling terribly. 

No, baseball is about timing, agility, balance, and confidence, as much as strength and speed. Delgado somehow found his happy zone, in spite of half of New York (including me, unfortunately) wanting him out of town on the next subway. Truly Amazin'!

As the season reaches its final month, the big questions are: 

Can the Red Sox catch some Rays with an injured Josh Beckett, J. D. Drew, Julio Lugo, and Sean Casey? I say yes, but just barely. 

Can the Mets stay gritty enough to hold off the Phillies? Can Jon Niese help?

Can the Rockies make another miracle run? They are only six games behind Arizona, with a whole month to play.

Who will end up on top in the crazy AL Central, White Sox or Twins? If it's the Twins, Ron Gardenhire should get the Manager of the Year award in addition to Joe Maddon.

Caroms off the wall

If the Cubs do end up meeting the Los Angeles de Anaheim in the World Series, it would be fitting. The Cubs will need to defeat the representatives of the heavens to end their curse! And it is odd that the Rays are doing so well now that they have lost the Devils from their name. As usual, the baseball gods are rolling down heavenly hills, laughing their heads off.

©  Judy Kamilhor  2008

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Everything That Rises Must Diverge

The Yankees are finally having the kind of season I've expected since they beat the Mets in the 2000 Subway Series. And their timing is bad, since Tampa Bay is having the kind of season that no one has ever expected of them, at least in this decade.

More surprising than the Yankees' poor play, however, is the concession speech by Hank Steinbrenner. I couldn't believe that anyone connected with the Yankees, let alone a Steinbrenner, would ever give up on a season in August.

If I had to speculate on why it is happening now, there are two obvious answers. One is that they tried to rebuild the pitching staff on the fly, with very little margin for error.

The other is that the baseball gods are really pissed that there will be a replacement Yankee Stadium next year. The costs are skyrocketing, and it seems like the new building is already cursed, and is emanating invisible noxious fumes that are weakening Aura and Mystique and ARod and Jete.

It will be really interesting to see how they play the rest of the way, and today's extra inning win is certainly a good sign that the players haven't given up. Looking at their lineup and pitching, though, they really aren't a playoff caliber team right now, and Carl Pavano certainly isn't the answer.

Moving on to Mets, who are finally ten games over .500, I have to say that I am impressed by Jerry Manuel. The Mets should remove the interim tag and sign him to a three year extension as soon as possible. Even if the Mets end up losing the division again, I have to say it won't be the fault of the new manager.

I am excited, too, about the young guys--Daniel Murphy, Argenis Reyes (not so young), Nick Evans, and soon, Jon Niese--and am really glad the Mets didn't give up more prospects to get another aging star. That strategy doesn't work anymore, and if the Mets acquired someone like Gary Sheffield, I'd have a hard time rooting for him.

Once (if) Ryan Church comes back healthy, the Mets look to be in very good shape as far as offense and defense are concerned. The pitching is obviously the key, but even with all the problems they have had, especially in the bullpen, the Mets' pitching is still better than everyone else in the NL East top to bottom.

The thing about this season is, unfortunately, is that it looks like the Cubs and Brewers are the class of the league, and even if the Mets make the playoffs, I doubt very much that they will win more than one series. But that's the beauty of baseball, isn't it? You never know until you know.

Caroms Off the Wall

Boston and Los Angeles de Anaheim look like the two best teams in the AL, again, and I expect them to meet in the ALCS. Tampa Bay will hang on, but come back to the pack a bit, and I think Boston will squeak past them now that Longoria and Crawford are out. Not even a great team can withstand the loss of their two best all-around players for any major length of time, and the Rays aren't quite a great team yet.

Who in the world would have expected that Oliver Perez and Mike Pelfrey would be the Mets' most reliable and winning starters? Not me, that's for sure. I really hope Santana wins about eight starts in a row to make up for the team's miserable performance behind him. I wonder if there isn't some resentment and even jealousy going on behind the scenes?

© Judy Kamilhor 2008

Sunday, August 03, 2008

Addition By Subtraction for the BoSox

All the Yankee fans that I work with were thrilled to hear that Manny Ramirez was no longer on the Red Sox. He's a Yankee-killer, and they figured the Red Sox would be worse off without him. But baseball is a psychological game as well as a physical one, and in this case, the Red Sox should do better on the field now that Jason Bay is in LF and Manny is in LA.

The Red Sox are unsentimental, but they know how to run a business. Their GM, Theo Epstein, took a poll of his players, and they agreed, almost unanimously, that Manny must go to return the harmony to their clubhouse. Yes, they gave up a couple of decent prospects and a lot of money, and didn't get "equal" value in return, but they got something much better: peace of mind.

Jason Bay is almost as good as Manny right now, and could even be better by next year. Better yet, he doesn't cause trouble and he's Canadian. His dad is a huge Red Sox fan, which can't hurt, and he has another year on his contract for an incredibly reasonable $7.5 million. Which means that the Red Sox will have all kinds of money to spend to upgrade as needed. Although really, they don't need much, maybe a reliever or too.

The Red Sox are still one of the few top teams in the major leagues, and I expect them to win the AL East, and play the Angels in the ALCS. The Angels look like the best team in baseball, like in 2002, but their last two losses to the Yankees make me wonder a bit.

The wild card in the AL will still come down to whether Tampa Bay learns how to win on the road, especially in Boston and NY. My guess is that the Rays will just hold off the Yankees to make their first playoff appearance ever, and will lose to Los Angeles de Anaheim in the ALDS. The Red Sox will beat the Twins in the other ALDS.

The National League is more intriguing, because only the Cubs seem to really have a good shot at maintaining their lead. No one in the NL East is any good, and it almost doesn't matter who wins, because they have no chance to advance. It really looks like the Cubs will get to the World Series for a shot at an every-hundred-years championship.

I keep expecting the Diamond Backs to pull away, but they are not playing very well. I think they regret trading their closer, Valverde. Now that they have sent Micah Owings down to the minors, maybe they should make him a two-way player. He's still their best hitter, and they could use him more at the plate than on the mound.

As for the Mets, I will repeat what I have said before: they will never win the World Series with Billy Wagner as their closer. He is a smaller, left-handed version of Armando Benitez, with a big mouth. That ten game winning streak almost fooled me, but they didn't quite get to ten games over .500, which is what I was looking for as the sign that they are a legitimate contender. Now they are only five games over, and John Maine is on the DL.

It's time to see what the young guys (Murphy, Kunz, Niese, even Fernando Martinez) can do. In the past, that would have meant conceding this year, but now, bringing up your top prospects is the best way to win right now.

Caroms off the wall

Fernando Tatis is playing almost exactly as well as Moises Alou would have, and provides the same calm confident leadership as well. I call him Little Buddha. What a brilliant move by Omar Minaya! Unfortunately, there were too many bad moves in the off-season--like Luis Castillo's four-year deal, and relying too much on Pedro Martinez and Orlando Hernandez--which weighed the team down with too many older, unproductive/unhealthy players.

© Judy Kamilhor 2008