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, September 13, 2008

Here we go. Because of rain outs, this weekend, the Phillies and the Mets each play three games, as do the Red Sox, Rays, Yankees, and Blue Jays. In other words, the NL and AL Eastern Divisions will move closer to their final standings in a great big hurry. And the Phillies are playing the Brewers, so the NL Wild Card will be greatly influenced as well.

Right now, it looks like the division races will go down to the last few games. I think the Mets will hold on, and that the Red Sox will squeak past the Rays. It looks like Toronto will edge out the Yankees for third place, not that too many people care. I think Minnesota has a good chance to pass the White Sox, and it looks like Joe Torre is a genius after all.

The Astros are playing the role of last year's Rockies, something they have done recently themselves under Phil Garner, and will press the Brewers until the last weekend. There is another case where the manager is key; Cecil Cooper deserves a lot of credit, and I have to wonder why Ned Yost still has a job. I think the Brewers will hold on, but just by a thread.

As for individual players, the news about Aaron Heilman pitching all year with a knee injury makes me angry. Why do players think that they are helping their team by not admitting the injury and getting it taken care of right away? Wouldn't the Mets be better off now if Heilman had been put on the DL and gotten surgery or rest, and be 100 percent healthy for the pennant race? Now, he is probably done for the year, and they got virtually nothing good from him all year.

With all the babying of pitchers that goes on these days, this kind of "toughness" is totally counterproductive. And speaking of babying pitchers, is Mike Pelfrey suffering from overuse, or simply fear that his arm is going to fall off if he throws too many pitches this year? With the advances in sports medicine, and the improved size, strength, and conditioning of today's players, how come they are treated like porcelain dolls?

If Tom Seaver and Bob Gibson could pitch eight or nine innings every fourth day for years, how come a huge guy like Mike Pelfrey, in his physical prime, shouldn't be expected to pitch 200 innings a year?

There have been a tremendous number of pitching injuries that past few years. There's no questioning that. However, a lot of pitching injuries in the past few years have probably been caused by steroids (since the tendons and ligaments get weakened by steroids, and then have to support increased muscle mass and harder workouts).

And I think a lot of injuries have been caused by fear of injury. Once you plant the idea that pitchers are so fragile, it sinks into the subconscious and affects the way a pitcher does his job, and the way he is treated. Of course, we'll never really be able to test this, but I'd love to see some team try.

How about taking one minor league team in an organization and trying some different methods of developing pitchers, such as using a four man rotation, or building up pitch counts so that pitchers are pitching much deeper into games?

Baseball needs to change the mindset that it's acceptable for a starter to pitch five or six innings a game, and that four or five relievers are needed to finish each game. With the shortage of quality arms, this is the exact opposite of a winning approach. When the White Sox won the World Series in 2005, their starters were completing games left and right in the playoffs. It was great to see.

Of course, most of those guys suffered the next year, but that's as likely to be due to the sudden change in use, rather than any inherent inability to pitch that many innings. What baseball needs is the anti-Tony LaRussa, someone who is willing to experiment with the way pitchers are used, and come up with some new approaches.

There is too much specialization, and not enough good pitchers who can succeed in any situation. The only pitchers who can thrive no matter what are the ace starters and the top few closers, and even then, you have oddities like Mariano Rivera blowing so many tie games this year, because he is conditioned to thrive only with a small lead.

I suppose it's all part of the "designated-hitterization" of baseball, where being good at only one thing is rewarded handsomely. The real beauty of baseball has always been that good players had to be good at everything: hitting, fielding, base running, and whatever needed to be done. Even pitchers used to contribute with the bat, at least by bunting well when asked.

Oh well, maybe I'm just too much of a traditionalist to fully appreciate the way baseball has changed the past few decades, but I still love a good pennant race, and this year we have some great races.

Caroms off the wall

Billy Wagner is done, and I for one am okay with it. I just wish he would shut up and go recover somewhere far, far away. I couldn't see the Mets going very far in the post-season with even a healthy Wagner closing games. The Mets need to pull an Adam Wainwright to go all the way, but it's been done before. Joe Nathan would look great in blue and orange next year.
© Judy Kamilhor 2008


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