Wednesday, July 12, 2006

This One Counts!

The MLB Allstar game, though flawed (very, very flawed) still merits discussion because it serves as a gauge of player popularity among fans as well as showing who people within the game believe should be there. The latter is important because a guy routinely snubbed by the committee choosing reserves may in fact be underrated among management types around baseball as well, and thus undervalued in trade scenarios. If not that, then it’s at least interesting to see what people inside the game think of the players, since their opinions do have considerably more consequence than the amateur baseball bloggers.

Aside from all the rules with choosing players (1 from each team, the total roster size, whether there will be a DH in the game, etc.) it’s even hard to determine why exactly we are picking who we are here. I’ve heard several writers say that it shouldn’t just be your first half performance, but also a history of prolonged excellence that should get you there, meaning guys like Bonds and Clemens should have made the NL team this year as well. Other people have said that the second half performance from the previous season should also be factored in, since there is no individual baseball reward for a strong second half.

I am of the opinion that the system is flawed but we should stay within it, so that means the players who have had the best numbers for that year so far should be picked, and it shouldn’t matter how many of each position are picked as reserves. If only one first baseman is having a great first half than he should play the entire game. Talking about the flaws of the game, for one it should not count towards home field advantage because quite frankly the allstar game hasn’t been managed with winning the first priority in many years. Let’s be honest, if Phil Garner was really trying to win this thing I don’t think one of his moves would have been to remove Albert Pujols from the lineup after several innings. That’s just how it is though, you can’t have a manager burning pitchers, so they’re only going to throw an inning or 2, and while we’re at it, why not shuffle through all the batting reserves as well. It is an exhibition for goodness sake, at least it should be.

Another flaw is the choosing of pitchers based on whether they might be able to pitch in the game. It is an honor, so it shouldn’t have been taken from Curt Schilling just because he would have been unavailable. A few unavailable pitchers can be on the team, especially now since the roster size has been increased. Finally the picking of players should have nothing to do with representing all MLB teams. The Royals are a joke, and it’s their fault more than baseball’s, so they should be rewarded with no allstars. I don’t know how you fix the game. I am of the opinion that the team hosting the game should have one hitter and one pitcher chosen if you want to please the crowd (because that really does please the crowd, just look at the reception for Jason Bay this year), and maybe after being selected for 10 or so allstar games you have a standing invitation as to come as an additional special roster spot, so people always get to see the well known aging greats without taking away from up and coming players. But I’m just here to criticize mostly, this stuff should be fixed by Bud Selig, not me.

That said, I’m now going to go through the AL and NL allstar rosters and say who is a correct pick and who is not, and name their replacement. The guidelines I am going to follow are that first it doesn’t matter how players eventually got on the final roster (so Liriano counts as much as being chosen originally) and second every team needs one selection). I won’t pick reserves just for the sake of picking reserves though, so if I think only one 2nd baseman deserves to be there then there will be no backup for him, and I also don’t care what pitchers were available for the game because I think the honor is more important than actually participating in the game itself (yeah, I don’t care if Manny doesn’t like playing in it, I wouldn’t play either if I was sore). Finally my total roster size for each league will be what the final number of players chosen was for each league, so since a spot opened up for Liriano than I also have another spot to work with. But I’m also keeping the same number of position players, starting pitchers, and relief pitchers for each team as was originally chosen just for simplicity of comparison. Below I will list who made the team, whether they deserved it, and if not then who I would have replaced them with.

American League:
Starting Pitchers:

Kenny Rogers: Yes, he barely should have made this staff in my opinion.

Mark Buerhle: No, more hits than innings pitched, less than a strikeout every 2 innings, definitely not a legitimate selection. I do understand that the manager has some sway with his own players, but that should only apply to players of comparable performance. Justin Verlander deserved this spot much more.

Jose Contreras: Yes, overrated “rebirth”, but did deserve the spot.

Roy Halladay: Yes, all hail the innings-eater.

Scott Kazmir: Yes, definitely, was outstanding in the first half.

Francisco Liriano: Yes, narrowly avoided being one of the worst allstar snubs in the history of the universe.

Mark Redman: No, second worst allstar in the history of the universe. On that subject, Mike Williams in 2003 was clearly the worst allstar ever, he pitched better in the second half but still couldn’t get his era under 6. He was essentially the worst pitcher in the NL that year. But anyway, instead of the suddenly well-known Redman, Curt Schilling deserves this spot.

Johan Santana: Yes, had a first half nearly identical to his numbers from 2004 and 2005.

Barry Zito: No, but this is a tough one. Zito would be my 11th starter if I was changing the number taken, but Mike Mussina did deserve this spot barely ahead of Zito.

Relief Pitchers:
Bobby Jenks: No, even factoring in having his own manager pick the final spots, Joe Nathan definitely deserved it more.

Jonathan Papelbon: Yes, let’s not go crazy and start calling him the MVP or Cy Young though.

Mariano Rivera: Yes, doing what he always does.

B.J. Ryan: Yes, nearly identical first half to Papelbon without all the attention.

Position Players (and DHs):
Ivan Rodriguez: No, didn’t even have that great of a first half. I’ll put Travis Hafner (leading the AL in OPS) on the team right away instead.

David Ortiz: Yes, his numbers mean he has to be on the team.

Mark Loretta: No, the second base options in the AL were so bad this year I’m going to go with Mark DeRosa instead (even though he’s only played about half his games at 2nd), enjoying his fluke great year.

Alex Rodriguez: Yes, but just barely.

Derek Jeter: Yes, can’t ignore that gaudy BA.

Vladimir Guerrero: Yes, but also just barely.

Ichiro Suzuki: Yes, solidified his selection after a tough start.

Vernon Wells: Yes, absolutely having a great year on offense and defense.

Joe Mauer: Yes, would be a surprise to not win the batting title at this point.

Paul Konerko: Yes, having another great season.

Jim Thome: Yes, one of the best hitters in the AL this year.

Robinson Cano: No, not even close. Put Morneau here in his spot.

Jose Lopez: No, how about DeJesus instead (partly because I need a Royal and partly because he is one of the best leadoff hitters in the game).

Troy Glaus: No, close but I have to get Jason Giambi on here somehow.

Miguel Tejada: Yes, had a great first half.

Michael Young: Yes, pretty much the most underrated hitter in baseball and I also have a feeling he might get a big hit in the game.

Jermaine Dye: Yes, see Jim Thome.

Gary Matthews, Jr.: Yes, close, but the fact that I don’t have another Ranger puts him over the top.

Magglio Ordonez: No, had a good but not great first half, Carl Crawford instead.

Alex Rios: Yes, finally discovering his talent.

Grady Sizemore: Yes, one of the few young players to not disappoint on the Indians in 2006.

A. J. Pierzynski: No, get off this team and also retire please. Instead I’ll have Victor Martinez here who has to be on this team.

National League:
Starting Pitchers:

Brad Penny: Yes, not so much having a breakout year as just being healthy and doing what he’s capable of.

Bronson Arroyo: Yes, the best half of baseball he will ever pitch.

Chris Capuano: Yes, and I’m very glad he finally made the team, definitely deserved it.

Chris Carpenter: Yes, the NL version of Roy Halladay.

Tom Glavine: Yes, but barely beats out John Smoltz because of his record at the half.

Pedro Martinez: Yes, possibly the best starter in the NL before his injury.

Roy Oswalt: Yes, reinventing himself quite nicely despite his strikeout numbers decreasing.

Jason Schmidt: Yes, see above.

Brandon Webb: Yes, my favorite NL starter.

Carlos Zambrano: Yes, absolutely had an excellent first half.

Relief Pitchers:
Brian Fuentes: No, I would replace him with Billy Wagner, a better pitcher.

Tom Gordon: Yes, I rue the day the Red Sox let him go.

Trevor Hoffman: Yes, but let’s hope nothing bad happens in the game.

Derrick Turnbow: No, and it’s not really that close. I would have picked Mike Gonzalez in his spot for “wildly effective Randy Myers-esque closer”.

Position Players:
Paul LoDuca: No, I’m going to put Nick Johnson in this spot.

Albert Pujols: Yes, period.

Chase Utley: Yes, deserved allstar spot.

David Wright: Yes, though I would have had Miguel Cabrera start by a nose.

Edgar Renteria: Yes, a solid starter.

Jason Bay: Yes, and not because Pittsburg needed a player.

Carlos Beltran: Yes, this is the type of player he is.

Alfonso Soriano: Yes, his power explosion is not surprising based on his potential but is based on his prior career path.

Brian McCann: Yes, he should have started the game as catcher, but is the only catcher I would have voted on.

Lance Berkman: Yes, one of the best hitters in the NL.

Ryan Howard: Yes, one of the best power hitters in the game.

Dan Uggla: Yes, the best performer out of all the Marlins rookies so far.

Miguel Cabrera: Yes, lack of lineup protection hasn’t hurt him at all.

Freddy Sanchez: Yes, a fluke half but deserved it nonetheless.

Scott Rolen: Yes, somehow had a huge first half completely under the radar.

David Eckstein: No, I’d use this spot to get Brad Hawpe on the team.

Jose Reyes: Yes, based on his pre-allstar hot streak.

Andruw Jones: Yes, has an incredible number of rbi for how many men have been on base for him.

Matt Holiday: Yes, had a huge first half.

Carlos Lee: Yes, had a very solid first half which thankfully wasn’t overlooked by those making the decisions.

Nomar Garciaparra: Yes, most definitely had to be put on this team some how.

It looks to me like the National League team was picked much better than the American League squad. Maybe a result of Ozzie Guillen’s influence versus Phil Garner’s? It didn’t matter in the end because the AL continued its recent dominance. I am generally glad that the AL has been winning lately because really it’s just been evening out the historical record, which had the NL with a huge advantage for many years. It is very unfortunate though that the AL has been the only team to win home field advantage since the game starting “counting” (by the way what happens if Selig decides to call another allstar game a tie?). And in fact the numbers have shown that home field advantage does have a major factor in baseball. I don’t really have a conclusion to all this, except that if baseball really wants to make this thing a national event that’s more than an exhibition then they should start doing it better.


Saturday, July 01, 2006 Going Through My Garbage Again?

Looks like it, with this piece by new writer Keith Law just over a week after my blog on young pitchers.“No disrespect to Johan Santana, but Liriano has the best raw stuff of any left-hander on the Twins' staff”, I appreciate the change in wording, but still copying me so closely is really not very professional. To comment on this piece, I’ll say that I agree pretty much with his rankings, but I have some minor qualms. I’m surprised he sees Zumaya as so obviously a starting option. The guy just doesn’t have very good command of anything yet, so he’d basically have to have his high 90s fastball working the entire game to succeed as a starter at this point. To say he’s the next Bartolo Colon isn’t a huge compliment right off, but it still assumes three things; that he’ll be able to improve his overall command, that he will develop his secondary pitches more, and that he is capable of maintaining his velocity over long stretches (a pretty big assumption as hardly any guys are like Colon in that way).

Another thing is that I personally find Matt Cain pretty overrated from what I’ve seen. If he can really blow away hitters with his fastball then why doesn’t he strike anyone out in the NL in a horrible hitting division? Nolasco I failed to mention mostly because I’m still trying to keep all the Marlins’ rookies straight. Reyes and Lester were very recent call-ups whom I definitely like but I feel like they could go either way towards greatness or the next league average starter. Lester I worry about because he’s 2-3 mph on his fastball away from Ted Lilly and even though he has a handful of very good pitchers, he has no one great pitch as of yet.

And it still boggles my mind how similar Liriano has been to Santana so far. Two guys who both showed immense promise but struggled in the low minors and then exploded on the MLB scene after improving their command while working in relief. And they’re both lefty, throw very hard, and have tremendous arm action and movement on their offspeed pitches.

The other example of my blog influencing the big boys was when the espn writers clearly read my allstar predictions and then copied them. My evidence? I published first, and I can find no other explanation for their picks coming out so logical. We basically only disagree on shortstops and who starts the game for the NL. Glavine’s been pretty average in June is my reasoning for him not starting, but the NL is getting pretty crowded at the top since Webb has come back to the pack. Also I am not impressed by run support (ie wins). Right now perhaps I would lean towards Carlos Zambrano because I wish the guy would get more attention and my jaw drops at his .194 BAA. And at shortstop, I pick Tejada over Jeter in the AL, with fielding breaking the tie (.884 OPS to .887 OPS respectively), and in the NL I have to switch my earlier pick of Renteria to Reyes because just came in second for the “most Mauer-esque hot streak of 2006 award”. Joe Mauer of course is in first for that at this point.

So that just goes to show you,, that you can’t silence the angry critic by trying to mimic him. I would, however, appreciate some more uninformed articles written soon since I’m kind of at a loss for inspiration lately.

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