Sunday, October 08, 2006

The Bronx Zoo on a Lazy Sunday

Has there ever been a more vivid illustration of how October baseball is won than the Yankees getting taken out by the Tigers? The Yankees, with their “Greatest Lineup in History” and an All-Star at every position were knocked out by a team that starts Marcus Thames and Brandon Inge every day because of…(cue the trumpets)…PITCHING!

No matter how good of an offense can be put in the batter’s box, good pitching beats good hitting more often than not. If the last week wasn’t enough to illustrate that point, ask John Hart how many WS rings he has using a similar strategy in the mid-90s.

The Yankees lost because their high priced arms (Unit, Mussina, Wright) were no match for the TALENTED, not expensive arms, of Verlander, Zumaya, and Bonderman.

You would think that with $200M to spend that the Yankees would be able to send someone other than Jaret Wright out to try to salvage the series (paging Carl Pavano…oh, that’s right), but the Yankees have spent their money in the rotation on items whose expiration date has past or is rapidly approaching.

To bring the relation to Cleveland, it emphasizes the importance of this franchise’s emphasis on starting pitching and how, with a vastly improved bullpen, this team (despite its detractors) is NOT far away from pulling off a playoff run.

If you don’t think that the bullpen is an important piece to this puzzle, consider this, here are the top 5 bullpen ERA’s in 2006:
Twins – 2.91
Mets – 3.25
Padres – 3.42
Tigers – 3.51
A’s – 3.60

The Cards, Dodgers, and Yankees come in 14th, 15th, and 16th; but you get the point.
The Indians 2006 Hellpen was 24th of 30 teams.

The starting pitching (with or without Byrd) is more settled than most teams, so a revamped bullpen could go a long way.

With that off the chest, let’s take a whirl at a Lazy Sunday:
Paul Hoynes has a superb (and that term is not often used in regards to PD Tribe coverage) recap of the season, offering both an insider’s look (in particular B-Phil dressing down John Farrell in the Bisons’ locker room in 2005) and a look to the future. Take the time to catch the whole piece online if you’re out of town, as it is worth a read.

Terry Pluto takes one last look at B-Phil and examines the Wedgiro dynamic.

Socker gets Shapiro’s wish list and (surprise!) revisits the Phillips situation.

Everyone’s favorite optimist, Jim Ingraham, is back with his Indians’ 2006 grades. If you want to save yourself the rise in blood pressure, he gives C.C. a B+, mainly because C.C. hasn’t reached #1 status.
Any time you start to wonder where Tribe “fans” get their sour outlooks, visit the Ingraham archive.

Andy Call reports that Kevin Kouzmanoff will play 1B in the Arizona Fall League instead of Michael Aubrey, who remains injured. For Ryan Garko’s sake, the hope is that K2’s trial at 1B is only to see if he can play at 1B to add that feather to his cap, or to show other teams that Kouz can play there. Also, Trevor Crowe will stay in the OF for the Arizona Fall League, so the Band-Aid approach for acquiring a 2007 2B is not an option.

It also means that Crowe, a natural CF, may eventually push Sizemore to LF…and before you spit your coffee out on the keyboard, consider the fact that Sizemore’s daredevil antics in CF are awfully entertaining. But, ask Darin Erstad and Aaron Rowand how easy it is to go through a season unscathed playing CF like a strong safety. Sizemore’s bat is too valuable to have him extended periods of time to the DL, like Ken Griffey, Jr. did when he broke his left wrist in Seattle making a phenomenal catches.

Lastly, back to the playoffs (where my Twins-Dodgers WS is now laughable), here are a few players no longer playing who could figure into some Tribe offseason plans:

Mike Mussina – Would the Boss pick up a $17M option on him, or would that money be better used to sign a Schmidt/Zito AND a solid set-up guy. Mussina’s a PA native (Montoursville to Cleveland is about a 4 ½ hour drive) who may take a short contract to pitch close to home to close out a stellar career. He would really fit into the Tribe rotation, as he wouldn’t be counted on to be an ace, but would be an obvious upgrade over Byrd and would allow the Indians to fill holes by moving Byrd.

Nomar Garciaparra – His 1-year deal with the Boys in Blue is done, and he played well enough to merit a long-term deal. Is he healthy enough to play SS again? Would a promise to play SS full-time be enough to lure him to the North Coast. How would he look between Sizemore and Hafner?

Greg Maddux – He hits the FA market again and, while he certainly is not what he once was, he may provide the veteran leadership that Millwood provided a year ago. This is a long shot at best, but worth mentioning. Again, signing him would allow the Tribe to move Byrd for a reliever/2B/corner OF.

Gary Sheffield – This, too, could be a pipe dream. But, he fits the profile of a RH power-hitting corner OF, assuming that his body hasn’t been ravaged by flaxseed oil. He may end up playing 1B in the Bronx next year, but all bets are off for what the Yanks are planning for 2008 if they feel their Fantasy Baseball approach isn’t working.

Why do I get such pleasure out of the knowledge that the Yankees will be watching the ALCS and the WS from the same place as me…the COUCH!


t-bone said...

from Jason Stark's insider blog...

ZERO HERO -- In The Year of the Rookie Pitcher, guess which rookie led his league in shutouts (OK, tied, actually)? No, not Jered Weaver or Justin Verlander. Not Matt Cain or Cole Hamels. Not Francisco Liriano or Anibal Sanchez. It was (ta-taaa) Cleveland's Jeremy Sowers -- a guy who got called up late (June 25) and shut down early (no starts after Sept. 12).

In between, Sowers made just 14 starts. But in a year where it took just two shutouts to lead the league, that was enough. Elias reports that Sowers was the first pitcher to lead his league in shutouts (or tie) without making 20 starts since Luis Tiant, also of the Indians, did it in 1966 (with five shutouts in 16 starts). Always a good thing to find yourself in the same sentence as El Tiante.

• CLOSING TIME -- Anybody know which team finished last in the major leagues in saves? Nope, not the Devil Rays. Not the Royals. Not the Cubs. It was those aforementioned Cleveland Indians, with 24. So what's so odd about that, you ask? That team won 78 games. Which means nobody got a save in nearly 70 percent of them.

That's a commentary on both the Indians' thrill-a-minute bullpen and all the blowouts they won. But whatever caused it, you sure don't see anything like that in this day and age.

Over the last 25 seasons (essentially, The Post-Sutter Era), only one other team won that many games (or more) in a season but had a save total that miniscule, according to Lee Sinins' Complete Baseball Encyclopedia. That was Calvin Schiraldi's 1987 Red Sox, an outfit that followed up its legendary failure-to-close craftsmanship in the '86 World Series by saving just 16 games out of 78 wins the following year.

pojo said...

I don't think anyone disagrees with you about the bullpen. You just have to go back a year to see what the Tribe did. The had a better pitcher than Byrd, and obviously one of the best Pens in the game.

You add the Pen to this team, and you may have 10 more wins...

I don't want Mussina...I just don't know how much better than he really is than Byrd, and he's not getting any younger. As far as Sheffield, for as much time as he's spent on the DL recently, and his age catching up to him, I don't know that he's worth the money.

Nomar...again...injury issues...but I'd put him on my team anytime. Boston tried to make him look like a problem in the clubhouse, but it's never been the case. I think you can sign the guy, and put him at Short. I still worry about his injuries though.

The one guy on that list that I would unquestionably go after is Maddux. 1. He's professional. 2. He's fine at the #4 or #5 slot in the rotation. 3. He could be the final piece to CC becoming an unquestioned ace, and he could make Westbrook better...not to mention all the young pitchers on that team. 4. Byrd gets dealt.

Just one man's opinion.

If you get a chance, check out my blog.

R.M. Jennings said...

I'm feeling pretty good (living in upstate New York) about the Yankees getting knocked out in the first round. Time for all their fans to go find their Mets gear in the closet.

Also, I just noticed on that the 2006 Indians' Pythagorean win-loss (a Bill James toy that uses Runs Scored and Runs Against to determine what a team's record "should" be) was 89-73. Not as good as last year, but three games better than '97, for instance. Does this make their season more or less disappointing, or is it just a meaningless stat?

I'm deciding who to root for in the playoffs now. Maybe the A's? My roommate is a Mets fan, and a decent guy, so I might just join him rooting for the Mets. However, rooting for any team with "New York" in the name leaves a bad taste in my mouth. Then again, they do have Julio Franco.

Paul Cousineau said...

I still have a Julio Franco broken bat that was given to me, probably in 1983.

How crazy is that...He's STILL playing!?!

I completely agree about Maddux's effect on C.C. and Westbrook. Remember when Eddie Perez used to say that Westbrook (when he broke into the rotation) reminded him of Maddux?

I wonder how much Maddux would cost in terms of years & dollars?

Cy Slapnicka said...

its nice to see someone registered the web address, no content yet, hopefully we'll get some soon. Perhaps a video clip of that awesome 3 and inches play or perhaps the play action pass to Droughns on 3rd and goal. did anyone notice they faked the handoff to Smith? was anyone in the stadium actually fooled by that? Smith has exactly ONE carry this year. Isn't the objective of a play action pass to get the defenders to think that a rushing attempt may actually occur? I don't understand how things like this can be acceptable week after week. I know we were overmatched against Carolina, but that is no excuse for the "offensive" offensive play calling.

I do like the idea of getting Maddux as a mentor. And that last post made me think of something....I actually could not remember Jason Johnson's name. How great is that? I forgot what a traumatic experience he was.

t-bone said...

had we just not been shown how good pitching can beat GREAT hitting, i'd start throwing things out like sowers, marte and byrd for A-Rod...

Baltimoran said...

i would burn jacobs field if they made that trade for a-rod

if there is any bright spots to the 1-4 start, sean jones and wimbley both look like future pro-bowlers

Paul Cousineau said...

Jacobs Field? What's that?

I had a similar moment trying to figure out why the team's ERA was so high. I thought, "Who was that guy that we had, that we sent to the Red Sox, then he went to the Reds?"

It was a solid 45 minutes until I came up with Jason Johnson.

Here's an interesting game:
Where could A-Rod go?
What will the Yankees want in return?
How much of his contract will they pick up (to make 2 teams paying to NOT have A-Rod on their teams).