1/25/10

MLB Jam: NL Edition

If you somehow managed to miss the first installation of this little feature, you can find it here. Or, you know, just scroll down. Either way. We'll wait.

Ok, now that you've memorized the AL rosters, let's jump in to the NL. Again, these teams are going to be the two individuals on each NL team who would best represent their club in a 2-on-2 basketball showdown.

NL East
 Atlanta Braves:  Tommy Hanson and Yunel Escobar
  • Hanson checks in at 6'6'', 220, so he'll be the muscle on the team. Escobar has a reputation for being a bit of a firebrand that doesn't much get along with people, so he'll be the aggressive, Kobe-style player. Competitive streaks like that can mean a lot in 2-on-2. And, yes, we fully expect this team to lose in the first game.
Florida Marlins: Josh Johnson and Sean West
  • The Marlins are going to go with the Two Towers approach. Johnson (6'7'', 250) and West (6'8'', 240) are two of the biggest players in this tournament. Hard to beat that kind of size - and that's leaving off 6'8'' Chris Volstad as well.
New York Mets: Gary Matthews, Jr and Mike Pelfrey
  • Sarge the younger has (had?) serious hops  and Pelfrey is 6'7''. We felt it important to go with Pelfrey here since there's a decent chance that a team with Matthews and Jose Reyes would lose by default after both players got hurt five points into the first game.
Philadelphia Phillies: Shane Victorino and Ryan Howard
  •  The Flyin' Hawaiian runs the point and Howard bangs in the post. Simple enough - but we also feel like Brad Lidge should be tabbed for any and all potentially game-winning shots. 
Washington Nationals: Adam Dunn and Nyjer Morgan
  • If we're going to keep up with the admittedly rather absurd notion that strong outfield defense translates to good floor skills on the hardwood, then Morgan is an obvious choice. And Dunn, of course, is the polar opposite. Hopefully for his sake this is a halfcourt game so he doesn't have to move too terribly much.

NL Central
Chicago Cubs: Carlos Zambrano and Sean Marshall
  • Big Z could easily turn into a regrettable pick if he starts doing his pointing-to-the-sky thing after every good play he makes, but he's a good, hefty athlete. Marshall is 6'7'', which at this point is starting to seem like an automatic qualification, but there doesn't appear to be much in the way of guard-sized talent on this team. We're sure the Cubs would love to sign Alfonso Soriano up for this with the hope that he'd get hurt and they could void his contract.
Cincinnati Reds: Daniel Ray-Herrera and Willy Taveras
  • We've got the Reds going super small here; Ray-Herrera is listed at 5'6'' which means he's probably even shorter, and Taveras is right around 6'0''. But we're hoping for some Bogues/Webb-esque magic from R-H, and Taveras' speed and defensive abilities are a clear plus. They're gonna have to be dynamite on offense, though, to keep up with the teams that are going to score at will in the paint.
Houston Astros: Michael Bourn and Evan Englebrook
  • In the interest of transparency, we'd never heard of Evan Englebrook until we checked the 'Stros 40-man roster. But, well, he's 6'8'', so we're going to assume that failing any non-baseball athletic gifts, he can at least stand in the way of, say, a 5'6'' dude. Bourn is on this squad for his excellent speed, much like Willy Taveras, the man he's replaced in center field for Houston.   
Milwaukee Brewers: Carlos Gomez and Yovani Gallardo
  • Gomez is fast, and Gallardo gets the nod because the tall guys don't seem like good options and I like him. Whatever. This is an awful team. You can get 1000/1 odds that Paris Hilton will be elected President in 2012 - you've got a better chance of winning that bet than riding these guys for a championship appearance.
Pittsburgh Pirates: Andrew McCutchen and Garrett Jones
  • McCutchen is a phenomenal talent, and Jones came out of nowhere to shock the world (OK, maybe just the Bucco fans who noticed) last season. Can he do the same in this tournament? Well, since it'd be a shock to the world if it even happened, we say 'why not?' 
 St. Louis Cardinals: Albert Pujols and Adam Wainwright
  • It's just impossible for us to imagine Pujols not being dominant at something, so he's an easy choice. As for Wainwright, guess how tall he is? Did you say 6'6'' or less? Well, then you must not've been paying attention earlier.  
 NL West
Arizona Diamondbacks: Justin Upton and Dan Haren
  • Upton is perhaps one of the best athletes in the entire league despite being only 22, so we kinda have to include him. The DBacks don't boast anyone that stands 6'7'' or taller, so we went with Haren, who for some reason, just looks like a guy who has some nice post moves and can hit a jumper. We wouldn't quarrel if you opted for Stephen Drew, though. We would quarrel if you chose Adam LaRoche. 
 Colorado Rockies: Dexter Fowler and Greg Reynolds
  • Fowler is a great athlete with speed to burn, which is a nice plus considering that he's 6'4''. Reynolds is the magical six-feet-seven-inches tall, which not coincidentally is also how tall Adam Wainwright is. You know, in case you got it wrong last time.
Los Angeles Dodgers: Matt Kemp and Jon Broxton
  • Kemp has a good blend of speed and size, and shares a surname with one of the more infamous power forwards to lace up high tops, so he's like a guaranteed star in this business. Broxton...well, we picked Broxton because we want to watch a 6'4'' 300-lb man play the post. Afford us some small such luxuries, won't you?
San Diego Padres: David Eckstein and Kyle Blanks
  • Kyle Blanks is 6'6'', weighs nearly 300 pounds, and rocks a mean afro. It seems unfair to the other teams to pair him with anyone but The Grand Poohbah of Grit. 
San Francisco Giants: Tim Lincecum and Pablo Sandoval
  • Lincecum's manic energy and hair bring hopes that he can be a latter-day Steve Nash Which then raises the question - can someone be the latter-day version of another person who's still active? Sandoval is the only real bat on this team, so he's the muscle to back up Lincecum's small frame. Who cares if he's only 5'11' 240 or so? You can't leave off the Panda. 

So there you have it. We've got all the rosters, so clearly soon it's time for the games to begin.

We really need Spring Training to start soon.
 

1/19/10

MLB Jam: AL Edition

Well, this started as a post that was going to compile information about all the arbitration-eligible players in the league, like what they were being offered/countering with, what they signed for, etc. After all, a lot happens very quickly around this time of year. But then we found out that the indispensable Cot's Baseball Contracts is already doing just that. Sometimes, we just don't know why we bother.

But in any event we went through the trouble of logging in here, so, hey, might as well write something, right? A couple of days ago, over at our other gig on MLB Notebook, we briefly tossed out the idea of creating an MLB version of NBA Jam - hence the goofy title of this post. At the time, we weren't really sure how such a thing would work. Should we pick the two guys who'd be best at hoops, or the most representative players of the team regardless of hooping ability? If we did consider basketball skills, was there any chance that we could avoid charges of racism*? Should we look at baseball skills?

*Short answer: certainly not. Longer answer: certainly not, but it's not like we've got an enormous readership clamoring for controversy.

With no real answer in sight, we decided that this was probably a pretty silly idea. But then!

Well, no, there is no but then! moment. We're still fairly sure this is a dumb idea. But we're going to try to play it relatively straight, and pick the two guys who we think would make for a decent 2-on-2 team from each team's 40-man roster. Will it work? Well, that's for you to decide.

AL East
Baltimore Orioles: Matt Wieters and Brian Matusz
  • Sliced bread, of course, is the greatest thing since Matt Wieters, and if Matusz can toss entry passes like a baseball, this team could get by on some Stockton/Malone mojo. They'll be a bit 'tweener-sized, since both are 6'5'', but they might be a nice darkhorse.
Boston Red Sox: Jacoby Ellsbury and Dustin Pedroia 
  • The Sox are just not a very tall team - Dustin Richardson (whom we've never heard of ) is the tallest at 6'6''. So we're gonna go small ball with this team - Ellsbury's legs will play well at the point, and Pedroia seems like that annoying bastard at the Y who plays dirty and hits enough shots to feel secure in taunting everyone about it.
New York Yankees: Andrew Brackman and CC Sabathia
  • Brackman is at least 6'10'' (he was listed at 7'0'' in the Cape Cod League) so he's a natural choice to be the big man for the Yankee squad. And have you ever seen a fat man play basketball who doesn't hit shots like it's his job? We haven't. And we're writing this. So there.
Tampa Bay Rays: Carl Crawford and Jeff Niemann
  • Crawford gets the nod over the uber-athletic Desmond Jennings because he's got about 40 pounds on the guy. Niemann makes it because he's 6'9''. We also considered Matt Garza because of the aforementioned douche-factor that got Pedroia a spot, but we decided that Garza's more like the kind of guy that people on his own team resent during pickup games.
  Toronto Blue Jays: Jason Frasor and Mark Rzepczynski
  • We know it looks like this team will suck. But Jason Frasor's brother, Bobby Frasor, is the point guard at North Carolina, and Rzepczynski has a first-rate fitness program. So all we're saying here is that this team could be a dark horse.

AL Central
Chicago White Sox: Brent Lillibridge and John Danks
  • "Baby Face" Brent Lillibridge is on the team because he looks sort of incredibly fragile, so he'll be able to draw plenty of charging calls against the bigger, badder teams. Danks' brother, Jordan, is an excellent athlete in center field, so maybe big bro John was blessed with some of that, too. What we're saying is, it's slim pickings on this team.
Cleveland Indians: Fausto Carmona and Justin Masterson
  • We're going big with these guys. Carmona, a 6'5'' sinkerballer, should be able to throw a mean bounce pass - assuming he doesn't miss wildly every time. Masterson's 6'6'', and that's literally the only reason we can think of to put him on here. But unless Shin-Soo Choo has some Jeremy Lin in him, we're sort of at a loss for the rest of these guys.
Detroit Tigers: Justin Verlander and Rick Porcello
  • Couple of tall young guns here. We figure that since they're a pair of starting pitchers, they both spend plenty of their copious downtime with one another, and so have a good chemistry. Now let's all start pretending that "chemistry" has still never been used to settle an issue on this here blog.  
Kansas City Royals: Yuniesky Betancourt and Jason Kendall
  • Sorry, but when a team is fielding two of the worst regular players in the league, they sort of have to be on the same team together. But, hey, at least Kendall has that Veteran Presence, eh? Let's just hope he doesn't break an ankle.
Minnesota Twins: Joe Mauer and Pat Neshek
  • Sort of the same reasoning here as with the Orioles...what, exactly, can't Joe Mauer do? And would Pat Neshek's sidearm game translate to roundball? And has anyone ever won a game while listening to Livin' on a Prayer? Stay tuned!

AL West
Los Angeles Angels: Jered Weaver and Reggie Willits
  • Weaver, at 6'7'', would be one of the tallest players in this silly little contest. Willits has himself a speedy pair of legs, and since the other choices were the oft-injured Howie Kendrick and old Bobby Abreu, we took Willits. Though it would be funny to watch Fernando Rodney repeatedly throw chest passes into the crowd...that is, if he's not still standing on the mound in the Metrodome.  

Oakland Athletics: Jack Cust and Jerry Blevins
  • Cust's Three True Outcomes game at the plate clearly translates to the hardcourt like so: HR -> slam dunk; BB -> puppy two-footer; K -> missed three-pointer. Not the worst guy in the world to have on your team. Blevins is 6'6''. We're starting to see that size is something of a premium in MLB, so instead of going with the speedier Eric Patterson or Rajai Davis, we're gonna pick height. This is gonna be a plodding team, so for their sake, we may have to play half-court. 
Seattle Mariners: Milton Bradley and Franklin Gutierrez
  • Would you want to foul Bradley and get him angry? That's what we thought. And Gutierrez - a.k.a. Death to Flying Things - would clearly pull down every rebound in sight, and probably block a few shots as well. 
Texas Rangers: Nelson Cruz and Elvis Andrus
  • We're dipping into the defense theme again with Andrus, but Cruz is the real threat here. He's a stocky guy, at 230, but he's also got speed to burn, having stolen 20 bases last season. 


So there you have it. Feel free to let us know if you can think of better choices for any of the spots - we promise we won't be offended. Oh, and stay tuned for the NL version at some point in the near future. We hope.

1/11/10

Hey, Mark McGwire Did Steroids!

Let us preface all of this by saying that we are shocked - SHOCKED! - that this could be the truth. And in fact it inspired us to write a nice long piece.

Just kidding. Here's our old reaction to Sammy Sosa being fingered as a steroid guy. Just replace all the instances of Sosa with McGwire, and skip the part talking the A-Rod report, and you'll be all set. KCSD: your home for intrepid, inspired baseball writing!

1/7/10

Thoughts on the Hall of Fame

So, as you probably know, the BaseBall Writers Association of America (looks funny when you do it that way, eh, BBWAA?) today saw their votes for the Hall of Fame bear their respective fruit. And, after all is said and done, we end up with the induction of...Andre Dawson!

Now, first of all, it's important to extend all due congratulations to The Hawk. He was a great player, and while we wouldn't have voted for him, I wouldn't argue too fiercely against anyone who did. Unless I was feeling particularly punchy. But that aside, Dawson was a prodigious combination of power and speed, and by all accounts could play the field as well as anyone in those days. He's one of three players ever (Barry Bonds, Willie Mays) to hit 400 bleacher treats and steal 300 bases, he had the respect of his peers (8 Gold Gloves, 4 Silver Sluggers), and won an MVP award. Plus, he was a Cubbie favorite, which means we grew up in a house that adored him.

So why, then would we have refrained from voting him in? Well, it comes down to one simple number: .323. That's The Hawk's career OBP. Let us put that in context for you: Kelly Johnson, a second baseman whom the Braves recently saw fit to non-tender, has a career .346 OBP. That's right - a gentleman whose OBP is 23 points higher than a current HOFer was apparently undeserving of a job with a team that could certainly use his services. It rather goes without saying that Dawson's .323 mark is the lowest OBP of any outfielder in the Hall - and, in fact, is 20 points lower than Lou Brock (who made the Hall for his base-stealing ability).

Now, again, the point of this post is not to deride the BBWAA for putting Dawson in. He had his moments, and they've certainly made worse decisions. No, the point of this post is to deride them for those worse decisions.

Let us first ask: how do you not vote Roberto Alomar in? A .300/.371/.443 line and a 119 OPS+ is great for anyone, but for a slick-fielding second baseman, it's incredible. A second baseman who, if you prefer counting stats, had over 2,700 hits, 210 homers, and nearly 500 stolen bases is a shoo-in. And yet, Alomar fell short. Why? It's almost certainly because writers are still clinging to this - and we cannot emphasize this enough - moronic idea that a player who isn't on Lou Gehrig's level isn't a first-ballot Hall of Famer. Oh...we're sorry...Lou Gehrig wasn't even a first ballot guy. Honestly, times like these make us wonder why we even bother caring about who makes the Hall, since the process is so clearly flawed.


And then we stop to consider the case of Bert Blyleven and...well, we get even more incensed. Here you have a guy who struck out 3,701 batters. He threw more shutouts than Pedro Martinez, Roy Halladay, Chris Carpenter, and CC Sabathia...combined. And the 8 players who rank ahead of him on the shutouts list are all in the Hall, as are the 13 pitchers behind him. He threw more innings than all but 13 pitchers in history, and you don't get to log that many innings without being outstanding. He boasts a stellar 2.8 career K:BB ratio, and placed in the top 10 in WHIP 11 times. But we'd like to go back to the stat with which we led off this paragraph - HE STRUCK OUT 3,701 BATTERS. 3,000 strikeouts, like 300 wins or 500 homers is one of those stats that's thrown around as an 'automatic entry' number. So why in the hell do writers think that the argument for Blyleven is merely that of SABRheads who don't care for old-fashioned stats? Why are they disregarding his enormous strikeout total and 287 wins? The word that's often thrown around is "compiler," and to steal from Buzz Bissinger (sorry, Buzz...we really like your work!), that just pisses the shit out of us.

Look, if a guy is going to "compile" stats, that means that he has to hang around long enough to do so. You want an example of a compiler? Look at Hank Aaron, who "compiled" 755 home runs? Did Nolan Ryan "compile" 5,714 strikeouts? Did Cy Young "compile" 511 wins? You're goddamn right they did. And so did everyone else who ever played the game of baseball and had their numbers recorded.  That's the very definition of "compile." Now, we understand that baseball writers mean "compiler" in the sense that the players weren't great, but were merely hanging around as average-to-below-average contributors in order to add meaningless numbers to their counting stats. But even if that is the case, HoF-caliber players who are doing the hanging around act (cough...McGriff...cough) are doing so to try to meet the BBWAA's arbitrary definition of what makes a Hall of Famer.

Truth be told, it's nigh-impossible to understand exactly what thought process makes these writers vote the way they do. They eschew the sensibility that modern statistics provide us in order to stand by some misguided "gut judgment" of who is and who isn't a Hall of Famer...and if we're being honest, that's a simple abuse of their privileges. They aren't relying on the best possible information, but rather their own flawed, subjective ideas about who is the best and who isn't. Unless it's for reasons of pure hubris, we cannot fathom any reason why they would ignore statistical evidence in favor of their opinions. Why would you want to put yourself out there as an ignorant dullard who can bestow Baseball's highest honor upon undeserving players yet chooses to forgo understanding modern player evaluation?

Consider that food for thought, if not a call for a revolution in the voting system. The writers simply are not doing their job properly. They aren't treating their privileges with the respect they deserve; instead, they are content to get into pissing contests with dissenters and rely on their position as "Baseball Writer" to quell the arguments. It is, frankly, irresponsible and irrational - and that's without even getting us started on Tim Raines, Edgar Martinez, and Alan Trammell. All we want is for the BBWAA to wise up and embrace the way things are in today's world. Embrace the fact that we have better ways of evaluating players than thinking back on that one time we saw that one guy play and he hit a double and ran really hard. Embrace the fact that players' careers are a matter of public record, and that the people at large will know when you make indefensible choices. And embrace the fact that, if you choose to get into the aforementioned pissing contests, that your dissenters are better-informed (better-endowed, to continue the metaphor) than you. In short, wise up and appreciate these players as is your duty.

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