Most of the handwringing regarding the Sox's slow start boils down to concern about Ortiz, who's in the final year of a four-year, $52 million deal. It took just two games and seven futile at-bats before the calls for his benching began, and at this writing he's now 6-for-41 with 17 strikeouts and zero homers; last night he was pulled in favor of Mike Lowell to face lefty Darren Oliver with two on and two out in the seventh inning, the Sox down by two. That the 34-year-old slugger is in decline isn't exactly up for debate:Always fun to see Boston down, but I don't think they're going to stay down for long — there's too much talent and too many resources there, though the catching situation is also a concern given that Victor Martinez and Jason Varitek have only thrown out about 11 percent of base thieves over the past year-plus; the Rangers ran riot on V-Mart, stealing nine bases on Tuesday night.As bad as that progression looks, the last line conceals the drastic split between the first couple months of his season (.185/.284/.287 with a lone homer in 208 PA through May 31), and the rest (.264/.356/.548 with 27 homers in 419 PA). Which isn't to say that it's only a matter of time before Ortiz's 2007 form comes around again; two years of wrist woes as well as the general aging process applied to a bulky sloth with a history of knee problems should see to that. PECOTA isn't entirely down on Ortiz, forecasting a .274/.368/.514 weighted mean projection, but even so, those aren't the numbers of a lineup centerpiece anymore.
Year AVG OBP SLG TAv WARP
2007 .332 .445 .621 .341 7.2
2008 .264 .369 .507 .292 2.5
2009 .238 .332 .462 .266 0.5
Still, some of this has a whiff of confirmation bias. Ortiz is a notoriously slow starter who owns a .257./345/.502 line in 1030 March and April plate appearances for his career, and a .286/.382/.551 line in the other 5067 PA — 86 points of OPS higher. He has had some good Aprils, but not since 2007; his last two came in at a combined .205/.292/.342, compared to .261/.362/.516 otherwise over a span where AL designated hitters combined to bat .255/.338/.439. His overall mark in that span (.250/.348/.482) is still better than the league-average DH, even after adjusting for park.
The real issue isn't his slow starts so much as it's his performance against lefties:
-——-————vs RHP—————-—- -——-————vs LHP—————-—
Year PA AVG OBP SLG PA AVG OBP SLG
'03-'04 836 .320 .408 .663 342 .237 .295 .449
'05-'07 1386 .311 .439 .663 680 .296 .375 .539
'08-'10 841 .259 .361 .498 319 .212 .299 .414
[#1 Yankees] Philthy: Phil Hughes becomes the second Yankees pitcher this season to take a no-hitter into the eighth, but he's jinxed by a bum who stumbles into the wrong bar, fails to locate a comebacker, and settles for a 7 1 1 1 2 10 line. At least he emerges in one piece, unlike his last no-hit bid three (!) years ago. The Yanks' rotation is firing on nearly every cylinder, though Javy Vazquez's 8.27 ERA is nearly as high as the other four pitchers' marks added together (8.91). Meanwhile, the team's equivalent of Halley's Comet comes around, as they pull off their first triple play in 42 years.In addition to being Philthy, the Hit List is Trembley, Slowey, Javy, Brantley and totally Lackey. Also Smoaky.
I don't really want to pile on Shea, because there's a long line. I heard at least seven or eight different sportswriters experess their eagerness to be the one pushing the plunger when demolition day finally came. (They were all disappointed, as Shea was reduced to rubble slowly and in pieces). But also because, in this age of cookie-cuter nostalgia-fest stadiums, I grudgingly admired Shea's unique ugliness. The place had character — sort of a disagreeable character, but character — and that ought to be worth something. It was a reminder of changing times; Shea was completed less than fifty years ago, in 1964, yet it is now impossible to imagine a scenario in which anyone could look at those blueprints and think, Good idea.After being laid off, Emma turned her energy towards a book project covering the Yankees' and Mets' 2007 seasons in the hope that they would culminate in a Subway Series. Her travels took her well beyond New York, most notably to Milwaukee in the hopes of witnessing Tom Glavine's 300th win as well as the famous sausage race (a topic on which I can claim expertise), and to Taiwan to investigate the state of its professional baseball league as well as the iconic status of Chien-Ming Wang, and the accompanying rabidity of the Yankees' following. Alas, while the Bronx Bombers made the playoffs for the umpteenth straight time (only to eventually be doused by a swarm of midges), the Mets' campaign ended when Glavine crashed and burned on the season's final day.
... On my first day I'd been in the clubhouse less than an hour when Pedro Martinez walked in and started changing by his locker. I wanted to go over and talk to him — ask him a question if I could get up the nerve, or at least listen in to a group session. But I figured I would wait until he got some pants on. It seemed lie the polite thing to do, probably the course of action Emily Post would suggest.
I shifted my weight from one leg to the other and fiddled with my pen; Pedro gave interviews cheerfully and joked with his teammates in Spanish. I glanced over super-briefly, so as not to get too good a look at anything, every few minutes. Pedro really not in a hurry to put on his pants, reads an exasperated scrawl in my notebook from a good twenty minutes later, really underlined three times. Eventually he wandered into the trainer's room, pants still nowhere in evidence.
Houston, we have a problem. On Monday, the Astros lost 5-0 to the Cardinals, running their 2010 record to 0-7 and marking the third time in this young season that they've been shut out by an opponent. To date the Astros have been outscored 42-13 — by an average of 4.1 runs per game — which comes out to a Pythagenpat winning percentage of .114.Beyond that, there's an analysis of the problems specific to the 'Stros, namely their offense, their general manager and their owner. There but for the grace of God...
As bad as those numbers look, this doesn't seem terribly remarkable at first glance, particularly given that last year's Astros opened at 1-6 while being outscored 43-16 and shut out twice. Without digging through our archives, I'd guess that I deployed the time-honored (if slightly misremembered) Apollo 13 reference in response to that mess as well. Meanwhile, last year's Nationals got off to an 0-7 start, and the year before that, it was the Tigers plunging to an 0-7 start for the third time in seven years. Happens every spring, right?
Actually, no. Since 1901, just 25 teams have started 0-7, only five of whom have been outscored by wider margins than the current Astros; two more were outscored by the same margin... Interestingly, it's the 1988 Orioles with the worst run differential after seven games; they're the ones who went on to lose a mind-boggling 21 consecutive games to start the year, far outdistancing the 1997 Cubs (0-14), the 1904 Senators and the 1920 Tigers (both 0-13, though the Senators actually tied their second game).
So the Astros have their work cut out for themselves if they really want to make history. Nonetheless, this is not a good list to be on. None of the previous 24 teams which started 0-7 made the postseason, and only two, the 1980 Braves and the 1983 Astros, even cracked .500 for the year. As a group, these teams compiled a combined .380 winning percentage for their seasons, essentially the equivalent of a 62-100 season.
Moose Stubing, 1988 Angels, 0-8Somewhere I have a copy of the Referee magazine with Stubing on the cover, holding a pint of beer:
This one's close to my heart. Lawrence George "Moose" Stubing was a Bronx-born minor league masher in the 1950s and 1960s in the Pirates, Giants, Cardinals and Angels chains. In a minor league career of 1419 games, he hit .283 and slugged .474 with 192 homers, mostly at the Double-A level, with his best seasons coming in El Paso (.316/.454/.613 with 35 homers and 120 RBI in 1964 as a 25-year-old). He hit just .212/.321/.357 in 148 games at Triple-A, and went 0-for-5 with four strikeouts in his cup of coffee with the 1967 California Angels. After playing, Stubing joined the Angels' organization, serving as a scout and minor league manager from 1971 through 1985. During that tenure he spent two years (1980-1981) managing the Angels' Triple-A affiliate in my hometown, Salt Lake City. An amiable lug, he'd show up in the offseason refereeing NCAA basketball games in the Western Athletic Conference and later the PAC-10, generally drawing cheers from the crowd, a rarity for just about any ref. Stubing went on to spend six seasons (1985-1990) as the Angels' third base coach, taking time out to assume interim manager duties at the end of 1988, after Cookie Rojas had been fired with a 75-79 record. He went 0-8 and was replaced over the winter by Doug Rader, never to get another chance to manage in the majors, thus becoming the first player ever to carry 0-fers as both a player and a manager. Stubing was still in baseball as of last year, serving as a special assistant to the general manager for the Nationals, but was relieved of his duties at the end of the year.
[#5 Diamondbacks] So Much For the New Guys: With Brandon Webb nowhere in sight, a big part of the Diamondbacks' bid for relevance hinges on Edwin Jackson and Ian Kennedy, both acquired in the Granderson blockbuster. So far, so-so; the two have been cuffed for a combined 6.75 ERA in four starts despite an 18/6 K/BB ratio in 21.2 frames. The Snakes are 2-2 in those games despite not getting a quality start, though Jackson's second turn is mitigated by his hitting a two-run homer amid a 13-run fourth-inning outburst.As for the two usual suspects in the AL:
[#7 Dodgers] Staff of the Undead: Given the choice for an opening day assignment between Clayton Kershaw and Chad Billingsley, Joe Torre opts for — wait for it — Vicente Padilla, who pitches as though suffering from a gunshot wound (4.1 6 7 7 3 2). He's not the only retread on this pitching staff, either; Ramon Ortiz, Russ Ortiz and Jeff Weaver have allowed 10 runs in 12.1 innings over 15 appearances thus far, with an 8/9 K/BB ratio. At least Torre deserves props for anointing knuckleballer Charlie Haeger his fifth starter; he whiffs 12 in his first turn, albeit in a losing cause, and even adds an inning of scoreless relief.
[#2 Yankees] The defending champions rack up road series wins in Boston and Tampa Bay before returning home to ring in a celebration which includes a classy tribute to the departed World Series MVP, Hideki Matsui (now the Los Angeles Godzilla of Anaheim). New arrivals Curtis Granderson and Nick Johnson fare well, but Javy Vazquez isn't feeling the love; he's booed in the Bronx, perhaps because his ERA in pinstripes dating back to the 2004 All-Star break now stands at 7.52 (101.2 innings including postseason).• And finally, there's the One-Hoppers version of my Jackie Robinson Day missive, which includes an addendum regarding every player wearing number 42, as gleaned from the great Vin Scully, whose Jackie Day broadcasts are worth the price of the Extra Innings package alone:
[#9 Red Sox] Big Papi, Big Problems: Despite coming from behind to win on opening night, the Sox drop their season-opening series to the Yankees in Fenway, then play the patsies as the Twins open Target Field as well. Amid their slow start, concerns mount regarding David Ortiz, who starts 4-for-26 with no homers and 13 strikeouts, including two or more in five straight games. Colorful in expressing his frustration, Ortiz is at least somewhat vulnerable given the presence of Mike Lowell on the bench. PECOTA isn't terribly concerned, forecasting a .274/.368/.514 weighted mean (a .290 True Average) for the 34-year-old slugger, but Jay-Z has beef.
Watching Thursday night's Dodger game, I heard Vin Scully re-tell a story — told by Dodger pitcher Carl Erskine first in his book What I Learned from Jackie Robinson and then to the New York Times' Dave Anderson here — in which the Dodgers played a game in Cincinnati after Robinson had received a death threat. Police sharpshooters covered the ballpark, making for a tense situation. At a team meeting, outfielder Gene Hermanski offered a suggestion for the Dodgers manager (in the book, it's Burt Shotton, in 1947, in the Times it's Charlie Dressen in 1951; Hermanski was on the team until June 15 of the latter year, but the date of the former is more plausible given the initial tension). "Hey, Skip, I’ve got an idea," said Hermanski. "If we all wore 42 out there, they won’t know who to shoot." The question introduced a bit of levity which helped ratchet down the tension; everybody, including Robinson, laughed. Read in light of that story, the act of every player wearing the number becomes one not just of unity but defiance.Scully also re-told his Ice Skating with Jackie story, which was preserved for posterity last year in the must-bookmark Sons of Steve Garvey Vin Scully Repository. This one on racism, Bill Veeck, and the flight of major league spring training facilities to Arizona is rather appropriate given the Jackie Robinson theme as well.
Two years ago, MLB made a major $1.2 million commitment to the Robinson Foundation over a four-year period to fund scholarships in the name of each of the 30 clubs. Each year, $300,000 is invested, representing 30 scholorships [sic] worth $10,000.I'm sorry, but $1.2 million? That doesn't even buy you a futility infielder these days, and $300,000 isn't even the major league minimum salary anymore. Hell, one benevolent superstar's own foundation nearly equals the entire MLB contribution!
Derek Jeter, the Yankees captain and all-time hits leader, donates a scholarship in perpetuity at the $250,000 level. He remains the only Major League player that endows a Robinson scholarship.
DuPuy said that MLB's contribution has no time limit and will go beyond the current term of agreement.
You don't create me. I am me. There is a difference... There was never a relationship with the manager, for me, other than he would always try to steal my ideas and claim them to be his own. I had to accept that he was the manager, because he was their manager before I joined the band.Here's the first of 11 segments of the movie, sliced and diced via YouTube:
He was a nonpareil orchestrator of outrage during their early career, but proved incapable of dealing with its consequences. McLaren knew exactly what buttons to press, but seemed to have no idea what to do once he'd pressed them: fatally so in the case of Sid Vicious, who was only too willing to play the monster role that McLaren wrote for him right up to a suitably grim conclusion.Even Lydon had a few kind words for the manager as he shuffled off this mortal coil: "For me Malc was always entertaining, and I hope you remember that. Above all else he was an entertainer and I will miss him, and so should you."
...It wasn't until after the band split up that McLaren attempted to reassert his authority over the Sex Pistols: rewriting their story in the film The Great Rock'n'Roll Swindle as a masterplan he had controlled all along, the band merely his stooges. It wasn't a terribly convincing argument, nor was it a terribly good film.
Understandably outraged, Johnny Rotten has spent the subsequent years airbrushing McLaren from the Sex Pistols story, pointing out that the music had nothing to do with him, reinventing the band as autodidacts who would have been even more successful without his interference.
But that seems reductive too: without McLaren's ideas, his art-school grounding in Situationism, without the clothes he and Vivienne Westwood designed for them, the Sex Pistols wouldn't have been the same band, nor would they have had the same impact. Neither party would ever admit it, but they needed each other.
Still, if nothing else, the ongoing argument meant Malcolm McLaren remained a controversial figure up to his death, and will remain a controversial figure beyond it – which is presumably just what he wanted.
The Baseball Writers Association of America voters haven't elected a starter with less than 300 wins since Fergie Jenkins in 1991, and with Randy Johnson's retirement, just four active pitchers are within even 100 wins of that magic number, led by 47-year-old Jamie Moyer, who's coming off a 4.94 ERA and has just one All-Star appearance to his credit. Don't wait up.As i wrote last summer in a piece on potential 300 game winners, "In 1972, the year before the designated hitter's introduction, starters completed games 27.1 percent of the time, collected decisions 78.5 percent of the time, and lasted an average of 6.7 innings in their starts. In contrast, last year  they went the distance 2.8 percent the time, collected decisions 69 percent of the time, and averaged 5.8 innings."
Wins shouldn't constitute the be-all and end-all of a pitcher's Hall of Fame case, anyway. As rising strikeout and walk rates (not to mention offensive levels) have elevated pitch counts over the past 40 years, teams have grown more protective of hurlers, with managers moving to five-man rotations and building increasingly specialized bullpens which make complete games a thing of the past, and starter Ws increasingly rare. Between those trends and the sabermetrically-driven awareness of what outcomes pitchers actually control, it's clear that the win is less the product of individual brilliance or intestinal fortitude on a given day than the confluence of ample support from offense, defense, and bullpen.
Best BetsPettitte's more correctly termed a longshot than a long-range candidate, since other pitchers covered in that class included Tim Lincecum and Felix Hernandez. I'm surprised how often his name comes up in Hall of Fame conversations, at least within the New York media . It ain't happenin', folks, nor should it. Which isn't to say he hasn't been a fine pitcher and a personal favorite; accompanied by his trademark glare from beneath that cap brim pulled so low, last fall's work certainly reinforced that notion.
Mariano Rivera (71-52, 527 saves, 2.25 ERA, 82.6 career WARP/52.0 Peak WARP/67.3 JAWS)
Arguably the greatest closer ever, superior to the five enshrined relievers (Hoyt Wilhelm, Rollie Fingers, Dennis Eckersley, Bruce Sutter, and Goose Gossage), Rivera ranks second all-time in saves, and first with 74.5 WXRL, our reliever win expectancy stat. He's also got a case as the greatest post-season performer, having compiled an astounding 0.74 ERA in 133 1/3 innings for five world championship teams, winding up the last man standing on the mound in a record four World Series. He's also got the highest Career, Peak and JAWS scores of any active pitcher, 9.5 JAWS points above the average Hall pitcher, starter or reliever.
CC Sabathia (136-81, 3.63 ERA, 37.6/32.6/35.1)
Sure, the big man is a freak of nature for whom doom and gloom is predicted given his workload (210 innings per year over his first nine seasons) and physique. His JAWS numbers aren't yet much to write home about because he wasn't an elite run preventer earlier in his career, but he's improved markedly over the past few years, his win total through his age-28 season tops several post-war Hall of Famers, and he'll be backed by an offensive dynamo for the foreseeable future.
Andy Pettitte (229-135, 3.90 ERA, 44.7/30.0/37.4)
Pettitte's win total ranks behind only that of Moyer among active pitchers, and he's got five World Series rings and an outstanding post-season resume (18-9, 3.90 ERA in 249 innings) to his credit; recall that he won the clincher in each round of the postseason last year. He'll need an extremely generous amount of credit for his October work to reach Cooperstown, because as impressive as his win total may be, the 38-year-old is running out of time to reach 300. Furthermore, his run prevention woes really suppress his value; he's been worth just 9.1 WARP over the past four years via a 57-44, 4.24 ERA showing across 828 1/3 innings.
#1 Red SoxThough I split the two leagues, I also posted a combined Hit List ranking, using a league adjustment factor to correct for the AL's recent interleague superiority. Those rankings look pretty askew, with only one NL team in the top eight, and only one AL team in the bottom 10:
Defensive Posturing? New England worrywarts may fret about a lack of offense straight out of some Borgesian nightmare. Indeed, the winter's key arrivals—John Lackey, Adrian Beltre, Marco Scutaro, Mike Cameron—tilt more towards run prevention, bolstering the rotation both directly and with a renewed commitment to defense borne of last year's sorry 28th-place ranking in Defensive Efficiency. As for the offense, relax chowdaheads, we've got the Sox projected for a True Average of .270 (second-best in the majors), not to mention the top record in all of baseball. (847 RS, 696 RA)
Rays-ed Hopes: The darlings of 2008 got a harsh lesson in come-back-to-earthiness last year, but this team is so stacked it should carry an NSFW tag. The addition of Wade Davis to the rotation, the continued development of David Price and a bounceback from B.J. Upton all add to the upside achievable by this talented corps, headed by MVP candidate Evan Longoria and the lineup's Swiss Army knife, Ben Zobrist, and backed by an organizational depth which is simply unrivaled. (820 RS, 705 RA)
No rest for the World Champions. Despite their efforts to get younger—punting Johnny Damon and Hideki Matusi for Curtis Granderson and Nick Johnson—their success still hinges upon whether Derek Jeter, Jorge Posada and Mariano Rivera can continue defying the aging process, not to mention whether Alex Rodriguez's hip remains intact. PECOTA sees the Yanks having their hands full battling the younger Rays and deeper Red Sox, and that's without accounting for their efforts to ward off the inevitable distractions surrounding The Jobacalypse. (859 RS, 749 RA)
Rk Tm HLFThe Dodgers below the Royals and Orioles? As I wrote in the One-Hopper entry, I've got a hard time accepting that. Soon enough we'll have enough real results to put the projections aside, but for the moment, it's something to chew on.
1 Red Sox .622
2 Rays .591
3 Yankees .590
4 Phillies .537
5 Rangers .536
6 Mariners .534
7 Athletics .534
8 Twins .526
9 Cardinals .526
10 Tigers .512
11 Indians .512
12 Rockies .512
13 White Sox .512
14 Braves .511
15 Orioles .502
16 Angels .501
17 Royals .495
18 Dodgers .490
19 Giants .483
20 D'backs .482
21 Marlins .469
22 Astros .465
23 Cubs .462
24 Mets .462
25 Blue Jays .460
26 Brewers .456
27 Reds .456
28 Nationals .433
29 Padres .425
30 Pirates .402
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