The Futility Infielder

A Baseball Journal by Jay Jaffe I'm a baseball fan living in New York City. In between long tirades about the New York Yankees and the national pastime in general, I'm a graphic designer.

Friday, August 29, 2008


Masterson of My Domain

One of the saving graces of writing about baseball from an analytical perspective is that something that might rip your heart out as a fan -- say, the brazen stupidity of Dodger GM Ned Colletti or the failure of Alex Rodriguez in the clutch, with the Yankees' season more or less on the line -- can provide plenty of fodder to write about, and even make you look kind of smart once in awhile.

So it was with A-Rod's at bat on Tuesday night against the Red Sox. To refresh the memory you've spent all week trying to shake, the Sox led 7-3 in the seventh inning with one out, the bases loaded and Rodriguez at the plate when Boston manager Terry Francona summoned rookie reliever Justin Masterson in place of the shaky Manny Delarmen. Two pitches later, the Sox were out of the inning courtesy of a 6-3 double play while the boo birds rained down on A-Rod, and two innings later the Yankees' dreams of a much-needed sweep had turned to dust. A week earlier, I had noted that Masterson was being grossly underutilized in Boston's bullpen, but starting the day after that piece ran, he made three higher-leverage relief appearances and was successful in each. I'm not suggesting there was any causality, but I'll accept a smiley face and a check-plus-plus for good timing.

On Thursday, I revisited Masterson's evolution in a grab-bag piece over at BP, also incorporating a bit on Clay Buchholz which was prepared for my now-weekly radio hit on Boston's WWZN (Wednesdays, 8:05 AM on 1510 WWZN, which you can stream here if you're not within range and also crazy enough to care about baseball at that ungodly hour), plus answers to Hit List-related queries on the Twins' overperformance and a dis of a pair of Giants prospects (the latter with a hearty nod to Josh Wilker). Here's the bit on Buchholz:
In preparation for my now-weekly radio spot on "The Young Guns Show" on Boston's WWZN, host Chris Villani asked me to research some precedents for young pitchers who struggled in their first extended taste of the big leagues but turned it around the following year, citing John Danks and Fausto Carmona as recent examples. With the help of BP researcher Bil Burke, I dug up a list of pitchers who met the following criteria:
  • Their first year of over 50 innings pitched—their rookie season, technically—came when they were 24 or younger.
  • They posted an ERA of 5.00 or above in that year.
  • They shaved at least 1.5 runs off that ERA the next year and produced at worst a 4.50 ERA while throwing at least 150 innings.
The criteria are admittedly tailored to include the aforementioned names that sprung to mind, and the cutoffs aren't park- or league-adjusted, but the results should suffice for Sox fans looking for a glint of optimism regarding their golden boy's ultimate fate:
Pitcher        Age  Year1   IP    ERA    Year2   IP    ERA
Jim Kaat 21 1960 50.0 5.58 1961 200.2 3.90
Bill Greif 22 1972 125.1 5.60 1973 199.1 3.21
John Smiley 22 1987 75.0 5.76 1988 205.0 3.56
Greg Maddux 21 1987 155.2 5.61 1988 249.0 3.51
John Smoltz 21 1988 64.0 5.63 1989 208.0 3.42
Tommy Greene 23 1990 51.1 5.44 1991 207.2 3.68
Steve Avery 20 1990 99.0 7.09 1991 210.1 3.81
Willie Banks 23 1992 71.0 5.83 1993 171.1 4.04
Bartolo Colon 24 1997 94.0 5.65 1998 204.0 3.71
Mac Suzuki 24 1999 110.0 6.79 2000 188.2 4.34
Wade Miller 23 2000 105.0 5.14 2001 212.0 3.40
Mark Mulder 22 2000 154.0 5.44 2001 229.1 3.45
Jeff Francis 24 2005 183.2 5.68 2006 199.0 4.16
Fausto Carmona 22 2006 74.2 5.42 2007 215.0 3.06
Mike Pelfrey* 23 2007 72.2 5.57 2008 163.0 3.70
John Danks* 22 2007 139.0 5.50 2008 156.2 3.10
*season in progress
Among this group are a slam-dunk Hall of Famer (Maddux), a should-be Hall of Famer (Smoltz), a near-Hall of Famer (Kaat), three Cy Young winners (Maddux, Smoltz, and Colon), a pair of pitchers who helped kick-start the Braves' dynasty (Smoltz and Avery), a trio of two-time All-Stars (Miller, Mulder, and Smiley), and a quartet of pitchers whose emergence over the last few years helped put their teams in contention (Francis, Carmona, Pelfrey, and Danks). There are also a few guys whose careers amounted to only one or two decent seasons, some of whose names seem prescriptive when it comes to the fates of young pitchers (Greene and Greif). What, you were expecting a list free of grief?
Meanwhile, this week's Hit List is up as well, and I get to distill my misery and frustration regarding the #10 Yankees and #15 Dodgers into bite-sized nuggets:
An Excess of Suck Does Not Equal Success: Carl Pavano crawls out of the woodwork to make his first start since April 9, 2007 and just his 20th in four years as a Yankee; that's $2 million per start. Unsurprisingly, neither his return nor a sweep of the Orioles are enough to save the Yankees' season, as they drop the first two games of a key series with the Red Sox. With closing time looming at the House That Ruth Built, the appalingly un-American behavior of the jackbooted thugs patrolling the stadium should illustrate to Hank Steinbrenner that the players on the field aren't what sucks the most about this franchise these days.

Faded Blue: The Dodgers slip below .500 and give up critical ground in the NL West race as they're swept by both the Phillies and the Nationals. They've now lost nine of ten while scoring a piddling 21 runs, but not for lack of opportunity. Their last five games have produced 54 runners left on base and just nine runs, four of them via homers. The toast of Tinseltown, Manny Ramirez, has just two extra base hits and one RBI in that span, which should have Joe Torre rethinking the wisdom of that haircut.
Sadly, I don't think either of my teams are going to be playing in October this year, though there's still room for hope regarding the Brewers. Good thing I married well.

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Thursday, August 28, 2008


I'll Show You The Bronx (NSFW)

As the "God Bless America" imbroglio reaches the mainstream media, footage of another ugly police incident at Yankee Stadium has emerged. Via the blog Walkoff Walk, here's a YouTube clip showing two cops using force to subdue a fan they were in the process of ejecting, and while we don't know the context of what precipitated the incident, it's as distressing to see the excesses of the NYPD encroach on the ballpark as it is to read about them.

Seriously, what the fuck? From beyond the grave, here's some much-needed humor from George Carlin to discuss the absurdity of forced patriotism:

And finally, here's a classic track from NWA to vent some rage at the men in blue -- and I don't mean the umps. Definitely not safe for work, kids.


Wednesday, August 27, 2008


Pissed Off About Forced Patriotism

I've complained before about the forced patriotism which compels the Yankees to play Kate Smith's deathless rendition of "God Bless America" during every seventh-inning stretch since the dark day of September 11, 2001. And I've complained about the increasingly heavy hand exerted by Yankee Stadium security forces in that time frame. Those two forces, combined with ever-increasing attendance rates, have greatly diminished the returns on attending a game in the House That Ruth Built over the past several years.

But this is completely beyond the pale: a man attending a Yankees game was allegedly verbally and physically harassed by thugged-out stadium police for committing the grave sin of attempting to take a bathroom break during "God Bless America":
I attempted to get up to use the restroom, rather urgently, during the 7th inning stretch as God Bless America was beginning. As I attempted to walk down the aisle and exit my section into the tunnel, I was stopped by a police officer. He informed me that I had to wait until the song was over. I responded that I had to use the restroom and that I did not care about God Bless America.

As soon as the latter came out of my mouth, my right arm was twisted violenty behind my back and I was informed that I was being escorted out of the stadium. A second officer then joined in and twisted my left arm, also in an excessively forceful manner, behind my back. I informed them they were violating my First Amendment rights and that I had done nothing wrong, with no response from them.

I was sitting in the Tier Level, and of course this is the highest level of the stadium and I was escorted in this painful manner down the entire length of the stadium. About halfway down, I informed them that they were hurting me, repeated that I had done nothing wrong, and that I was not resisting nor talking back to them. One of them said something to the effect that if I continued to speak, he would find a way to hurt me more.

When we reached the exit of the stadium, they confiscated my ticket and the first officer shoved me through the turnstiles, saying "Get the hell out of my country if you don't like it."
Are you fucking kidding me? I've taken many a restroom break during "God Bless America" during my days and nights at Yankee Stadium, and I've not only never been harassed by anyone for doing so, I was never aware that they actually had a policy -- almost certainly illegal and blatantly unconstitutional -- to try to quell such activity. Nonetheless, given the ever-eroding quality of my own experiences at the stadium in recent years, I fear that the allegations are true.

Yankee Stadium security deserves no benefit of the doubt here, nor in this instance does the Steinbrenner family if they're the ones who have ordered the policy be implemented. Forcing paying customers to stand at rapt attention during a song isn't some cute little attempt at patriotism to bolster the legacy of Mr. Born on the Fourth of July Steinbrenner, it's FASCISM. Roughing them up over their failure to stand still during a canned recording of a song that's been drained of all meaning by its endless repetition is in diametric opposition to what the song and the country it so proudly celebrates stand for; this is about as un-American as you can get.

Furthermore, this incident puts the lie to any claim regarding "the hallowed ground of Yankee Stadium" at a time when the ballpark's history is being celebrated and its demise mourned. The Yankees deserve to reap all of the bad PR they've sown with this, and the Steinbrenner family can cram it up their Yankee Doodle Dandies until they figure out why they're in the wrong.


Tuesday, August 26, 2008


No Room to Rhumba on a Laptop

Sorry, it's been slow around here given that my iMac G5 20" has been in its death throes for the past week, leaving me to write on my laptop and sweat bullets over the fate of my data, 99% of which was successfully retrieved (not to be confused with a hard drive of mine that recently failed, costing me thousands of MP3s). Writing my columns on a laptop isn't the easiest thing in the world given that I'm generally moving back and forth between dozens of open browser windows, Excel and TextEdit (I don't write in Word because I don't need to for the web). And that doesn't even begin to hint at the ergonomic distress induced by my current, hunched-shoulder mode of working. Hence the title of last week's Hit List ("Cramped Quarters") and this blog entry.

My other as-yet-unlinked article from last week explored the Red Sox's handling of two rookie pitchers, Clay Buchholz and Justin Masterson. The former was touted as the game's best pitching prospect by some coming into the year; BP's Kevin Goldstein had him ranked #2 overall, ahead of Joba Chamberlain, on our Top 100 Prospects list. Yet he fell on his ugly mug - seriously, the guy looks like a meth freak -- and was farmed out last week after compiling a 2-9, 6.75 ERA record. The latter pitched reasonably well in nine starts earlier this year, then was sent to the bullpen when Buchholz returned from his first minor league stint and has since been limited to mop-and-bucket duty despite the Sox's shaky right-handed relief options. The bottom line is that whether he's in the bullpen or the rotation, Masterson should be more than the last guy on the staff. Interestingly enough, in the days since that article ran, he's pitched the seventh inning in two close ballgames, the type fo relief opportunities he hadn't been getting beforehand. His presence will be something to watch for in this series against the Yankees.

Finally, today's Hit and Run article is about the Angels and their pursuit of an all-time mark for most win above a projected record:
Angels closer Francisco Rodriguez notched his 50th save on Sunday night, and if you've been following some of Joe Sheehan's recent work, you know that K-Rod is well on his way to smashing Bobby Thigpen's single-season record of 57 saves, set back in 1990. You're probably not aware that he and the rest of the Halos are in sight of another record as well.

Through Sunday, the Angels were 29 games over .500 at 79-50 despite having outscored their opponents by only 53 runs. That put them 9.7 wins above their expected record -- their first-order Pythagenpat projection based on actual runs scored and runs allowed. They're 13.5 wins above their second-order projection, based on Equivalent Runs scored and allowed as derived from run elements (hits, walks, total bases, stolen bases, etc.) and adjusted for their park and league scoring environment. And they're 12.2 wins above their third-order projection, adjusting for the quality of their opponents' pitching and hitting via Equivalent Average (EqA) allowed and opponents' EqA. That last figure would tie for third all-time if the season were to have ended on Sunday (the Angels lost on Monday night, slightly lowering these figures). Turning to the big board for the top 20:


1 2004 NYA 101 61 .623 897 808 911 831 12.7 Div
2 1970 CIN 102 60 .630 775 681 757 676 12.6 Pnt
3T 2007 ARI 90 72 .556 712 732 708 739 12.2 Div
3T 2008 LAA 79 50 .612 600 547 588 566 12.2
5T 1954 BRO 92 62 .597 778 740 782 749 12.1
5T 2005 CHA 99 63 .611 741 645 740 684 12.1 WS
7 1905 DET 79 74 .516 512 604 524 601 11.9
8T 1924 BRO 92 62 .597 717 679 717 684 11.7
8T 2002 MIN 94 67 .584 768 712 759 741 11.7 Div
10 1954 CLE 111 43 .721 746 504 717 511 11.4 Pnt
11T 1907 CHN 108 44 .711 574 390 552 394 11.2 WS
11T 1961 CIN 93 61 .604 710 653 705 658 11.2 Pnt
13T 1931 PHA 107 45 .704 858 626 841 639 11.0 Pnt
13T 1972 NYN 83 73 .532 528 578 533 583 11.0
15 1984 NYN 90 72 .556 652 676 657 671 10.7
16T 1936 SLN 87 67 .565 795 794 808 809 10.2
16T 1977 BAL 97 64 .602 719 653 719 662 10.2
16T 2006 OAK 93 69 .574 771 727 791 772 10.2 Div
19T 1997 SFN 90 72 .556 784 793 780 789 10.0 Div
19T 2007 SEA 88 74 .543 794 813 792 824 10.0
Since the spreadsheet provided to me by Clay Davenport (who cooks up the Adjusted Standings every day) doesn't go beyond the first decimal place, I haven't bothered to break the ties here. AEQR and AEQRA are the adjusted Equivalent Run figures once opponent strength has been incorporated. D3 is the difference between third-order wins and actual wins, with a positive number representing a team that's exceeded its projection. "Won" notes whether a team won their division (Div), pennant (Pnt) or World Series (WS).
One thing that most of these teams, including the Angels, have in common is a top-notch bullpen; all of the teams above who have played since 1954 (the furthest back the BP database goes) finished in the top three in the league in BP's signature relief stat, Reliever Expected Wins Added (WXRL) with one exception: the 1977 Orioles, who had the worst bullpen in the league.

Anyway, there's much fun to be had with stuff like this, enough to provide material for a second article somewhere in the not-too-distant future.

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Wednesday, August 20, 2008


PADE in Full

Today's Prospectus Hit and Run is on Park-Adjusted Team Defense, a topic I've broached before:
For those in need of a refresher course, PADE is Baseball Prospectus alum James Click's method for bringing park effects to bear upon Bill James' Defensive Efficiency (DE) rate, which tells us how often a team turns a batted ball into an out. PADE compares each club's Defensive Efficiency at home to that on the road, incorporating a three-year park factor specific to DE (as opposed to runs, home runs, or another component stat) and the unique composition of each team's schedule. The end product tells us the percentage of balls in play above or below the major league average that each team converts into outs. A one percent difference may not sound like much, but extrapolating from Click's calculations, it's worth about 13 runs—more than one win in the standings.

...the 2008 PADE figures:
Team    DE   MLB DE  PkFactor  PADE
CHN .7085 .692 0.9957 2.60
BOS .6994 .692 0.9794 2.13
ATL .7011 .692 0.9921 1.73
OAK .7113 .692 1.0313 1.21
ANA .6995 .692 1.0010 1.03
PHI .6985 .692 1.0009 0.90
TBA .7111 .692 1.0382 0.84
FLO .6917 .692 0.9860 0.67
ARI .6943 .692 0.9950 0.59
NYN .7039 .692 1.0285 0.29

CLE .6880 .692 0.9862 0.12
TOR .7026 .692 1.0302 0.02
DET .6923 .692 1.0008 0.01
BAL .6960 .692 1.0133 -0.08
HOU .6917 .692 1.0049 -0.28
MIL .6976 .692 1.0245 -0.40
SLN .6965 .692 1.0232 -0.50
SFN .6832 .692 0.9933 -0.94
KCA .6852 .692 0.9996 -0.96
CHA .6897 .692 1.0134 -1.00

LAN .6916 .692 1.0199 -1.03
COL .6796 .692 0.9889 -1.23
SDN .6940 .692 1.0307 -1.23
WAS .6901 .692 1.0207 -1.30
NYA .6843 .692 1.0240 -2.28
SEA .6805 .692 1.0180 -2.54
MIN .6844 .692 1.0436 -3.20
PIT .6769 .692 1.0255 -3.41
TEX .6708 .692 1.0157 -3.82
CIN .6712 .692 1.0272 -4.30
...Given the 2007 year-end results, it's not terribly shocking to find the most recent Hit List's top two teams, the Red Sox and Cubs, occupying the top spots even if they're flip-flopped here. The Cubs have produced the league's top raw DE in Wrigley Field, a park whose ivy-covered walls and small foul territory place it as slightly harder than average to defend. It's worth noting that their pitching staff has the majors' second-best strikeout rate, since high strikeout rates tend to have some impact as far as lowering BABIP figures. On the other hand, the team has overcome the slight disadvantage of playing more day games than any other, as the splits show BABIPs as about four points higher in the sunshine. In any event, the Fielding Runs Above Average numbers show the Cubs playing above-average defense at every position, particularly at second base (Mark DeRosa and Mike Fontenot) and the outfield corners (Alfonso Soriano and Kosuke Fukudome). Given that strikeout rate and FRAA themselves factor into the Secret Sauce recipe, it's no wonder that Nate Silver is ready to crown them champions.

The Red Sox, of course, have to defend the Green Monster and Fenway's other assorted quirks, and while they're seventh in the majors in raw DE, they look much better after accounting for those idiosyncrasies. The Coco Crisp/Jacoby Ellsbury center-field tandem is a combined 13 runs above average, even with Crisp failing to live up to last year's astounding/fluky +41 showing. FRAA is extremely—overly—sensitive to the distribution of discretionary plays divided up between fielding neighbors, and Crisp's 2007 showing is almost certainly an artifact of his covering for Manny Ramirez, who improved to -5 last year after four seasons of being in double-digit negatives. The long-gone slugger rates at about average this year thanks to the help of Crisp and Ellsbury, and while there's not a lot to love about the sight of Manny playing defense, its impact on the team's performance has been dramatically overstated by the jury—as has virtually every other aspect surrounding his acrimonious departure from Boston. Elsewhere for the Sox, Mike Lowell and friends (particularly Kevin Youkilis, who's held down the hot corner admirably while Lowell's been sidelined) are 18 runs above average at third base, and the only spot on the diamond where the team is below average is at shortstop, where Jed Lowrie (-1) has replaced an injured Julio Lugo (-14).
Speaking of the Red Sox, this morning I began what's now becoming my second regular radio gig of the week. Every Wednesday at 8:05 AM Eastern, I'll be appearing on the Young Guns Show on Boston's WWZN 1510. If you're not asleep, in your car, or inside the station's blasting radius, you can catch my 15-minute segment via the station's website.

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Monday, August 18, 2008


Operation Shut Up

Hello, friends. I know it's been ages since I weighed in here, possibly the longest between-postings hiatus in the history of this site. In the hours following the trading deadline, my kidneys shut down while struggling to process the Manny Ramirez-to-L.A. deal deal. It had already been a rough year for this bicoastal fan, what with Joe Torre moving from the Yankees to the Dodgers and bringing every bad habit with him, and then they put Nomar Garciaparra back at shortstop like it was 2001 or something, and finally Manny showed up with a number 99 jersey like he was some kind of Wayne Gretzky in dreadlocks... My body simply couldn't take much more, and I wound up on the DL.

Ok, that's not exactly how it happened.

The truth of the matter is that aside from dealing with a fair amount of summer travel (five weekends away out of six) that's wrought havoc with my writing schedule, I've been invited to step up the frequency with which I publish at Baseball Prospectus. Last week, I wrote my usual monster Hit List as well as two Hit and Run columns, both on surprise contenders who were able to upgrade their rotations from within recently, namely the Marlins and the Twins. The weeks through the end of the season should see a similar schedule.

As for last week's output, here's a chunk from the intro to the first one:
Given the buzz surrounding the blockbuster trades which were consummated in recent weeks—and even the ones that weren't—you may not have noticed one of the contenders who upgraded their rotation rather quietly. They didn't have to sacrifice a blue-chipper or even a B-grade prospect at the altar of contention, either. Instead, they were able to recall pitchers from within their system—a strapping rookie, and a pair of young, high-upside pitchers coming back from major arm injuries but primed to contribute down the stretch.

The team in question is the Marlins, who have been hanging around the top of the NL East all season long despite a PECOTA forecast of 72 wins, a run differential that's been in the red in every month except May, and a prediction of impending doom from just about every pundit who's weighed in on their outlook (myself included). They're not without their virtues, of course... their offense is solidly in the middle of the pack, sixth in the league in raw scoring at 4.75 runs per game, and seventh in Equivalent Average (all stats through Sunday).

Yet the Marlins have been outscored by 18 runs because they rank 13th in the league at 4.90 runs allowed per game. Their relievers have been very good, ranking third in WXRL despite having the highest walk rate (4.0 UIBB/9) of any bullpen in the league. On the other hand, their rotation's numbers look pretty dismal relative to the rest of the NL, far from the stuff of contention:
          IP/GS    ERA   SNLVAR  SNWP
Marlins 5.56 4.97 8.7 .472
NL Rank 15 13 13 14
SNWP is the rotation's Support Neutral Winning Percentage. It's something I've been discussing since last year, a figure which estimates the percentage of the time a pitcher's team would win a game given average offense and bullpen support. Our stat reports don't actually list this in the format you see here (yet...), but if you take a pitcher or team's SNLVA_R (Support Neutral Lineup Adjusted Value Added Rate, not to be confused with Support Neutral Lineup Adjusted Value Above Replacement) and add .5, you'll get that SNWP. Think of it as a sabermetric approximation of a quality start rate, and thank Keith Woolner.

Anyway, the rotation that plunged the Marlins into the bottom quartile of the league in those four categories is last week's Fish wrap. As badly as it stinks, it bears only passing resemblance to the unit Fredi Gonzalez is currently penciling into his lineup cards. Scott Olsen (4.04 ERA, 2.9 SNLVAR) and Ricky Nolasco (3.92 ERA, 3.0 SNLVAR) are the only holdovers left from the beginning of the year, and instead of Andrew Miller, Mark Hendrickson, Burke Badenhop, Ryan Tucker, Rick VandenHurk, or Eulogio De La Cruz—a group which combined to make 58 of the team's 118 starts while yielding a 6.38 ERA in that role—the starting five now includes Josh Johnson, Anibal Sanchez, and Chris Volstad.
The Twins one centers on their (mostly) homegrown rotation and the recent recall of ace-in-waiting Francisco Liriano:
On the whole, the rotation has performed in the realm of league average, putting up a 4.49 ERA and averaging 5.9 innings per start, all good for a .507 Support Neutral Winning Percentage, the frequency with which a pitcher's team can be expected to win given average offensive and bullpen support. The staff's general inability to miss bats has been countered by the stinginess with which they issue walks. They've allowed the fewest in the league, and the rotation's walk rate (2.04 BB/9) is half a walk better than the next-closest team, the Indians. The quartet that's shaken out since the increasingly disappointing Bonser was sent to the bullpen at the end of May—Baker, Kevin Slowey, and rookies Nick Blackburn and Glen Perkins—are home-grown products straight off the assembly line of the organization that in past years produced Brad Radke and Kyle Lohse. These are all finesse pitchers who did not or do not blow the ball by hitters, but who instead survive and occasionally thrive thanks to their pinpoint control. Baker's the only one of the four striking out more than 6.3 per nine, Perkins is the only one passing more than 1.9 hitters per nine, and all of them rank among the league's top 35 in SNLVAR. They're an ideal building block for a cost-conscious team, and as the Yankees can tell you, they can stop a contender in their tracks.

The fifth slot in the rotation is the unit's wild card. Opening Day starter [Livan] Hernandez was a success on at least one level, eating 139 2/3 innings and pitching surprisingly well for a guy unable to strike out four hitters per nine. Through May 17, he went 6-2 with a 3.88 ERA, but his hittable ways caught up with him, and his next 13 starts yielded a 6.87 ERA. Strong offensive support (5.7 runs per game) and a respectable won-loss record camouflaged his woes and may have forestalled his inevitable departure via the waiver wire.

As for Liriano, he didn't pitch at all in 2007, and his arrival in spring training was delayed by visa problems. Though he had reportedly gone as high as 97 mph with his fastball at the team's Dominican academy this winter, that velocity was nowhere to be found in Florida. He began the year in the minors, making one start for Triple-A Rochester before being recalled. He was pounded for an 11.32 ERA in three starts for the Twins, starts which revealed major command problems (7/13 K/BB) as well as confidence issues, and by month's end was sent back to Rochester.

He languished there, throwing 18 starts and 114 innings, an excessively long stay by any stretch of the imagination. His overall Triple-A numbers were more than respectable for a pitcher rehabbing from Tommy John surgery (3.28 ERA, 8.6 K/9, 3.6 K/BB, 0.7 HR/9), and over his last six starts they were downright dominant (1.10 ERA, 11.2 K/9, 51/6 K/BB, and 0.2 HR/9). The team's efforts to rehabilitate their 24-year-old would-be ace appear to have been conflated with the desire to discipline him for a lack of candor in discussing the condition of his arm. Manager Ron Gardenhire admittedly harbored some resentment over a problem that's spanned from Liriano's pre-injury days when he pitched through pain, to this spring, when he was concerned enough about his elbow to shy from throwing his slider at maximum effort. Add in the fact that his extended stay in the minors will prevent him from achieving Super Two status, thus staving off arbitration with the notoriously tight-fisted team for a year and triggering a grievance on the pitcher's behalf, and you've got a situation that raises some eyebrows. At the very least, the Twins have wasted some of their potential ace's 2008 bullets.
Whew. Also, for those of you who missed it, here are links to the Hit Lists of August 1 (the post-trade dealdine edition), August 8, and August 15. And if you still can't get enough of my two-week-old yammerings, check this chat, yet another wrap-up of the trade deadline.

Happily, my increased presence at BP is something which will be continuing into the foreseeable future. What that means for this site in the grand scheme of things is unclear. To an even greater extent than before, I'll be saving most of my bullets for my work there, with pointers to that work back here. I'm hoping to make up for that by settling into a habit of shorter posts here -- you know, like the kids do -- but we both know that's something I've yet to acquire the knack for, and it may take some doing. I can promise you this, though: lots of four-letter words, and I don't mean VORP.

What all of this means is even more of my writing winding up behind BP's subscription wall, which in turn means it's time to go PBS telethon for a minute.

Many of you who read this site are already BP subscribers, while others would sooner run naked down the nearest interstate carrying oversized effigies of Murray Chass' bald head before handing over a nickel for web-based content. I applaud both factions, for such variety is the spice of life, and anyway, if you're in the latter camp, you'll soon be getting the help you need. As for the former, I thank you immensely. Traffic and customer satisfaction with my work are big reasons why I've been asked to increase my frequency. For that somewhat more amorphous middle of the spectrum -- particularly those of you who enjoy reading my more analytical work and want the stuffed bunny rabbit sitting next to me to survive until the next sunrise -- please consider subscribing to BP, even if only for a month or two, to see if the new Now With At Least 50% More Jaffe blend suits your stretch drive needs.

OK, enough shilling. I'll be back soon enough.

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