Wednesday, June 11, 2008

And That Happened

Indians 1, Twins 0: I watched most of this game (the whole thing was 2:06; I missed four innings when I blinked once), and Sabathia was something to behold. Over the years I've watched games where Sabathia looked rather disinterested. Even last year, when he was so good so often, you got the sense on occasion that he was looking forward to a sandwich and brew at Panini's or something rather than the next hitter. Last night was different. The Twins laid down a couple of bunt hits early, which clearly made the big fellow mad. Early on he was at around 93-94 on the STO gun. After those little squib hits he was hitting 95, 96, and the occasional 97, and coming inside a lot too. If anything, by the ninth inning he looked like he was just loosening up. And he just looked mean. If he could do that every time out, he'd join Zambrano on my 1960s retro rotation.

Cardinals 7, Reds 2: It could have been 137-2 and it would still be a bad night for St. Louis, as Albert Pujols had to be helped off the field with a calf injury in the 7th inning. More than anyone else in baseball, he's the guy whose team would be the most screwed if they had to play without him for a spell. Not a good night for Homer Bailey either (3.2 IP, 8 H, 5 ER, 3 BB, 2K). And Jay Bruce was batting leadoff? Sure, why not?

Nationals 7, Pirates 6: The other night it was Elijah Dukes with the game winner in the ninth, last night it was Lastings Milledge. If Wily Mo Pena hits a walkoff job in the next few nights, can we say Jim Bowden's vision has been realized?

Orioles 10, Red Sox 6: Beckett was none too good (6 IP, 8 H, 4 ER) but this was a bullpen 'asplosion for the Sox. Okajima (0.1 IP, 2 H, 2 BB, 3 ER); and Hansen (1 IP, 4 H, 3 R) were the evening's arsonists.

Tigers 6, White Sox 4: A win for Detroit is nice, but you'd think they would have scored more than six runs off of 13 hits in the first seven innings of the game, no?

Marlins 5, Phillies 4: Brett Myers gave up three runs before Greater Philadelphia had eased into its collective Barcalounger. Despite settling down a bit, it was a hole the Phillies couldn't climb out of. The Phillies will probably weather these kinds of outings because the Braves, Marlins, and Mets don't seem all that interested in posing a challenge this season, but the Phils would probably like someone besides Cole Hamels to pitch at an above-average clip this season.

Astros 6, Brewers 1: Just another day at the office for Lance Berkman (3-4, 3B, HR, 5 RBI). Welcome back from the brink, Roy Oswalt (7 IPm 5 H, 1 ER, 10 K).

Cubs 10, Braves 5: Did you hear that Atlanta is the worst road team in baseball? Getting swept in the last home series before hitting the highway doesn't help matters any either. Oh, and according to the baseball tonight guys, Smoltz's surgery today revealed more damage than they even expected. Huzzah.

Diamondbacks 9, Mets 5
: Maury Brown interviewed New York Sun baseball writer Tim Marchman yesterday. Marchman had this to say on the state of the Mets:
The Mets seem to be stuck in a recurring pattern where they develop some good young talent, invest well in veterans, verge on becoming a really elite team, and then blow it because they tilt a little too heavily toward older players. This has gone on under so many general managers and so many managers, and for so long, that it really seems to be a systemic problem, and the one common thread for a long time now has been the Wilpon family, who really don’t get enough blame for presiding over the same story being told over and over again with a slightly different cast each time . . . The Yankees may not be good, but there’s never any sense of abject hopelessness about them, and that puts them up on the Mets.
Note: he said that before the Dbacks came back from a 5-1 deficit to hand New York their 5th straight loss last night.

Blue Jays 3, Mariners 1: You thought the Indians game was short? This one came in at 2:02. Dustin McGowan (CG, 5 H, 1 ER, 7K) was vexing, and from the looks of the box score, the Mariners didn't put up much of a fight. Am I the only one expecting Ichiro, in the course of some long interview with a Japanese magazine, to come out and ask for a trade because the culture of losing in Seattle is making him sad?

Rangers 6, Royals 5: Royals' catcher John Buck: "After 7 2/3 [innings], we just quit. That's basically what it was." Sorry John; you don't get any points for being a team leader who speaks hard truths when you're the guy who gives up the game winning passed ball. Not that he isn't right. The Rangers scored four runs in the eighth after there were already two out. An error sparked that off, but the Kansas City bullpen imploded and Trey Hillman got ejected for arguing balls and strikes. Just another inspiring night at Kauffman Stadium.

Angels 6, Rays 1: Jered Weaver shuts down the Rays (8 IP, 4 H, 1 ER). For my purposes, both James and Scott Shields, whose names I always confuse for some reason, pitched in this game. Scott sent the Rays down quietly in the ninth. James managed not to throw a punch at anyone.

Rockies 10, Giants 5: Were you aware that the Giants came in with a seven game road winning streak? Me neither. Well, they don't have that going for them anymore. Garrett Atkins apparently had a bunch of diving grabs at third. I'm goin' to the gym after I post this. If I make the lights just right, I usually catch the Top 10 plays right after I get on the treadmill. My guess is that at least two of his gems get bumped for rather pedestrian plays from the Lakers-Celtics game.

Dodgers 7, Padres 2: The Dodgers score four in the seventh, ruining a strong Greg Maddux outing. Well, "ruining" may be too harsh. I love the guy, but you have to expect this sort of thing when you're basically a five or six inning starter, max. Ten years ago, Maddux -- who had only thrown 70 pitches -- stays in and protects that precious 2-1 lead for at least another inning. He can't do that anymore, so these things are going to happen.

Yankees 3, A's 1: Lost in all of the hubbub over Joba's transition, Mussina's resurgence, Giambi's moustache, and a bunch of other things, A-Rod is hitting .444/.500/.806 in June, no doubt happy to not be the center of attention for once.


Mark Runsvold said...

Can't wait for some Post writer to go with the old story about A-Rod running up his stats in "meaningless" June games.

mahnu.uterna said...

"More than anyone else in baseball, [Pujols is] the guy whose team would be the most screwed if they had to play without him for a spell." In your philosophy, does this status = MVP-ness?

Craig Calcaterra said...

I think that gets you close, but it's not a hard and fast rule in my mind and winning, on some level, has to enter into it. For example: the Cards could easily lose 70% of the rest of their games this season because the pitching staff explodes. If Pujols keeps raking, he's still "the guy whose team would have been the most screwed without him," but I'd have a hard time giving him the MVP absent some transcendent, record breaking kind of year. On the other hand, if the Cardinals win or contended all year he'd have a strong, strong argument for it in my opinion.

That's kind of a messy, hybrid approach to it, but I generally have a hieracrhy in mind when I think about the MVP that sort of goes like this:

1. Look at the top couple of statistical performers from the season. Yes, pitchers count;

2. Separate the ones that are on contenders;

3. Of those, make a quasi qualitative judgment -- a gut feeling really -- based on who did better late, who was the better all around player, etc. Basically, who, among the top performers on the contenders, just sort of feels like the MVP. If it's really close, get out your spreadsheet and REALLY break down who of two contender candidates was truly better. Most of the time, the MVP will show himself via that process.

4. Sometimes he won't, though, either because you have the 1998 Yankees or the 2008 Cubs (i.e. the best team is made up of many, many high performers, but none of who stand out among league leaders) or because there is a league leader type who puts up a historic or semi-historic season for a team that didn't do so well. If that's the case, well, God help you, but that doesn't happen too often because truly historic seasons tend to help teams win a lot of games.

5. Barring odd things like war service, career-threatening injury, or fighting cancer or something, I give no credit or creedence to anything anyone did the year before or the year before that. What I mean is, I don't subscribe to the idea that Player X shouldn't win the MVP because he won it last year. Basketball is awful about that, but it happens in baseball too. I only care about the season in front of me.

6. I don't sweat it as much as most people do. Every fall there are 10 million words written about who should or shouldn't be the MVP or Cy Young winner. There are years using my system, such as it is, that I'll get it wrong. Guess what? Four months later Spring Training starts again and it really doesn't matter.

Using that criteria -- and realizing that it's still early as hell -- for me it would probably come down to Pujols, Utley, and Chipper in the NL, with Chipper dropping out of the discussion if and when he drops considerably below .400 (assuming the Braves don't make the playoffs, which is probably a safe assumption right now), and Pujols droping out of it if and when the Cards drop out of contention. If the Cards stay in it and Pujols keeps it up, I get out the spreadsheets and figure out who between Utley and Pujols was truly the better player, all things considered (and I mean ALL things).

The AL is a mess in that most of the winners have many contributors, and most of the offensive studs are playing for teams that are or probably will soon be out of contention. This will likely clear itself up considerably as the season progresses, of course. At the moment, though, Josh Hamilton has been amazing, but once you factor in his park and the fact that the Rangers aren't going anywhere, I'd have a hard time voting him #1. If the Red Sox stay in a dogfight with Tampa Bay all year and JD Drew stays en fuego, he'd be in the argument. Carlos Quentin doesn't feel like and MVP, but he is playing really well for a team that is playing better than anyone thought they would.

Who knows, though? If no hitter on a winner separates himself -- or if Hamilton turns in a merely fabulous instead of a truly great season -- it could be one of those wakcy years in which the saves leader wins the MVP or something.

mahnu.uterna said...

Wowza! Thanks for the above-and-beyond-ness of your response!

Given the state of the Cardinals' pitching staff, I suspect your internal debate will become increasingly one-sided as the season progresses (and if the Cards do stay in it, I propose bending the rules and naming Dave Duncan the NL MVP).

Anonymous said...


The beloved A's last night demonstrated convincingly why their attendance is down 20% this year:

- First, trade your bankable stars (Haren and Swisher) the proverbial "last straw" in the minds of casual fans
- Then raise ticket prices
- On a rare occassion with fans in the stands, get runners on against the Yankees, then GIDP 4 times (thank you Bob Geren, for only starting runners once, love, Joe and the Boys)

What the new owners don't realize is that attendance can get worse. At the beginning of the Giambi era, attendance at the Mausoleum was 16,000. And the A's still had McGwire then.

On the plus side, the scrappy pitching staff held the Bombers to only 3 runs and gave up one HR (by Foulke, who brings it at 84 mph).

And Mark Ellis, still soaring from his Sunday walk-off GS, had 3 hits, all on first pitch swings, just like Sunday.

Jake said...

It's "Scot" Shields... seriously.

Maybe that's why you mix them up?