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    Baseball Told the Right Way
    In-depth Baseball analysis on various topics regarding the sport we all love!

      The little things count too.
    Great article by Eric Neel (one of the few bright spots of ESPN) about the art of the pickoff move. An excerpt:
    It's one of the real under-appreciated dramas in baseball. Each guy is lying about himself and trying to read the other, and the conclusion, whether it's a pickoff or a steal, comes with a sweet, stinging "gotcha" punch right in the gut. Think about the successful pickoffs you've seen at the ballpark; they're not just outs, they're exercises in shame and humiliation. Guys head back to the dugout with their heads down and taunts from the crowd ringing in their ears. Hits are common, strikeouts are cheap, but a pickoff is something to see.
    I couldn't agree more. There is probablly nothing more embarrassing in sport. Its right up there with letting a ground ball through your legs or airballing a free thow. Considering the frequency with which the other two occur, I'd say getting picked off is as embarrassing as doing any of the others without any pants on.

    Its also a lost art in Major League Baseball. The article mentions only Brian Anderson, Terry Mulholland, Kenny Rogers, Mark Buehrle, and Andy Pettitte (all lefties). There isn't really anybody else that can pick people off, and mostly these guys get by on reputation alone. I'm sure if someone (not me thank you very much) could find the average number of steal attempts off a pitcher, the numbers for these guys would be a tiny fraction of that. Even if one found the average number of steal attempts only off of lefties, these guys wouldn't even be close. You'd have to separate out the catchers effect (a lefty with Mike Piazza catching has no chance), but there is real, tangible value in not allowing baserunners to even think about stealing.

    And besides the measurable effect of nobody stealing bases with a certain pitcher on the mound, think about the unmeasurable effect of having guys start with a two foot lead. And think about how many times when a good lefty is on the mound, the runner at first takes a step back to first instead of getting a secondary lead as the pitch is thrown. Do you think that runner is going first to third on a single?

    There are so many little things in baseball, so many underapreciated nuances that so many big name players ignore. Baserunning, defensive positioning, duking baserunners on balls in the gap, trash talk, the lost art of stealing signs. In these days, with the rise of statistical analysis, where more and more baseball is measurable, it sure seems that the small unmeasurable things are getting forgoteen more and more often.

    Go ahead and Email Curt to tell him that Jose Canseco letting a ball bounce off his head for a home run was WAY more embarrassing.
      The best pitcher in baseball?
    I already claimed Clemens is the best pitcher of his generation. I stick by that. But one year contracts are not rewards. Despite being a legitimate freak of nature, Clemens is still 43 years old.

    This 43 year old legend just received $18M to pitch one season. Eighteen million is a lot for any pitcher, and it makes Clemens the highest paid pitcher in the history of baseball.

    Did I mention he is 43?

    Lets forget about his age for a moment. Lets just pretend Clemens is ageless, because he sure seems to be one of the rare breed of pitchers who can ignore the inevitable. With that said, before last season, Clemens looked like a pitcher who was a pretty good lock to give you 30 starts with an ERA a little under four.

    Then Clemens went out and won his seventh (SEVENTH!) Cy Young award, posting a 2.88 ERA and 18 wins. Pretty good season, but it wasn't even the best in baseball. There were probablly at least five or six (maybe as many as eight) pitchers who had better seasons in 2004.

    I don't want to spend any time arguing about the relative values of every pitchers' season, but lets not ignore the fact that despite all the press, the awards, and the hype, Clemens wasn't even the best pitcher in baseball. Yet, now he is being paid as such.

    Why would Houston throw all this money at Clemens? Why did Houston, as many people claim, give Clemens the exact opposite of a hometown discount?

    Courtesy of ESPN, in Clemens' home starts, the Astros averaged 39,524 fans. In home games when Clemens did not start, the Astros averaged 37,014. For a moment lets ignore that most of those seats were cheaper upper deck seats and assume that they were all sold at the average price at the Juicebox for $28.88. In that case, Roger Clemens himself could claim to have increased the Houston Astros revenue by $24M.

    Twenty-four million. Sounds an awful lot like the $22M that Clemens agent originally asked for. When you look at it that way, Clemens is probablly worth a few of those pennies.

    Maybe Clemens didn't personally account for $24M in extra ticket sales. Maybe it was only fifteen, or ten, or maybe it was only five. But, how many Roger Clemens jerseys do you think they sold?

    All I know is that Astros owner Drayton McLane has always been very stingy with his money. He has never spent beyond his means, always kept a payroll hovering at a competitive but fiscally responsible level. He refused to give Carlos Beltran an inordinate amount of money to keep him, and now he drops a seemingly ridiculous contract on a 43 year old pitcher.

    All I really want to say is that based on his track record, I have to believe McLane knows exactly what he is doing. I'm going to go on a limb and say Roger Clemens will increase McLane's revenue by AT LEAST eighteen million, and I'll even go so far as to say that Drayton McLane just made a profit by giving a 43 year old pitcher eighteen million to play a kids game.

    You have to spend money to make money.
      If only he knew how little I'm sorry.
    It looks like Dean Palmer is attempting a comeback. Wow. I know the Tigers need a third baseman after giving up on Eric Munson, but wow.

    Dean Palmer was an all-or-nothing hitter, striking out a lot, not getting on very often, and hitting the occasional home run. Why does it seem like guys like this always spend half their careers in Texas and Detroit?

    For Palmer, interestingly, it was both. He benefitted from having a great hitters park his entire career, in Texas, Kansas City, and Detroit (back when it was Tiger Stadium they called home). I'm not saying that inflated his stats or anything.

    The problem is, even when Palmer was in his prime, he wasn't all that great. He was a pretty good ballplayer, but even in his last semi-healthy season, Palmer was only slightly above the league average for a third baseman. And his defense was at times embarrassing.

    What would convince him that he could still make it at age 36, a full five years and several surgeries later?

    Its actually really sad. Sad as in it makes me feel sorry for the guy. It reminds me of The Shawshank Redemption when that old buck finally gets out of prison and ends up hanging himself after realizing he's been "institutionalized". Sports are an institution too.

    Think about it. Just like the lifetime prisoner, a baseball player has never known anything else. And how could we expect him to? For most ballplayers, life has centered around a sport since they could walk, and they've likely been paid to play since they were 18. When you are a superstar athelete, there is no time for anything else. No job. No school. Nothing but baseball.

    And in reality, Dean Palmer's third attempt is not even a blip on the radar screen of ill-fated comebacks and drawn out retirements. The sports world is filled with them. Does anybody remember Robert Parish still playing basketball even after his knees would hardly get him past half court? Has Bill Parcels been able to stay away after retiring three times? Will Phil Jackson really stay retired? Is it really worth it for Mo Vaughn to try again? Does anybody remember how painful it was to watch Bruce Smith pursue the sack record?

    In reality, every situation is unique, and I have no idea the rationale behind staying in a game well past your welcome. I do know that sometimes you need to step outside yourself and view yourself in the eyes of others.

    I wish him luck, but I hope there is something else waiting for him come April. Because Dean Palmer sure as hell won't be playing baseball.
      I thought I put this to rest......
    Apparently not. Apparently, the North Dakota state legislators don't read this site. I think they ought to, especially since they spent wasted time passing a resolution to put Roger Maris in the Hall of Fame.

    I thought I made a pretty good case for Roger Maris as a very good baseball player, but in no way deserving of the Hall of Fame. I got two positive responses from readers and nobody blasted me, so I figured everyone agreed.

    It seems though, that there are at least a few lawmakers with too much time on their hands and not enough knowledge of baseball. Isn't there something better that lawmakers should be spending tax dollars on? What business do they have even talking about it in the first place?
    "probably achieved more in baseball with less appreciation from sportswriters and fans than any other player," the resolution says.
    That statement is wrong on so many levels that I wont even bother to mention the name of Jackie Robinson.

    Anybody in South Dakota who wants to pass a resolution to sell North Dakota to Canada can Email Curt for his signature.
      Dodgers fans, meet the Gidget.
    Dodgers sign Derek Lowe.

    More affectionately known as the mental gidget, or simply Gidget for short, Derek Lowe somehow finagled a four year deal from the Dodgers. He also managed to extract $36M for his services.

    In case anybody forgot, Derek Lowe had a 5.42 ERA last season. He's now making more money (and for more years) than other free agent signings like pitchers Kris Benson, Matt Clement, Kevin Millwood, Odalis Perez, John Lieber, Brad Radke, and Matt Morris. All of those pitchers I'd rather have than Lowe, and I like the guy more than most, just not more than Paul DePodesta it seems.

    Now that I think about it, Matt Morris has had better years than Lowe the last two seasons, has better career numbers, and is two years younger. And Morris got a one-year $2.5M contract with incentives. Somebody get to Morris, tell him to fire his agent. If I were Lowe's agent (the incomparable Scott Boras) I would place a friendly call to Morris and ask him what he thought of Lowe's new deal.

    Derek Lowe is a good pitcher, with tons of talent. Lets not so quickly forget his very strong career as a reliever, and the Cy Young-caliber season his first as starter. His second year, in 2003, was not so successful. He was really hit-lucky in 2002, and was decent at times in 2003, but struggled with his control for most of the year. In 2004, most people figured he'd be somewhere in the middle, maybe with an ERA around 3.50, and 15+ wins. That didn't happen. Not even close.

    Having followed the Red Sox a little too closely, and having been utterly frustrated by the inconsistently disappointing pitching of DLowe, I think I'm in a great postion to question what in god's name the Dodgers are thinking?

    People always ask why DLowe has pitched like crap for the better part of the last two seasons. A lot of easy answers are out there. Most people just say he's a headcase and leave it at that. There is another, more accurate reason, that is just as quick and easy: its his control.

    When Lowe is going good, he hits his spots, locates his fastball, and gets people to pound groundballs by throwing mostly sinkers at the knees. When his control is off, or when opposing batters lay off the sinker, or when some combination of the two exists, Derek Lowe is painful to watch.

    I mean really, really, bamboo shoots under the fingernail, painful. And as if his 5.42 ERA wasn't painful enough, don't overlook the fact that he also had 28 more unearned runs (6.8 runs allowed per nine innings). And I watched them all, a lot of those should have been charged to Lowe. Here is how a typical DLowe implosion went: bleeder through the hole, bleeder through the hole, error, walk, walk, bleeder, towering home run off a 3-1 fastball letter high.

    And with a poof, four or five earned-unearned runs later the Red Sox are down 6-0 before Tito could mercifully rescue Lowe from his own ineptitude.

    Now, I'll go on the record as saying Lowe will have a good season next year. Dodger Stadium will help him, as will the best defensive shortstop in baseball in Cesar Izturis playing behind him. The Dodgers know that, but by nature of the four-year $36M deal, the Dodgers are also saying that the last two seasons were the flukes, and not 2002.

    I think thats a very dangerous way to spend $36M. I could see some team giving Lowe a one or two year deal for around $4M plus incentives that could make it worth $9M. I certainly would have. But to risk $36M to see if his control will magically return is idiotic in my mind. And I like the guy.

    Expect to see a lot of the "Derek Lowe Face" in LA next season. If you don't know what that is, you will soon.
      Dispelling ignorance, one ignoramus at a time.
    Sorry for the abscence guys. You can blame Comcast, aka The Keepers of the Cable. I swear, hasn't Major League Baseball taught us that the anti-trust laws are good. By logical extension, large corporations are not good, nor are they even beneficial. I'm sure Comcast doesn't want to hear that though, nor do they care.

    And before I go off on some Randy Johnson-Carlos Beltran related rant let me get something off my chest.

    I am probablly preaching to the choir (the well-educated choir) but I got in a two-day argument this weekend with an ex-friend. The argument, mind you, was heated enough for me to declare him an ex-friend immediately following that awkward silence that follows when both sides are exhausted and have realized the other side is just too damn ignorant to realize how obviously wrong they are.

    The argument stemmed from some mild Hall of Fame talk. At least it was mild until I walked into the bar.

    Raise your hand if you think Roger Maris should be in the Hall of Fame.......You can put your hand down Mrs. Maris, as can my ignorant ex-friend. I swear those are the only two people who think so.

    Let me come to the conclusion before I make the case. If you're mildly intelligent you can just nod your head, skip the rest of this article, and check out one of the links on the left.

    Roger Maris should not be in the Hall of Fame.

    Now, for a little exercise. Take a look at the career numbers of the two players below. Then tell me which one is Roger Maris and which is a player nobody has ever considered putting in the Hall of Fame.
                AB     H    HR  RBI   AVG   OBP   SLG
    Player A: 5101 1325 275 851 .260 .345 .476
    Player B: 4792 1219 275 845 .254 .351 .491
    Player A is "Hall of the Decent" inductee, Roger Maris. Player B should be inducted as soon as he's eligible, its perennial fan favorite, Jeromy Burnitz.

    Seriously, what's the difference? To me Burnitz looks like the better player, he's hit the same number of homers in 300 less at bats. How many people do you hear talking about Jeromy Burnitz for the Hall?

    Of course, Jeromy Burnitz didn't play in New York, and Jeromy Burnitz didn't break a record that held for 37 years. And to keep in the spirit of fairness, the Hall of Fame, as it should, rewards a player's peak years. Just like Pedro Martinez should get credit for having a four year stretch of unprecedented dominance, so too should Roger Maris.

    So lets look at his peak:
    YEAR    R    H  HR  RBI   AVG   OBP   SLG
    1960 98 141 39 112 .283 .371 .581
    1961 132 159 61 142 .269 .372 .620
    1962 92 151 33 100 .256 .356 .485
    Now don't get me wrong, Maris's 1961 season was unquestionably deserving of the MVP. Even in 1960, Roger Maris was deserving of the award. But where do that three season peak rank in history?

    Not too good, if you ask me. Even if you take the first two only, which are miles ahead of the third, Roger Maris isn't even close to having a peak worthy of the Hall.

    Is Kevin Mitchell a Hall of Famer?
    YEAR    R  HR  RBI   AVG   OBP   SLG
    1989 100 47 125 .291 .388 .635
    1990 90 35 93 .290 .360 .544
    Shouldn't Jim Rice get in because of his peak before Maris?
    YEAR    R  HR  RBI   AVG   OBP   SLG
    1977 104 39 114 .320 .376 .593
    1978 121 46 139 .315 .370 .600
    1979 117 39 130 .325 .381 .596
    And in all seriousness, Roger Maris best year, 1961, which was amazing, has also been topped by a lot of players nobody is itching to elect any time soon. Check out some more single-seasons that equal or top Maris' career year in 1961:
                    YEAR    R  HR  RBI   AVG   OBP   SLG
    Al Rosen 1953 115 43 145 .336 .422 .613
    Luis Gonzalez 2001 128 57 142 .325 .429 .688
    Brady Anderson 1996 117 50 110 .297 .396 .637
    Nobody is jumping at the chance to put any of those guys in the Hall.

    Now don't take this personally, all the two New York fans out there that haven't gotten fed up with me, but I don't see how any rational thought can put Roger Maris in the Hall.

    The person I used to consider a friend told me it was a "travesty" that Maris is being "discriminated" against.


    The only travesty involving the Hall of Fame is that it took them until 1971 to elect players from the Negro Leagues, and even then it took a "special" committee to do it.

    Ignoring that, the biggest travesty is that Phil Rizzuto (and his 38 career home runs) is in, and Ron Santo (the best 3B of his era) is not.

    Roger Maris was a pretty good ballplayer. Roger Maris had a great three year stretch. Roger Maris is NOT a Hall of Fame player. The day the Hall of Fame starts rewarding players for playing for the Yankees, or for having Billy Crystal make a cheesy movie about them, is the day I vow never to return to Cooperstown.

    The third person who thinks Roger Maris should be in the Hall can email Curt to complain.
      This world needs teachers, not heroes.

    I grew up to Wade Boggs. I loved the guy. Check out his stats.

    Simply amazing.

    The man hit over .300 in all but three of his eighteen seasons. He was a doubles machine. He was a career .328 hitter, and hit .301 at the tender age of 41. He could probablly still hit about .270, and he'd probablly still be one of the best hitters on the Devil Rays.

    Boggs sprayed line drives all over Fenway, including the left field grandstand, where I used to sit before tickets cost more than my car. For those who were so unlucky as to not see Boggs play, he used to do something that nobody else in baseball could do, or even tried to do.

    Boggs was one of the most patient hitters in the history of baseball. He was as patient as Ted Williams, Rickey Henderson, Barry Bonds. But Boggs did something none of them tried. If Boggs didn't like a pitch, but that pitch was still a strike or close enough to risk a called strike three, Boggs would check his swing, and foul the ball off into the left field grandstand. On purpose. Then, more times than not, on the very next pitch, he would either line a single into left-center, or EARN himself a walk.

    Wade Boggs was practically inhuman at that. I've never seen anybody else do what Wade Boggs did with a baseball bat. Maybe some old buck can point out some player from the 50's who did what Boggs did, but if Mark Bellhorn could control the strike zone like Wade Boggs, he would be a modern day Babe Ruth.

    I love Boggs so much, I don't even mind throwing up a picture of him in the Yankee pinstripes.

    I'm proud of my boy. He deserved a ring.

    Not only was Wade Boggs fun to watch, he made life interesting for the Boston media while he was at it.

    Most people know that Boggs had several scandals involving his wife, his mistress, or his wife's mistress, I lost track. Less people know that Wade Boggs ate chicken every single day of his life. Even less people might know that Boggs warmed up on the sideline by throwing a knuckleball with a teammate, and his entire career he claimed that when he wasn't able to hit, he would come back as a knuckleball pitcher. Too bad you can still hit Wade, it would have been fun to watch.

    Boggs also kept track of his batting average with a calculator in the dugout, after every at bat, and much to the disdain of his teammates. Boggs' teammates never liked him. When I realized this, it did something to my baseball fandom. Remember, I loved Wade Boggs. I collected all of his cards (notice the vintage 1987 Topps on the left). I was young and impressionable, and I thought of Boggs as some kind of a hero.

    I could care less that Boggs had a girl on the side. Hell, I wanted a girl on the side. It did seem a little strange that Boggs ate chicken every day. I let it slide though, this world takes all kinds.

    Learning that Boggs' was hated by his teammates, however, hit me much like the movie Trainspotting hit me. Not only have I learned that heroin ain't my thing, but I now know that atheletes are not to be looked up to.

    So Wade Boggs introduced me to a world absent of heroes. It was shocking at first, but over time, it has come to comfort me. This world doesn't need heroes, it needs teachers.

    Wade Boggs was a great teacher.

    I wanted to hit just like him. I taught myself to hit the ball the other way, which I got real good at. I taught myself to hit line drives unless the situation called for a home run, when I would, just like Boggs. I even tried to teach myself to check swing and spoil a pitch to get a better one. I tried that, but failed miserably.

    Last, but the opposite of least, I tried to learn to throw a knuckleball (with varying degree of success, depending on the weather). Just like my hero-turned-teacher Wade Boggs.

    See his B-ref page again. Check out that career 3.86 ERA. Not many Hall of Fame hitters this side of Babe Ruth can claim that.

    Yeah, Tim Wakefield may be my favorite active ballplayer (again, see blatant photo on left), but long before Timmy Ballgame put on The Uniform in '95, Wade Boggs had already been teaching me about the game of Baseball for years.
      Well now, its almost done. I can talk about it.
    All types of people have been coming up to me and asking what I thought of the Yankees trading for Randy Johnson. What do I think?

    Randy Johnson is tall. That's what I think. But would you want this mug pitching for your favorite team? Thats a face not even a mother could love.

    And that's a good picture.

    Now on to a topic only partially related, take a look at the career paths of two semi-annonymous pitchers:
    Pitcher V:
    AG IP H/9 K/9 BB/9 HR/9 ERA
    21 172.3 10.2 7.3 3.6 1.6 6.06
    22 154.7 9.0 6.6 3.0 1.2 5.00
    23 217.7 10.2 8.1 2.5 1.0 4.05
    24 223.7 7.9 8.4 1.8 1.0 3.42
    25 230.7 9.5 7.0 1.9 1.1 3.91
    26 230.7 7.7 9.4 2.2 1.1 3.24
    27 198.0 8.9 6.8 2.7 1.5 4.91

    Pitcher W:
    AG IP H/9 K/9 BB/9 HR/9 ERA
    22 163.7 9.7 6.3 3.1 1.5 5.55
    23 200.0 9.2 6.1 2.3 1.2 4.32
    24 229.3 9.2 6.0 2.7 0.8 4.08
    25 199.7 8.7 6.0 2.2 0.7 3.52
    26 159.3 11.9 5.3 2.7 0.9 5.99
    27 220.0 9.0 6.3 2.7 0.8 4.01
    Okay, throw out Pitcher V's age 21 season, which he should have spent in the minors. Then what do you notice?

    Both pitchers took their age 22 season to get accustomed to the majors. Then they both established themselves as 3.5-4.0 ERA pitchers and were pretty consistent at that. All except for one year. The off-year for each happened at a year apart, outlined in bold, but what do those two years have in common?

    Both bold (bad) seasons were spent as a Yankee.

    If you haven't guessed who they are yet you haven't been paying attention. Pitcher V is Javy Vazquez, and W is Jeff Weaver. The similarities of their career path staggers me. I've made this comparison before. It was before last season, before Javy Vazquez flopped in New York. I was half-joking when I made the comparison because Vazquez (in my mind at the time) was a much better pitcher.

    I didn't think Vazquez would flop, but I liked to raise the possibiltiy, if for nothing else than to get under the skin of Yankee fans. I really didn't think it would come true and Vazquez would have a horrible year in 2004, like Weaver in 2003.

    If we look a little closer at the numbers we'll see how each pitcher met his pitching doom with the Yankees. Weaver gave up a hell of a lot more hits, while Vazquez walked a ton more people and gave up a ton more home runs.

    And obviously, this is where the comparison ends. Vazquez and Weaver are, of course, two entirely different pitchers with two completely different pitching styles.

    But condsidering I view walks and home runs allowed to be much more indicitive of a pitcher's true ability, Weaver looks a lot better moving forward. In fact, Jeff Weaver's age 26 season looks much more flukey than Vazquez's age 27 season.

    Even after moving to a pitchers park like Dodger stadium, Weaver gave up the same number of home runs. I have a hard time believing that the huge foul territory in LA resulted in 3 would-be-hits becoming foul pop-outs. On the other hand, Vazquez isn't exactly going to like his homerun-itis down in Arizona where balls fly out of the park more than all but two ballparks. I wouldn't hold my breath waiting for Vazquez to rebound.

    It's amazing how much difference a year makes, but what does this have to do with Randy Johnson?

    Randy Johnson, have you met Kevin Brown. Allow me to introduce the two of you.