The New York Times today, in their Sunday Op-Art feature, recalls Spring Training circa 1962, with a wonderful slide show of drawings by the illustrator Robert Weaver. Weaver’s simple black and white sketches are spare, articulate, and beautiful, even if they mostly feature the hated Yankees. With a few lines he catches the subtle details of baseball and its personalities. Worth a click.
Sunday, February 24th, 2008
Friday, February 22nd, 2008
Poor J.D. Drew. He’s been taking a lot of heat lately.
First, Dave Pinto looked at the worst contracts by Win Shares/$1 million. Under short-term hitters (i.e. in the first two years of the contract), Drew ranks dead last, at 0.85 WS/million, just ahead of Hideki Matsui.
Then, in a longer piece, the Hardball Times’ Craig Brown compiled a "worst outfield for the dollar," using Win Shares Above Bench, and Win Share value. Drew is the starting right fielder on that squad, with two WSAB and providing a performance $5.3 million below his actual $14 million salary. On the bright side, Drew ranked better than the other two outfielders, Jim Edmonds and Scott Podsednik
Brown says of Drew:
Certain expectations come with being the second highest-paid player on the team with the second largest payroll in the game, and Drew fell way short of those expectations in his debut season with the Red Sox. The Sox owe Drew, who turned 33 this winter, $56 million over the next four years. It’s highly likely his name will be mentioned in this space through 2012.
Ouch. Brown uses ISO to draw this conclusion. Drew’s ISO (slugging minus batting) was .264 in 2004, then fell to .234, then about .215. In 2007, it was a paltry .152, just below league average.
EJ Fagan of Pending Pinstripes brings the meat in an impressive summary of Yankee prospects, along with a bevy of links to other people who, like EJ, have worked way harder than I ever have in penning a portrait of the future faces of the franchise.
At least Derek seems to be working toward making this statement true. From Pete Abe:
Jeter said that he changed his offseason workout program.
“I had done some different things this offseason to try and get
better and try and improve. Did a lot of speed (work), lot of agility,
lot of lateral movement, lot of explosive stuff to try and get quicker,
faster and move around a little bit better,” he said.
“My issue has always been putting weight on. I have a real tough
time gaining weight. In past offseasons I’d eat as much as I could to
try and gain weight because I knew once spring training came I would
lose weight. This year I basically just said this is the card I’ve been
dealt, I might as well not try to gain too much weight and just work
with what I have. Last year I had some problems with legs, so you do
whatever you can to try and strengthen your legs.”
It’s funny. I’ve been dealt a different card. It’s the one where my awful eating habits actually result in love handles and lowered self-esteem. But Derek must struggle with his lot in life, too. Good luck to him.
More than any time in Derek’s career, the sabermetricians’ dirty little secret about his fielding is becoming more mainstream. It’s like Denis Johnson’s recent ascension to literary household name–incidentally is that new book any good? The relatively obscure becomes well-known. Recent reports have Jeter directly addressing the metrics in an entirely predictable fashion ("Your system says I suck. I don’t suck. Your system sucks."). Yet I wonder if the chronically non-obese one is taking any of the criticism seriously. Might this new work-out regimen be, in part, a response to the work of people like Tom Tango or John Dewan? Jeter did actually deal with similar questions, based on sabermetricians’ work, about his fielding last season as well. Could he actually have believed there might be some truth to what they were saying, and thought to himself, I need to work on my range?
Thursday, February 21st, 2008
If you could unload a player from your favorite team onto your rival team, who would it be? And if you could poach a player from that rival team and put him on the team you root for, who would you want? These are the type of games I play in my head when it’s freezing outside and we’re still over a month away from baseball.
There are a few ways to approach these important choices. You could base your decision entirely on performance. In this case, you’d take the best player, and give up the worst player. Money could also be a factor. Whose contract would you like to unload? Who has a very appealing contract on the other side? Or you could factor in age and projectability. Who is going to help your favorite team in the long run? Who is a shell of his former self? You also might base your decision completely on your like or dislike of certain players. Which player on your favorite player would you prefer to root against? Which player on your least favorite team do you secretly like?
Wednesday, February 20th, 2008
Okay, he doesn’t say that, but Baseball Prospectus’ injury expert Will Carroll does list the talented rookie as a red light in his team health report for the Boston Red Sox (subscription needed). Carroll points to Ellsbury’s youth and reliance on speed as risk factors. JD Drew and Clay Buccholz also get reds.
As I’m a Yanks fan, there’s no need to report more optimistic predictions. But you can feel okay that one player’s blister problems are a thing of the past, and that Dice-K is seeing green, even if he’s already pitched 4 billion innings in his young life.
Also, it should be noted that Will Carroll feels Boston’s medical staff is on the cutting edge. He didn’t say it, but the Yanks are still using bloodletting, hot whiskey and Freudian analysis. We’ll see who ends up healthier in the end!
So first Hank Steinbrenner says:
"I don’t think they would want to be hollering too loud at Andy up in Fenway," Steinbrenner told The Post. "They had plenty of players doing this stuff, too. It’s just that those players weren’t mentioned in the Mitchell Report."
Then his brother, Hal, says:
"No, I will never concede," Hal says. "They’ve got a lot of talent, and [have] done very well the past few years, but let me put it this way: I don’t think [they] wanted to play us in the ALCS. So I will concede nothing. I think we’re better than [them]."
David Ortiz won’t need to worry about any motivational speeches this season. The Steinbrenners are taking care of that all by themselves.
I don’t know what Joe Torre was doing last off-season, but Joe Girardi is already getting results:
Girardi also told Giambi to arrive in shape, that he was being counted on to do other things besides DH.
"I told him to be in the best shape he possibly could be,"
Girardi said. "We need him to do a lot of different things, go from
first to third, second to home, play some first base. That’s how you
get the most out of people and he looked great. I’d like to see Jason
be a productive offense and defensive player."
If you’ve been following Pete Abe’s early spring training reports you know that Giambi came to camp in great shape. The same can be said for Johnny Damon, Brian Bruney, Joba Chamberlain, Bobby Abreu and anyone not named Kei Igawa. Apparently, the new skipper used the strategy of communication in order to get these results. Example: He met with Johnny Damon early in the off-season and said to Johnny, "How about this? How about you come to camp physically ready to play baseball this season? Thanks."
Man, he’s good. Compare that to what Torre said to Johnny Damon before last season:
"Johnny, you ever see any photos of Babe Ruth? He was fat. And he was Babe Freakin’ Ruth. Do me a favor. Eat some doughnuts. Enjoy life."
We’re already seeing the difference between the two Joes. Hopefully, this pays off on the field. It would be awful if the abject failures of Torre’s tenure were repeated.
Tuesday, February 19th, 2008
John Henry on the insistence of Curt Schilling’s doctor that the Red Sox’ prescribed treatment program is doomed to certain failure:
"I didn’t appreciate that," said Henry. "That’s what you call a ‘nocebo.’ It’s the opposite of placebo. Usually, part of a doctor’s way of dealing with patients is . . . We all know the placebo effect is a huge effect. So giving your patient a ‘nocebo effect,’ to me that’s irresponsible."
I’m no doctor, but what Henry says makes sense. Almost invariably, you hear about dedicated, motivated people dedicated to busting the timetable coming back sooner than expected and better than expected. You certainly don’t hear them making statements like this:
"I don’t have any choice. If their course of action doesn’t work, I don’t pitch this year, I might not ever pitch again."
Forgive me if that leaves me wanting some more assurances about Curt’s motivation to fully commit himself to the Red Sox’ program.
At any rate, it’s certainly ironic that Schilling talked about medical egoes during his comments, in a seeming attempt to discredit the Red Sox’ decision, when the only doctor who feels compelled to repeatedly espouse the certainty of his theories in the press is Schilling’s.
Peter Abraham from Tampa:
Yogi Berra’s golf clubs arrived today. The man himself won’t be in for another week or so. The clubs were immediately placed in Girardi’s office. The manager of the Yankees has two duties in spring training: get the team ready and take good care of Lawrence Peter Berra.
That’s classic beat writing, and it makes me smile—it’s nice to know, after so much ugliness, the game can still do that. Position players hit spring training today. It’s cold in New York, but I can’t help but think of that opening scene in the Bad News Bears, with the sprinklers chuck-chuck-chucking, and the sun rising in the distance.
It’s good to have the fellas back.
Monday, February 18th, 2008
This has been a horrible situation for me. I’m hoping and praying I don’t have to do anything else with this.—Andy Pettitte
This pretty much sums things up for me, too. For those who somehow feel compelled to continue down this road to nowhere, the comments field is yours.
Sunday, February 17th, 2008
Things I learned while surfing the Web last night:
- Don’t blame the juice, unless you mean the ball.
- Never mind Engel Beltre, the Red Sox may have traded the best change-up in baseball for the post-roid shell of Eric Gagne. Never has a trade looked so good and so bad within just six months.
- Not only are the Red Sox the best team in baseball, but they’re the nicest, too!
- Carl Pavano is a menace to everyone around him.
- Joe Girardi is making sure the Yankees are as boring as ever — "each Yankee found a printed list of rules on the chair in front of his locker, 17 in all, [including] … a ban on earrings."
- Just when you think you can make a safe assumption ("this is the first time in over a decade [the Yankees] are nobody’s AL East favorite"), Baseball Prospectus blows it up.
Saturday, February 16th, 2008
Questions about how the Congressional circus, its aftermath, and the certain forthcoming hounding regarding his PED use may affect Pettitte continue to be on the minds of many writers. Namely, if Pettitte flares out, what wrath will be incurred for not getting the Santana deal done? Mark Feinsand quotes Hank Steinbrenner in the Daily News:
“I’d love to have a Santana or a Beckett. Hopefully that’s not a move we should have made that I’m going to be (ticked off) about. I think by the end of the season we could have that in Chamberlain.”
John Harper has a parallel piece examining the situation regarding the expectations of The Big Three, and spoke with Joe Girardi:
“It’s an interesting situation,” was the way Girardi put it Friday, “because there are some innings limitations on some of our young starters. So you have to be a little bit creative. We’ll look at it at the end of March and see where we’re at.”
So, before his 23rd birthday, a kid who has never thrown a big-league start (and who will work out of the pen for an unknown duration to begin the season) is expected by the end of the season to be more or less on par with the best starting pitcher in the game over the last five years and with a top-tier ace who has turned in a couple of the most dominant post season performances in the history of the game. Oh, and his buddies had better be really darn good in their first full seasons as starters as well.
Well, I guess it would be nice.