Drew Fairservice: April 2009 Archives

christian_bale_american_psycho_003.jpgWe here at Walkoff Walk aren't so petty as to hold grudges...oh wait, we most certainly are. Drunk drivers and domestic abusers get a rough ride here because, basically, screw them. A common whipping boy has long been Brian Giles. The lumpy tanning enthusiast gets away with scummy behaviour because of his consistently high level of performance on the baseball field. But no more!!

Everyone's least favorite ball player is officially the least valuable player in baseball this season. So far in 2009 his offensive numbers are reminiscent of a man who left his bat under the Petco aerator. His traditional slash line of .169/.234/.197 adds up to a whopping .431 OPS. Correcting for ballpark and league averages brings Brian's OPS+ in at 19! 100 is league average, he's a 19.

Getting on base was always a calling card of Giles, who once walked 135 times in a season. 2009 has changed all that! Suddenly Giles strikes out almost twice as much as he walks without any power to show for his flailing. Pounding balls into the ground at an unprecedented rate while hitting line drives increasingly rarely won't get Giles out of this slump any time soon.

Not content to hurt his team only at the plate, the aging outfielder's defense is now doing more harm than good also! His long long affair with orange skin shows Brian knows how to care for leather; sadly his glove lies neglected and underused. Being bad at a relatively unimportant position on the field only strengthens his status as baseball worst bargain.

Adding his impotent, replacement-level offense to his zombie-level defense gets you a player worth more than 7 runs less than replacement. He tried new bats & extra BP, nothing seems to fix his swing or the unbearable karmic load he carries to the plate ever night Take heart Brian, it's still only April. You still have 5 full months to achieve new levels of awfulness.

moneytree.jpgAfter taking the baseball world by storm in 2008, the Tampa Bay Rays have stumbled out of the block in Oh Nine. Pundits and bloggers fall over themselves to state they "knew it all along" and decry the little Rays as flashes in the pan or one-hit wonders. Is it true? Have the Rays regressed back into the gaping maw of mediocrity so soon after climbing out of it's sad depths?

In a word: no. The only thing to regress early on this season is the Rays fortune. They're still a balanced, talented team built around excellent defense, solid pitching, and a core of young stars. This combination powered them to 97 wins in 2008 and the franchise's first appearance in the World Series. Mostly.

The Rays, well assembled as they may be, rode a lot of luck in 2008. Not dumb luck, but numerous forces conspired in their favor. They outperformed their Pythagorean record by more than 3 wins. A 29-18 record in one-run games is phenomenal when you consider league average is around .500. (Before you say "that's the mark of a good team", consider in 2008, the 72-90 San Diego Padres were 31-21 in one-run games.) The clutch stat, which measure how much better or worse a team performs (in terms of WPA/LI) in high-leverage situations, shows both the Rays offense and pitching staff really stepped up their games when the heat was on in 2008. The superlative yet soft-tossing Rays pen notched an ERA of 3.82 with a FIP of 4.22, meaning their excellent and soon-to-be-document-for-posterity defense saved them half a run a night.

Turn the calender over to 2009 and things haven't gone so swimmingly. It's still very, very early but the Rays are already behind the Pythag and one-run game 8 ball. The clutch numbers are essentially the opposite of the last year: a relief core not up to snuff performing worse in the late & close and an offense with the worst clutch numbers in baseball.

Add this reversal of fortune to very slow starts by regulars B.J. Upton and Dioner Navarro and you've got a disappointing record and fans wondering why? Don't forget two red hot teams inside the division to magnify the early season struggles. Are the Rays likely to lose more games than they win in 2009? No, they're too good for that. They can survive down seasons from one or two everyday players; what they can't expect is to skate into the post season again without an infusion of that fickle mistress luck.

Night of the Tater Tots

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Mini Fine tater tots.jpgHoly. Crap. Last night's 15 games accounted for 41 home runs. 41!! Don't believe me? The Four Letter has'em all in convenient list form. Not even close to the record of 62; but so many balls left the yard last night it left me under empty rows of night windows.

Cardinals 1 HR, Cubs 0 HRs: This game may have only featured one dinger, but it was a king dong off the bat of the King of Dongs himself: Albert Pujols. As tetra tots have been known to do, it put a close game out of reach. Sean Marshall was tagged with the loss though reliever David (Van) Patton gave up Pujols's big shot. The upstart Pittsburgh Pirates scored 10 runs without hitting any home runs. Dudes, get with the times! Six walks and a buncha singles served as the solar cells for this efficient offense. Zack Duke has bookended a terrible start last time out with another 8+ innings of great pitching. The Brewers and Astros went back and forth, hitting 5 homers between them. Prince Fielder knocked two, one of which appeared to be the game winner. A hit batsmen, sacrifice bunt and throwing error on the third basemen undid the Brewers in the bottom of 9 but Ryan Braun walked them off in the 11th.

Rangers 4 HRs, Orioles 1 HRs: The dingeriest team in baseball did their dingery worst to the O's at Camden Yard. Ian Kinsler hit one to lead off the game and added another for good measure in the second inning. Texas leads the league in both home runs (31) and isolated power (.233) which is just a fancy way of saying home runs. The Orioles could only muster 3 runs against the Rangers bullpen, meaning the league may count tonight's loss twice. The Rangers have more home runs than the other three teams in their division combined. Yet somehow the Mariners are now in first place by 3.5 games in the West. They're also the only team in the division with a positive run differential. The M's hit two homers and held on to beat the slumping Angels, Carlos Silva's first pitching win since sometime in June. He must be so proud.

Philies 2 HRs, Marlins 2 HRs: Deadlocked as their tots may have been, the Phillies took the win in this one by virtue of their super rare pitcher tot! Chan Ho Park took Marlins starter Chris Volstad deep in the third inning in what must be the most shameful moment of the young hurlers career. Matt Stairs, he of the awesome tshirts, tied the game in the ninth with a ground out before Chase Utley and Shane Victorino singled (yawn) home the difference-making runs in the 11th inning. Make it five loses in a row for the Marlins, and some signs of life from the underachieving world champs. The New York Mets haven't hit very many home runs this year (11) but they played the Nationals so it didn't matter. The Nats gifted the Mets 4 unearned runs en route to an 8-2 beating. The Nats are bad, ya'll. Chipper Jones celebrated his 37th birthday on Friday night with some small game and a three run home run on Saturday. Congrats Chip!

More Noteworthy Totfests: The Red Sox and Yankees played quite themselves the rugby match at Fenway. Jason Varitek ran into an AJ Burnett that everyone on the Eastern seaboard knew was coming for grand slam. Robinson Cano did his very best, alas he can't pitch. Luckily dreamboat Nick Swisher can, he could easily be called into service tonight after the Yankees used 7 pitchers. Randy Johnson couldn't get out of the fourth inning thanks to his 7 walks but fellow senior Randy Winn picked up his shuffleboard partner with his second jack of the year. Manny went 0 for 5 with 3 strikeouts but the Dodgers still beat the Rocks. Because they're better, you see. The Royals finally fell to the Tigers but they still lead the division as the AL Central is a little sloppy right now. I'm just letting you know AL Central, if you need me to be your life coach, I available. I think you'll find my rates quite affordable, especially when you consider the value I'll bring to your meager existence.

Image courtesy of the Juvie Shop. Thanks to Kris for the tip. Weird, dude.

scullydrive.jpgPicking on TV personalities/on-air talent provides great sport and fodder for any self-respecting blogger. Biases, both real and perceived, are highlighted and scrutinized from all manner of national sports network talent and used against them in the everlasting blood feud between fans and the unbalanced media.

It would seem regional broadcasters are immune to this disease, with most modern booth teams serving as glorified cheerleaders, reporting from deep within the organization. The Hawk and the Santo are two high profile cases and symptomatic of this worsening epidemic. I understand this is hardly uncharted territory, and I recognize most broadcasters are in fact employees of the team. But my recently acquired Exta Innings package only exposed the depth of the homer.

This afternoon I caught the pregame and a few innings of the Nats/Mets game broadcast by MASN. Play by play man Bob Carpenter is an old pro who understands the programming mandate: you are the voice of the Nationals. Speak for the Nationals, of the Nationals. No big deal, his non-regional diction and smooth delivery overshadowed his shallow homerism. Unfortunately for me, the Nats colourman is shameless huckster Rob Dibble. Dibble's made quite a career for himself as a broadcaster; using his outsized personality to cover baseball for numerous networks and a variety of roles. This is Dibble's first year with the Nats, but you wouldn't have known it during the game.

We. We we we we we we. Not the sound of little piggies going all the way home nor the sound of Rob's last trip to Montreal, this was the pronoun of choice for Mr. Dibble. Rob Dibble played zero games from the Washington Nationals (or the Montreal Expos), has broadcasted a maximum of 12 Nationals' games, yet there he was, speaking as though he had a locker between Elijah Dukes and Lastings Milledge anybody named Zimmerman. Sorry Rob, you aren't on the team. Your job is to provide inane banter relating to a batter or pitcher's mindset in a given situation and cliche-laced puff pieces distracting from the 100 loss certainty.

In my experience, even widely acknowledged homers like the Remdog or Michael Kay abstain from the first person plural. Look at the photo above. Vin Scully has been an employee/broadcaster of the Los Angeles Dodgers for SIXTY YEARS and to him; they're still "the Dodgers."

You can and should learn from Vin, Rob. Everyone could. Syracuse and other high profile broadcasting schools should issue WWVSD bracelets to each graduate. I appreciate the need to invigorate and emotionally invest a flagging fan base around a moribund franchise, but please remove yourself from the action. The Nats already have a flash in the pan righthander in their bullpen. Even a team this haphazardly assembled wouldn't see the need for another.

haimdodgers.jpgDuring this most surprising of April's; with first places around the league occupied by darkhorses, out of nowhere surprises, and unstoppable baseball juggernauts, only one established, big name team is playing the kind of baseball expected of them. The Los Angeles Dodgers are playing excellent baseball, and we'd be foolish to expect that to change any time soon.

In addition to one of history's best right handed bats, the Dodgers have been swatting the ball from every slot in the line up card. They rank in the top five in team OPS and team wOBA, second in team WPA/LI (that's a good thing!), and fifth in plain old runs. Four of their regulars currently feature an OPS over 1. Starting catcher Russell Martin finds himself mired in a deep slump, but is generally regarded as one of the best in the game.

Meanwhile their pitching, already thought to be the strong point of the team, has somehow performed better than expected. Top five in team FIP, ERA, and K/BB while leading the league in WHIP and maintaining a strong but sustainably league-average strand rate of 75%. The giant at the end of their bullpen currently sports a healthy K/BB of 15:1 to accompany his opponent's batting average of .077! Yikes. They also happen to convert balls in play into outs as well as anybody in baseball.

Off all the hot starters, two things work in the Dodgers favor:

  1. Their true talent level is very close to their current high level of play
  2. Their division is terrible.

When asked on the spot to name the worst lineup in baseball, two out of three WoW editors selected NL West teams. Free (of cost and thought) analysis of this caliber should make you feel like you just stole a dead guy's wallet.

The Dodgers will not continue to win 70% of their games, They should win their division quite handily. Hell, managers from within the division seem resigned to the Dodgers taking the title. Worse yet, they're a likable team! Manny, Andre the foodie, Vin fucking Scully, and lithe Clayton Kershaw make this a team worth watching throughout their long, inevitable march to the post season. Hopefully McCourt doesn't realize what he's got and up ticket prices halfway through the year.

Thanks as always to Fangraphs for the statistical backup.

old-knives.jpgHoly Crap! So much went on last night, we should start to sort it out because our legends tell of weapons.

Royals 6, Tigers 1: Zack Greinke, sadly, is no longer made of magic. He gave up a run! Who approved that contract extension? I don't care if it was unearned, he's clearly just another product of the endless Royals hype machine. The now alone-in-first Royals jumped out against young Rick Porcello, allowing their new ace to cruise the rest of the way for his second consecutive complete game. 10 strike outs to 1 walk will get you nowhere young man. The Tigers have already begun spiking Porcello's drinks with PCP and administering shock treatment hoping he can rebound from the edges of sanity as well as Greinke. Pity the poor Indians, so much offense continually going for naught. The even-steven Twins didn't walk a single Indian (they're leading the league in BBs, BtB) and made quick work of the struggling Tribe. Justin Morneau totted and notched the ever-popular RBI groundout. Ribbies are for Mcsandwiches friends.

Philies 7, Marlins 3: Hmm, maybe these Marlins aren't what we made of them? One out away from stopping their 3 game losing skid, the Marlins bullpen blowed up good, walking in a run before Shane Victorino and Chase Utley went Tetra Tot/Insult to Injury Tot back-to-back. Make that 4 loses in row for the Fish and Phantic-shaped shadow in their rearview mirror. If Johan Santana's the only good starter you've got, at least you've got one of the best. Santana struck out 10 in only six innings of work, meaning he had a good seat for Frankie Rodriquez's best efforts to blow the thing. The notoriously pious reliever gave up a home run to a guy named Jesus, I can see how he may have been conflicted. The run that eventually decided the game was pushed across by an 8th inning walk of Carlos Delgado, a factoid that has to be worth some kind of shrimp product.

Blue Jays 14, White Sox 0: Worsening! The Toronto Blue Jays started a cast-off middle reliever, followed him up with a another cast off and a failed first pick overall and all they could do was shut out the high powered White Sox offense. Adam Lind's three dubbles and Alexei Ramirez's case of the dropsies turned this match up of first place teams into a laugher. The White Sox official scorer obviously suffers a form of shell shock, having been brow-beaten by Orlando Cabrera all last season. Though only charged with one error, Ramirez kicked, dropped, punted, and passed the Blue Jays countless extra at-bats and chances last night. The Red Sox and Yankees locked horns once again in Boston, with exciting results! Jason Bay improbably took Mo Rivera deep in the ninth inning to set the stage for Kevin Youkilis. A not particularly well-pitched game dragged the dredges of each bullpen to the surface, with Rob's favorite player sending a blast deep into the night and happy drunks spilling into the streets. Boston's now won 8 in a row and are in second place all by themselves.

Giants 5, Snakes 1: It appears safe to say that Tim Lincecum is back. 8 innings pitched, 12 strike outs, 5 hits and only 2 walks. Not to nitpick, but three of the five hits he allowed were doubles and one came off the bat of the opposing pitcher! I'd be worried Giants fans, he's not out of the woods yet. The surprising Padres continued to surprise; surprising the surprisingly not last placed Pirates in extra innings. Surprisingly, Brian Giles delivered the game-winning hit in the 11th inning and I surprisingly won't draw attention to the fact that he's a wife beating douchebag. Whoops.

In other news, the Mariners won again because the Angels are a wreck, the Dodgers won because they're really good (more later!), and the Cards & Cubs played another tight game with the first place Cards coming out on top. The Cubs bullpen is the new Mets bullpen!

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It's Sunday, there is plenty to do. Find out what's happening as we commute to our computers.

YESTERDAY - If you read yesterday's post you'll realize I can see the future. I know! Going out on limb by selecting Johan Santana pitching in a pitcher's park as my Duel of the Day. Daring! Yovani and Johan did not disappoint, posting nearly identical lines 7 K,5 hit lines over seven innings. The Brewers bullpen blinked first handing the Mets a chance to sweep. Ice cold Braves? Check. God awful Wang? Holy Christ Almighty, that doesn't even begin to describe it. Tim Lincecum proved he was just fine, pitching 8 shutout innings with a tidy 13 strikeouts. Too bad his Giants couldn't muster any offense against Dirty Douse Davis.

Zack Greinke is the future, I said. He is in fact the present! Complete game, 10 strikeout performance will do nicely. Scott Kazmir needs to avoid walks? Allowing 6 of them in 4 innings doesn't sound like a recipe for success OR fine French soup. Jim Thome didn't do much damage from his bed but Carlos Quentin totted and Paul Konerko proved an adequate aging slugger stand-in.

The Cubs got to dance and flog each other on the field for the second day in a row. Jays too! The Washington Nationals are destined to lose games in increasingly tragicomic ways all summer long. I can't wait!

TODAY - Can the very expensive and very worth it so far AJ Burnett stem the tide in New York? The new ballpark still has that new urine scent, but all the blowouts it's hosted makes it look empty a lot. Koji Uehara tries to avoid the Boston broom against Jon Lester. The "rookie" might have a 2-0 record but only one start was worth a damn. Lester is still waiting for his first worthwhile start of the year. Max Scherzer matches up against Randy Johnston so every sportswriter gets to bust out the Cy Young versus Cy Old joke they've been dying to use. Young Rick Porcello makes his second career start against Carlos Silva, who makes his second career start having eaten an entire deer the night before. The Sunday night game pits America's heartland against itself once again. Theodore Roosevelt Lily against Todd Wellenmyer in a match up of guys that get paid to play baseball.

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Because good pitching is fun to watch. Do we have any good timey party match ups today? Yesterday saw lots of walks, runs and crimes against the art of hurling. It seems just yesterday I ate it up, Your yarns were dipped in gold.

Early Afternoon Games The lukewarm Pirates send Ian Snell against the ice-cold Braves and Jo-Jo Reyes. Jordan Schaffer fever has moved from the chest to the sinuses and looks to be clearing up completely. Josh Johnson has been dominant this season, going against former teammate Scott Olsen and his Nats is a great way for that run of play to continue. The Jays and A's start two guys you've never heard of because one of them is a middle reliever and the other is an Oakland A's starter without a face. Duel of the Day pits Johan Santana against Yovanni Gallardo at Kitty Field. That is something I can get behind.

Afternoon Games from outside the EST vacuum The good people at Fox Sports selected the Yankees/Tigers, Dodgers/Rockies and Cubs/Cardinals to sell pickup trucks. Chien-Ming Wang and Fausto Carmona are almost the same guy off to almost the same crappy start. That's not fair, Wang's been God awful, Carmona merely bad. Annoying Canuck Ryan Dempster takes on shockingly effective Kyle Lohse in Chicago while it's Chad Billingsley versus Aaron Cook in LA. Tim Lincecum claims he's okay after a bad start, he gets a chance to prove it today against Doug Davis and the Diamondbacks.

Saturday Night Games of Value Zack Grienke is the future my friends, whether he can tame the Rangers beast remains to be seen. The evening time match up to watch is Scott Kazmir and his Rays against Mark Buehrle and his White Sox. One works quick, throws strikes. One is Scott Kazmir. Kazmir avoided his usual base on balls stumbling block last time out but he was touched for three runs over 6 innings. The White Sock offense isn't what is was in years past, but Carlos Quintin and Jim Thome can still hurt you. Thome can swing that cane of his pretty hard!

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As you can see, the weather allowed me to dig out my glove. In this spirit of rebirth, I say we don't look backward, let us keep our eyes facing forward! Or we can look back at last night and then look forward to today's games!

Fish Don't Lie - The world is the Marlins' oyster, or something more crustacean-child related. The 9-1 Florida Marlins needed an extra frame to get past the lowly Nats; meaning we should asterisk the crap out of their record. John Baker and Cody Ross hit balls over fences but the winning run scored on an infield single. Strange events allowed the Mets to even their record at 5: someone else's bullpen collapsed. Gary Sheffield hit his 500th career home run to tie the game before Luis Castillo won the game in the bottom of the ninth.

Watermen of the Deep - The Mariners are still in first place. Their big offsesason defensive additions have combined to make them the best ball catching squad in baseball. They beat up on the semi-happed Tigers (not quite hapless, still not fully happed) via a 5 run fifth inning. The Tigers record fell to 5-5, do you know what lies in the shadow of the statue? The rest of the AL West is wide open now, as the Angels weren't that good to begin but injuries and tragedies are slowing them to a crawl.

Dodgers, Padres Consolidate Power - The Padres are still in first place also, a much wackier fact than the Mariners factoid. Away from the vast hopelessness of Petco Park, the Padres used the long ball to down the Phillies. "You can do that?" Kevin Towers was overhead asking. The Friars came back from down 7-1 thanks to home runs from Scott Hairston and Nick Hundley before Hairston drove in the winning runs in the eighth inning. The Dodgers got four runs out of the Rockies bullpen to while using their reliefmen to shut the door. Jonathon Broxton notched 4ks out of 5 outs recorded. He throws hard and is great fun to watch.

Red Sox, Orioles Test your Mettle - How does a 10-8 game featuring 13 walks sound? Like a fate worse than death? Correct you are friends. Two brutal starts turned this one into bullpen battle, a Red Sox strong point. 6 shutout innings gave the Sox time to come back and Aubrey Huff's error did the rest of the work. The Yankees registered their first win at Yankee Stadium 2.0. Joba Chamberlain had some control issues that were offset by the Indians "playing baseball" issues. The Yankees hit 4 solo ding dongs because they're all egomaniacal control freaks. Or they had trouble getting on base yesterday. One of those two. The Jays lost but are still in first place, tied for the best run differential in the league. For now.

That's it! Sorry, middle of the country, I have no time for your mediocrity! Jokez! The Royals are awesome, holding the Rangers to three runs and three tater tots which is sadly unsurprising. The Cubs began their assault on Precinct Pujols with some late game Soriano heroics. "Jason Kubel hit for the cycle!" we'd all exclaim if it didn't already happen twice this week. More soon!

Lloyd the Barber photo courtesy of some gossip rag.

Bust out your saxophone everything you hold dear in life. Brian Wilson's not smiling tonight after missing the outside corner against James Loney. Dodgers win 5-4 but the good times start here!

Your Abridged Easter Post

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There is just too much going this weekend. Full slate of baseball games, the Masters, and two families worth of relatives to ignore and insult. Who has the time?? I'll make time dammit, time to highlight yesterday's heroes and today's match ups to watch. It's Easter, and I'm selfless like that.

Saturday's Studs

Roy Halladay: The first place Blue Jays got a typically dominant start out of their ace. 7 innings, 1 run, 7 strikeouts, only 7 base runners. The Jays bullpen made it interesting, but Halladay stood tall during the battle of last year's Cy Young finalists.

Jake Peavy: Peavy was Saturday's king, striking out 10 and pitching into the 9th inning. He didn't walk a soul in leading his Padres to a win, their fourth of the year. 4 wins in April puts the Pads 3 weeks ahead of last year's pace.

CC Sabathia: Another Opening Day starter making good during his second appearance of the year. CC struck out 6 in 7.2 innings, didn't walk a soul and prolonged Hank Steinbrenner's life by at least 5 days.

Albert Pujols: King Dong, Triple Tot - all in a day's work for Albert. This up-and-comer is OPSing 1.443 so far this season, I think he's one to watch.

Hank White: Albert Pujols don't have shit on Henry Blanco; who took Jonathan Sanchez deep twice while catching Peavy's gem. Good for you Henri Blanche, give'em hell.

Alfonso Soriano: He might not have clouted two dingers like some others (Jason Bay, Mike Napoli) but Soriano lead everybody in one thing yesterday: WPA. His two run homer in the ninth brought the Cubbies form behind against the Brewers. Good for you Alfonso, way to make use of that precious leverage.

Today's Sweet Matchups

While most team's aces took make their second starts yesterday; many studs remain to entertain us today.

Lincecum v. Young: The ever-popular "study in contrasts." Tall and fly bally takes on little and strike-outish. The Giants wee ace got knocked around on Opening Day while Chris Young turned in a good start in his first outing.

Santana v. Johnson: The Florida Marlins will not be denied. Coming into this season with equal parts darkhorse and sketpicism; here they are in first place. Johan was underwhelming but effective last time out, but he's a slow starter so we'll give him a break. Josh Johnson was a ground ball and strikeout machine against the Nationals earlier this week, so I'll wait to see what he does against a real team before I pass judgment.

Chamberlain v. Meche: Is Gil Meche a legit ace? He's a pretty good pitcher, if that's worth anything. Joba makes his first start of the year after an excellent spring? If at any point today he retires 16 batters in a row as he did during his final spring start, he'll be okay.

Man the Brooms!

How's looking to sweep the first weekend series of the year? The Yankees, Jays, Orioles, Tigers, Mariners, Braves, Cardinals, and Padres are all poised to pwn. Should be a good day. Watch some afternoon baseball, slip in some Masters (booo Chad Campbell) and enjoy an Easter dinner if that's your thing.

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Can you believe it's the first weekend of the season? Last night's pious games reaffirmed my faith even though you won't let me go home.

LA Angels 6, Red Sox 3: An emotional night in California as the Angels took the field for the first time since Thursday's horrific incident. The team unveiled a large centerfield banner to honor the young pitcher. Beating the Red Sox may seem like small consolation to Adenhart's roommate Jered Weaver, but as they've been saying ad nauseum, the games go on. Seattle's vaunted defense kicked it around Alameda county but the M's still won. Whatever.

Brewers 4, Cubs 3: Ladies and gentleman, the Kevin Gregg era is upon us. Two walks, two hits, and a fielder's choice were all it took to undo Rich Harden's dominant start. The Creampuff-in-waiting struck out 10 brewmasters, giving up only 1 earned run. The Cubs closer controversy starts today, the first day of the rest of Carlos Marmol's life. The season can officially begin now: Mike Hampton took his first loss! Not content with his legacy of poor health, Hampton seems determined to remind us all that he's kinda crappy as well as injury-prone.

Blue Jays 13, Indians 7: The Blue Jays offense worsened the crap out of another Central division foe, this time with a four hour rain delay thrown in for good measure. Major League RBI Leader Adam Lind added four more, including an opposite field home run that gave the Jays a crazy game. Brandon League got the win despite hitting a batter to walk in the tying run, only throwing 2 strikes and generally sucking. Which is why we don't use wins any more kids. The Yankees ruined the reopening of Kaufman Stadium by beating the new Rays 4-1. Nick Swisher continued to swing the bat well, driving in a couple between Henny Youngman routines in the clubhouse. "Evan Longoria's two tots weren't enough to get the Rays past Mark Hendrickson and the O's" is a sentence I didn't think I'd ever write. But here I am, and there the O's are with a winning record.

Rockies 10, Phillies 3: Cole Hamels first start of the year idealy would have come at home on the first day of the year. Instead he took to the rubber in Colorado and get shelled. 7 runs in 3 2/3 innings is no way for a World efffing Champion to start the season friends. Troy Tulowitzki continued his torrid start with a triple and a walk. Sophomore slumps are hard ya'll! The Diamondbacks beat the Dodgers thanks to young Chris Young's breakout game. 3 for 3 with a tot and a double sparked the Snakes in this divisional battle.

That's all for this morning peoples. Enjoy your Easter or Passover and things, just remember to enjoy the bevy of day games today. The AL Cy Young winner takes on Cliff Lee in Cleveland this afternoon, which figures to be quite the battle. We get our first Colon & Livan sightings of the spring; they're sure to see their own shadows, but no word on their toes. Can CC bounce back against the youthful Royals? Jonathon Sanchez's first start of the year against Jake Peavy and the Friars should be one to watch, he's on the cusp of awesomeness. Find those eggs!

Opening Day Perspective

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Baseball's statistical revolution has enhanced and extended the casual fan's understanding and appreciation for the game in immeasurable ways. Some people may not appreciate or understand these new-found "esoteric" figures, others show outright hostility towards this analytical approach, viewing it as joyless and cold. The first game of the year usually serves as a desirable antidote to the pencil pushing and long division. Opening Day brings out the poetry, the cliche and the hyperbole. Every team is tied for first! The grass and fresh and hopes are high! Last year means nothing! This is our year!!

I'm a pretty level-headed guy, one that embraces the stats and analysis like nerds caress Joss Whedon's universes. Until today, when the good people at Baseball Analysts slapped me right in the face. They've taken single game measures like Win Probability Added (the amount any one player contributed to the outcome of each game) and Leverage Index (the degree to which each individual event contributes to the final game outcome) and extended and examined them over the course of an entire season. Championship WPA demonstrates how much each player added to a World Series win at any one time. Championship Leverage measures "the impact of a game on a team's World Series title chances."

The one game playoff between the Twins and White Sox was the single "biggest" game of the year as determined by Championship Leverage. Manny Ramirez's superlative contribution to the Dodgers stretch run and continued playoff excellence represented 11% (!!) of a World Series championship all on his own. Interesting stuff, but it takes an ominous turn.

Author Sky Andrecheck uses this Championship Index to determine the "most important" game of the year for each team. Some scary, scary stuff surfaces. The San Francisco Giants played their most "important" game, the game that was most impactful towards their championship hopes on March 31st. OPENING DAY! In fact, according to their numbers, the Giants, Padres, and Rockies were all playing games that were, for all intents and purposes, meaningless as of APRIL 11th. The Pirates played their highest leveraged game on April 2nd, the Nationals April 3rd. Not just bad teams spent the summer spinning their wheels. The AL West Champion Angels game versus Oakland on July 1st spelled the end of that division chase.

The most frightening aspect of this entire thing? Liakos was right. Right as rain. All the teams he mourned as dead by Memorial Day were indeed deep in the ground. His life support claims were even accurate, with the Blue Jays 86 win season hoping aboard the slow boat to nowhere on May 31th. The Tigers ended up hanging tight in the AL Central, tight enough to make games into July still worthwhile.

The piece is fascinating, please click through for the full extent of their findings. Just try to block it all this information out when you're trying to exit the parking lot after Monday's game.

Sweet sunset picture courtesy of flickr user icopythat

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Opening Day is a day for messages. Teams sends a loud and clear message to their fans, their league-wide opposition, and themselves. Who better to deliver this message in vivid, living colour than the man on the hill? A team's choice for Opening Day hurler conveys more information than all the press conferences, exhibition games, and elaborate marketing smoke-screens ever could.

Choosing the right man to toss Pitch One in anger is essential to warning the rest of the league "it starts bad and gets worse. You're all playing for second." Sending out a strapping bruiser with bad intentions and blazing heat tells your paying customers "Look at this beast on the mound, you're getting a show today friends!" Of course, sending forth a feeble retread or green rookie lets all interested parties know "we're working out some kinds here. Kindly drop some change in the bucket for the bus ride home." Pitchers have been known to beg their way out of Opening Day duty, either due to nerves or advanced cry baby-itis.

So what do this year's Opening Day starters tell us? Is your team arming itself for the holy war or cowering in its subbasement, dreading the coming holy war? Only time and my fact-free analysis know for sure if you're looking at a feast or famine.

National League Central
Chicago Cubs - Carlos Zambrano: Feast
St Louis Cardinals - Adam Wainwright: Fragile Feast
Houston Astros - Roy Oswalt: Feast
Milwaukee Brewers - Jeff Suppan: Fail
Cincinnati Reds - Aaron Harang: Famine
Pittsburgh Pirates - Ian Snell: Famine
American League Central
Chicago White Sox - Mark Buehrle: Discount Feast or Overpriced Famine
Kansas City Royals - Gil Meche: Famine
Detroit Tigers - Justin Verlander: Sporadic Feast
Minnesota Twins - Francisco Liriano: Thanksgiving Feast
Cleveland Indians - Cliff Lee: Feasty/Feastish.
National League East
New York Mets - Johan Santana: Fingers Crossed Feast
Atlanta Braves - Derek Lowe: Feasmine
Philadelphia Phillies - Brett Myers: Moral Famine
Florida Marlins - Ricky Nolasco: Future Feast
Washington Nationals - John Lannan: Famine
American League East
New York Yankees - CC Sabathia: All-You-Can-Eat Feast
Boston Red Sox - Josh Beckett: Greasy Rib Feast
Tampa Bay Rays - James Shields: Optical Famine
Toronto Blue Jays - Roy Halladay: Meast
Baltimore Orioles - Jeremy Guthrie: Famine
National League West
San Francisco Giants - Tim Lincecum: Mr. Feastastic
Los Angeles Dodgers - Hiroki Kuroda: Famine
Arizona Diamondbacks - Brandon Webb: Feast
Colorado Rockies - Aaron Cook: Famine.
San Diego Padres - Jake Peavy: Feast
American League West
LA Angels - Joe Saunders? Feast?
Seattle Mariners - Felix Hernandez: Feast Fit for a King
Texas Rangers - Kevin Millwood: Famine
Oakland A's - Dallas Braden: Unknown Commodity Famine