Drew Fairservice: September 2009 Archives

secondbase.jpgIt wasn't long ago that second base was home to slap-hitting wussies known more for their ability to bunt, steal, and execute than any useful offensive skills. Players like Ryne Sandberg and Joseph Pulitzer stood out because they were exceptions to the Jose Lind rule.

Like Texas, everything is bigger in the American League East, though you're likely to put you on death row for jaywalking inside Camden Yards. Over the past week, AL East second sackers have accomplished a wide variety of feats. Brian Roberts set a big league record for doubles in a season by a switch hitter with 55, meaning the rarefied air of 60 is still within his grasp. In the very same game, Aaron Hill knocked his 33 home run of the year before knocking in the game-winning run with a double of his own in the 11th. Hill added his 34 a few days later, putting him within shouting distance of the American League record for second baseman (39).

Reigning AL MVP Dustin Pedroia knocked his 45 double of the season off some kid named Zack Grienke. Yankee second baseman Robinson Cano has 46 doubles of his own to go with his 24 home runs, his most recent driving in the decisive run in a 3-0 Yankees win.

Very quietly in Tampa, Rays defacto second baseman and all around SABR-stud Ben Zobrist sports a season OBP right around .400 and OPS near .920. His excellent (if slightly overrated) defense combines with those gaudy offensive numbers to make Zobrist one of the most valuable players in all of baseball this season.

In other words, unless the pivot on your team has a name that starts with "Ch" and ends with "dozens of South Jersey girls defiled on a weekly basis", the second basemen of the American League East are better than the second basemen of your fair city. They are all stars, in fact. Bright, shining stars.

How bright? Five of the top 8 second basemen in baseball (according to Fangraphs) ply their trade in the division that nuance forgot. 5 true 5 tool studs that are changing the way we think about the what it means to be a middle infielder. It would be a shame if the cacophony of noise surrounding this blustery division swept away 5 truly excellent players all having damn fine seasons.

Image stolen from Save Second Base. Support their fight against breast cancer here

junglepuff.jpgLots of Creampuffs get shut down for the year with varying levels of actual or imagined malady. The injury reports tend to leak out in a less than upfront manner at this time of year, as the swollen roster can take the hits a lot better than these Creampuffs.

I tried to narrow it down to men of importance this week. Unfortunately, the interesting and/or impactful people are all absconded deep in FORTRESS PITTSBURGH so I had to write about baseball players instead.

  • Bobby Jenks, White Sox: The girthiest closer in the American League is out for the year with some sort of leg injury common to fat people. Jenks was spotted in the clubhouse wearing a walking boot usually used to support the ankle or leg, here used to smuggle fudge into the bullpen.

  • Junichi Tazawa, Red Sox: The Japanese Red Sock of least importance was placed on the 60 Day DL with a strained groin Monday. 60 day DL for a groin strain?? Sounds serious. THEY MUST BE HOLDING HIS GROIN MUSCLES TOGETHER WITH CHOPSTICKS. Or they needed to clear a spot on the 40 man roster in September. A baseball-mad nation eventually turns its eyes to you Junichi, just as soon as they've found out what Ichiro thinks about Metal Gear Solid 4.

  • Marco Scutaro, Blue Jays: The surprising contract year shortstop figures to be done for the annum with planter fasciiatis. Or "a tear in the plantar fascia in his right heel." Either the infernal Fieldturf is killing Marco Scutaro or he secretly plays in the NBA. Have you ever seen him and Manu Ginobili in the same room? Italian last names yet hailing from South America? The same elaborate yet lazy alibi for a secret two sport star. Marco Scutaro will work your pitch count as he takes you to the hole.

  • Chipper Jones, Braves: First the groin and now the back. Ol' Chip is wearing down. Too much time in the dear stand, I reckon.

  • Nolan Reimold, Orioles: Rookie of the Year darkhorse rides a pale horse into the offseason after Achilles Tendon surgery. Another disappointment for Orioles fans and players. Reimold should recover in time for Opening Day next where he will join teammates Brian Roberts, Nick Markakis, Matt Weiters, and Adam Jones in futilely pursuing personal goals and accolades.

  • Bruce Chen, Royals: If you have Bruce Chen on your fantasy team, you deserve the worst the world has to offer. Your team can only be in last place of an AL Central Keeper league and your life could charitably be described as shambolic. Seek help now. On a cheerier note: Bruce Chen pitched in the Major Leagues in 2009? Dayton Moore should apply everything I said before to his tenure. You'd have to sign three Zack Greinke's to cover up the mess he made.

  • Numerous Wallabies, Sydney Rapists: Sand-raped by a vengeful God. The wallabies are on notice.
That is about it. Sorry Scott Hairston, you moved from one pitcher's park to another and put up worse numbers. Nobody cares about your ouchy hips.

FoldingWalker.jpgWhen the A's released tarnished slugger Jason Giambi towards the end of August, many tall foreheads and assorted baseball watchers left the big lefty for dead. The stench of performance enhancing steroids hung over the former Giambino and his precipitous offensive drop-off.

While many clucked their tongues and derided the Dan O'Dowd's insurance acquisition as a waste of time, a select group of elite thinkers could see good(ish) things in Giambi's future. That is right; three members of the Walkoff Walk editorial team predicted, with alarming prescience, the resurgence of Jason Giambi: designated walker.

During the August 24th edition of the Walkoff Walk Furious Five Podcast, Rob, Dmac, and myself discussed the potential role for Giambi with the Rockies. Here is a sampling of our quotes on the matter:

  • All that's going to happen is they're going to bring in the lefty reliever and he's going to walk

  • ...is he going to produce any value or is he just going to walk a lot?

  • If he's going to come in and he's going to draw a walk, that's okay especially in the National League.

  • There is always that threat...he can still run into a fastball and then you're behind

And what has Jason Giambi done since joining the Rockies? He's walked. Walked like a retiree before the mall opens. The once lavishly paid slugger has only made 3 starts in September but so far has 7 walks in 22 plate appearances at the big league level, 4 in his 9 pinch hit chances. That is good for a .591 on base percentage and a 31.8% BB rate. He even notched tater tots in back-to-back games this weekend, raising his Rockies' OPS to an alarming 1.458.

Even more alarming? That we idiots three called it. We could see value in Giambi's ability to convert 50% of his pinch hit chances with a modicum of success. I predict we'll each be fielding numerous calls from big league front office's looking to gain the edge of our baseball acumen flying under their respective flags. Don't expect us to come running though. Like Jason Giambi, we'll just walk.

nerdshirt.jpgWelcome to this week's edition of Kicking and Screaming, a Walkoff Walk introduction to Pitch F/x. To say that Mariano Rivera's had a successful career would be, for the first time in Yankee history, an understatement. The long time closer was victimized by a walkoff homer on Friday night for only the 5th time in his career! The list of players to take him deep is hardly illustrious (it features two current Blue Jays!) but a sure-fire Hall of Famer added his name to the tally in Seattle.

The internet's favorite mancrush Ichiro hit the first pitch he saw from the great accumulator of saves deep into the right field bleachers. Did the great Mo Rivera leave a fat cutter up and over the plate? Never! Ichiro did what Ichiro does, he beat a good pitcher by hitting a pitcher's pitch.

Let's use our faithful strikezone plot to examine all the pitches thrown by Mariano Rivera in the fateful ninth inning. The first two batters struck out before Mike Sweeny doubled and our hero jacked the first pitch he saw. Please to enjoy, click to enlarge:


Yup, that is a Rivera special cutter 6 inches off the inside of the plate. Ichiro, who some believe "cheats" by hedging out of the box towards first base, found it right inside his wacky wheelhouse. It wasn't a "bad pitch" in as much as it was identical to every other pitch Rivera has thrown in his big league career: it was a cutter between 92 and 93 miles per hour with about 4 inches of break. Ho hum. Mariano Rivera's average break chart looks like a game of pin the tail on the donkey played unblindfolded by Ms. Rutledge's enriched geometery class. Boring.

This outing showcases Rivera's rare ability to keep the ball out of the middle of the plate. Ichiro hit a pitch that most people can't, which is what makes Rivera successful and Ichiro a damn legend. Those in the know insist the Japanese dynamo has the power to knock 20 home runs a season were he so inclined. I think Mariano Rivera would tend to agree, especially on fastballs everyone in the stadium knows are coming.

Pitch F/X data via the good people at Brooks Baseball.

Just Matty Being Manny

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hollidaycanbrodia.jpg Last year we all marveled and raved over the incredible impact Manny Ramirez made on the Dodgers, and with good reason. The Modern Savant tore the National League up from the time he arrived until the time his Dodgers were ousted at the hands of the Matt Stairs and the Phillies. With much less fan fare, Matt Holliday has come to St Louis and put up very comparable numbers. To wit:

Matt Holliday - 50 games: 216 PA , 68 Hits, 14 2B, 2 3B, 13 HR, 49 RBI, .354/.407/.651 &mdash 1.058 OPS

Manny Ramirez - 53 games: 229 PA, 74 Hits, 14 2B, 0 3B, 17 HR, 53 RBI, .396/.489/.743 &mdash 1.232

Holliday is putting up incredible numbers even after a brief cooling period over the last couple weeks. That Manny was able to sustain his incredible 1.200 OPS pace is testament to the incredible strength of his stretch run.

In the aftermath of Holliday's dramatic (as dramatic as any game versus the 2009 Cubs can be) walkoff homer in last night's game, I started to wonder if Holliday might get any MVP consideration. His numbers aren't as good as Manny's but still very, very strong. After all, Manny Ramirez finished fouth in NL MVP voting last year. Will Holliday get anywhere near that consideration? No. No he will not.

Despite the copious information available to us, I don't think there is a stat to quantify Manny's value to the Dodgers last year. He bolstered a team desperate for offense (this was pre-Matt Kemp breakout) and served as the talisman for an &mdash at times &mdash lethargic fanbase. Matt Holliday is an excellent baseball player who provides an invaluable service: Pujolsproofing.

That Albert Pujols is the runaway favorite for NL MVP will (and should) invalidate any case for Matt Holliday to pick up a few pity votes here and there. That doesn't mean he won't, but when a player's real value is serving as an offensive enabler for tot junkie Pujols, you can't consider him the most valuable player on his own team. Invaluable yes. Most valuable no.

Just yesterday, Dave Cameron of Fangraphs wrote an excellent piece on the folly of labeling Matt Holliday a creation of Coors Field. That he put up strong numbers an American League pitcher's park and superlative numbers in National League pitcher's park. Holliday is going to make some fanbase very happy this offseason as well as being the early favorite for Scott Boras's Most Valuable Contributor to his new Gulfstream fund.

AP photo courtesy of Daylife

Tonight's Questions

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Hey kids, use it or lose it

  • WILL the sparks and fists fly again tonight in the Bronx? Neither Brian Tallet nor Chad Gaudin have much to lose. Except all the awful facial hair.

  • SHOULD we reconsider the Giants as wild card favorites if win again tonight to complete the sweep? They'll only be 1.5 games back, so I'm a little early in my favoritism. Matt Cain goes for the Gigantes, Bret Michaels for the Rocks.

  • IS it okay to not be made of Cuban linx and still appreciate Raekwon's long-awaited follow up? I'm white, Canadian, and born in the 70s. I'm his key demographic.

  • DO you miss the good people of Fire Joe Morgan? They took over Deadspin today and gave that old shop a much-needed injection of life. And "sports discussion", so long as no Red Sox were needled in the process. Note to self: buy stock in Fremulon Insurance.

  • WHATEVER it is you do that allows you to read baseball and human condition blogs while making food metaphors all day, it is certainly not a job your grandfather could have applied for.

  • DOES the release of Bartolo Colon portend doom for Livan Hernandez? The other, big, fat, ageless guy starts tonight for the Nats against the Mighty Phils. Brave Prediction: Jimmy Rollins hits 12 home runs to become the Phifth Phillie with thirty Big Phlys. Records were made to be broken.

That'll do it kids. Thanks for swinging by the glog were the talk of Pavement surpassed the belittling of even Rick Ankiel. Remember folks: defense really, really matters. Doubly so if you prefix it with a #numbersign.

You can't keep a good shrimp down. After a 2 month lay off, we have our second walkoff walk of the week. The glorious Padres grind out a single, a sacrifice, one intentional and two no-way-did-I-just-issue-free-passes-to-Padres old fashioned walks and keep the wildcard race alive for another day. In a cruel twist of fate, I wasn't awake to post it as it happened. Here's your hangover cure.

The NL West: Where Men are Men and Shrimp is Plentiful!
garfield.jpgWhile some of the Deep South's finest red headed creatures spent their summer cheating death and being great, the Braves Tommy Hanson had to settle for mere greatness. The rookie pitcher started well and only improved as the summer progressed.

How good is Tommy Hanson? Consider he's gone at least 5 innings in every single one of his big league starts, save one, a 2+ hour rain delay prematurely ended his day. August saw Hanson's strikeouts creep up while his walks eased down. Over the past 30 days the big Brave struck out over 10 batters per 9 innings while walking fewer than 2 per 9. Add in plenty of ground balls and you've got yourself a ROY candidate.

Whispers of the Braves being slightly asset rich but cash poor could allow the team to move higher priced talent like Javy Vasquez or decline the option on Tim Hudson thanks to excellent cheap, young, pitching like Hanson and Jair Jurrjens. Perhaps they could acquire a bat to bolster their moribund offense.

Even if Hanson can't wrestle Rookie of the Year honors away from J.A. Happ or some other pitcher with a modicum of run support, Braves fans have to be over the moon with the look of their future ace. Though he may look like Roy Halladay, his batted ball profile is a little more of the traditional four pitcher power guy. Either way, Braves fans are making plans and looking toward a Hanson future.

creampuffshirt.jpgA few weeks have passed since our last look at the Creampuffs. The season winds down and the creampuffery heats up. We can only hope none of these injuries are serious enough to keep our heroes from the hunting, fishing, and college football watching they've planned for to the offseason.

  • Cristian Guzman, Nationals: Guzman missed three games this week with bunions on this foot. Some might consider the Nationals a bunion on the foot of baseball, though they get to wear super fancy shoes to offset their pain. Others would say bunions are painful as hell and The Gooze is a real champ for only ducking out of three contests.

  • Carlos Pena, Rays: Carlos Pena will miss the rest of the season with two broken fingers, one shy of his True Outcomes. Too bad Carlos misses out on the chance to finish the season with more home runs than singles, that is just an awesome enough non-feat to piss off any number of crotchety traditionalists.

  • Matt Holliday, Cardinals: The finest deadline acquisition this year left Wednesday's game with a sore left knee. If you listen carefully in the Midwest, you can hear two sounds: one is the sound of Cardinals fans gathering their breath to boo every time Albert Pujols is walked for the duration of Holliday's downtime. The other is the sound of Mark DeRosa realizing he will be counted on to contribute while being semi-puffed himself.

  • Jarrod Washburn, Tigers: Washburn missed a start last weekend with a persistent case of "Dear God, what have we done? Can we send him back??? Damn you Zduriencikkkkkkkkkkk!" He recovered in time to make a middling start against the Royals last night. Consider it a flare up.

  • Tim Lincecum, Giants: Raped by 1000 wallabies making Dazed & Confused references.

  • Adam Jones, Orioles: Jones will miss the rest of the year with a severe ankle sprain. Adam Jones emerged as the lone bright spot for the OriLOLes this season, making his stupid/accidental injury that much tougher to take for Boog Powell's friends. Compared to our next guy, this is the definition of Creampuffery.

  • Chad Qualls, Snakes: This is nearly two weeks old but yeeszus God is it brutal. Full marks to Qualls for chilling on the ground with his wits about him after dislocating his damn kneecap. I'd have choked to death on my own tears before the trainer's shoe touched grass. Creampuff? Not so much.

Ball four to Reynolds and the Snakes win! Snake must never kill shrimp!!!!!!! Stretch those pods son, it's been a while.

This makes three Dodger-related shrimps in 2009! Shrimp of ill omen? I think not.

nerdshirt.jpgWelcome to this week's edition of Kicking and Screaming, a Walkoff Walk introduction to Pitch F/x. While you were guzzling your final summer ales and weeping gently into your white linen pants for the final time in 2009, two of baseball's best pitchers went out and pitched absolute masterpieces. Not only did the former teammates take divergent paths to pitching's near apex, they use quite different approaches in travelling there. Any time two aces throw two one-hitters in the same weekend, we at Walkoff Walk are obliged to take a look.

On the surface, these two games are quite similar. The lines of domination are drawn like so:

Carpenter: 9.0 IP,1 H, 0 R, 2 BB, 10 K, 99 pitches, 11 groundballs, .548 WPA

Halladay: 9.0 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 3 BB, 9 K, 111 pitches, 10 groundballs, .282 WPA

Pretty remarkable on both counts. Carpenter was more efficient (astoundingly so) and gets the WPA bump due to the game's tight score. Halladay received an early two run cushion against the best team in baseball but was just as impressive. Even more so if you acknowledge the team he bested did not send a pitcher to bat nor did it break baseball's number one, most important edict. That said, the Brewers feature an impressive lineup and holding them to one hit is no mean feat. How did they do it? Find out after the jump!

Captain and TennilleYou wouldn't know it by reading this here webpagesite, but Derek Jeter is putting together an incredible year. Rob, the paragon of editorial standards that he is, remains reluctant to flout Jeter's greatness out of fear of turning off every thinking baseball fan from beyond the Tri-state area. Unfortunately for all who love to hate Jeter, we must give him his due: the man is putting together a terrific year.

Jeter's 2009 numbers are indeed sparkling. The Yankee Captaion could finish with an on base percentage over .400 for only the fourth time in his career while playing around league-average shortstop and scoring bunches of runs for the league's best offense. Not bad for a 35 year old who's traveled from overrated and underrated so fast it would make his head spin, were he not so unflappable and professional in his approach.

That his numbers pale in comparison to Joe Mauer in every conceivable way matters not to this growing horde of Jeter supporters, some who use the "lifetime achievement" crutch as a means to reward the often jilted Jeter. Thankfully Rob Neyer of ESPN wants to end that talk here and now:

Baseball's different, though. Award voting is (or should be) mostly objective, with little room for sentiment. Just give the thing to the best player, you know? More to the point, baseball has a Lifetime Achievement Award: it's called the Hall of Fame, and Derek Jeter will be there one day.

Just give the things to the best guys. Mariano Rivera and Derek Jeter are both enjoying wonderful seasons that rank among their very best. Neither of them really are the best guys this year.

It is true, Jeter is having a wonderful season. That he's rebounded in the field to appease the angry SABR meance and their long-running vendetta helps to improve his case. That his team will make the post season means next to nothing when you realize two of his teammates are also frequently mentioned in the MVP discussion.

Despite the growing media uproar, Derek Jeter will not win the MVP in 2009. He will get his lifetime achievement upon induction to Cooperstown, where a long career of near-constant success, tens of millions of dollars, more beautiful women than a mere mortal could even imagine, a fawning fanbase, all the Gatorade he could possibly drink, and a legacy Jesus would envy finally reach their true zenith: a bronze bust in upstate New York.