Wednesday, October 29, 2008

MLB: Where Rain Happens

So we finally get the conclusion of Game 5 of the World Series tonight. The game will begin at 8:37 pm EST, despite strong winds and temperatures below 40 degrees. It's an interesting situation that we begin with because the bottom of the 6th will start with Cole Hamels at the plate. Obviously Phillies manager Charlie Manuel will pinch hit. Grant Balfour is technically still on the mound, so we can expect to see Greg Dobbs or Matt Stairs to lead off for the Phillies. Most people are expecting David Price to be called upon in this situation because he can go for multiple innings, but the pitcher's spot is due up 4th for the Rays the next inning, negating Price's ability to cover multiple innings. A double switch is a possibility, but it's unlikely that Rays manager Joe Maddon would want to replace anyone in the top 5 of his batting order.

If Charlie Manuel does indeed pinch-hit either Greg Dobbs or Matt Stairs, my guess is that Maddon will opt to go with J.P. Howell. Howell is a lefty, who can also go more than one inning, but isn't as devestating as Price is. This way, if the Rays go 1-2-3 in the top half of the 7th, Howell can continue on and pitch the bottom of the 7th. But if the Rays do get a man on, Maddon can pinch hit without using up David Price. If he prefers to use a 1-inning only guy, he still has Trever Miller, who was pretty effective against lefties this year as well. The Phillies had the best bullpen ERA this year in the NL, but I think the Rays have the better bullpen in the playoffs due to their depth. Philadelphia has 3 good-to-great relievers in Madson, Romero, and Lidge with Romero being a LOOGY. Tampa Bay has Bradford to get grounders, Balfour who is effective to both sides, but better against righties, Wheeler, Howell, Miller, and Price. This doesn't include Edwin Jackson, because he has been a starter all year, and he's only pitched once this playoffs...not exactly a weapon. The Phillies do have other capable relievers such as Condrey and Eyre. I forgot to mention Chad Durbin as a good reliever in the Philly 'pen, and he deserves mentioning as he had quite a good year. However, this has been his first really good season, and Charlie Manuel has used him to get just 1 out in 2 of the games in this World Series, which doesn't exactly show a ton of confidence. I have to give the edge to the Rays in this respect because of the depth they have from both sides as well as having both groundball and strikeout specialists.

On the other hand, I must give the edge in this half-game to the Phillies simply because they have 12 outs to the Rays 9. It will be interesting to see how it all plays out, and what each manager does as both managers have displayed some pretty poor decision making so far in the series. Hope you get a chance to tune in, as this is a pretty unique situation. I know I'll be watching.

Monday, October 27, 2008

ESPN Titles

There will be no in depth analysis on this topic, but I just have to ask...What is with the titles over at ESPN? Currently on the MLB page, there is "Last-Pitch Effort" and "Phill-ing Good". Could they get any more corny? And it's not just the MLB page, they are constantly updating their main page with puns/plays-on-words. They need to hire someone who can make fitting titles for their articles, not just turning feeling into "Phill-ing". That's something better left for random blogs run by people who have a little too much time on their hands... Oh.

Anyway, come on can do better.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Manny = A-Rod?

There's a report in the New York Post indicating that the Los Angeles Dodgers are offered Manny Ramirez a 2 year contract worth $60 million. This is extremely interesting, because not only is Manny not worth what Alex Rodriguez is, but because of the effects it may have. Ned Colletti, in his short time has been a fan of overpaying for in exchange for less years on a contract, and that is a notion I actually agree with. If we look at just a few examples, Rafael Furcal received $52 million over 3 years, and Jason Schmidt received $47 million over 3 years. These examples couldn't have turned out more differently for Colletti, and unfortunately for him Andruw Jones is heading for Jason Schmidt territory. But at least they only have him for 1 more year...They're stuck overpaying Juan Pierre for the next 3.

The reason I like this strategy, is that as a big payroll team, the Dodgers have the financial depth to make mistakes like these, and as long as they don't tie up money for years to come, I'm fine with taking gambles with a resource that they have plenty of. I wish more clubs followed the lead of the Boston Red Sox, who make smart investments- especially in the draft, and go after the free agents they want. Sometimes they don't work out, i.e. Julio Lugo. But the advantage of being a big market team is that you can afford to make those mistakes. Lugo and Pierre can occupy bench spots while making $9 million a year, and that's ok because Boston and L.A. have the resources to handle that.

What cannot be allowed to happen is clubs talking themselves into playing a Pierre or a Lugo because of their contract. If they're not the best option, you don't play them. You're not going to get your money's worth either way, so you might as well give your team the best chance to win the games and if that involves paying someone $9 million to be a pinch runner/defensive replacement then so be it.

Now, "what does all of this have to do with Manny Ramirez?" you're asking. Well, $30 million annually is just entirely too much to pay Ramirez. He's not worth it even if he tried the whole season, which he won't going to do anyway. But, this is the kind of move that a large market team can make. Overpay financially...not in years, and it's much easier to swallow when the deal goes bad. As long as you know he's not worth $30 million in terms of production, and are cognizant that you are overpaying from the get-go, I am fine with that. It may seem insane, but it's better than tying up future money in a 41 year old Ramirez who will be even further away from being worth whatever he's going to be paid in 2012. Plus, if the deal goes south, he's only on the books for 2 seasons and the only thing you've lost is money. If your primary goal is winning, you'd much rather lose money than years, because ultimately the lost years will cost you more in the long run. Manny is much more likely to be worth closer to a $30 million hitter the next 2 years than he is a $22-25 million hitter in 4 years.

Paying someone too much is one thing, but I think we can all agree that Manny is going to get paid too much no matter where he goes. If I'm a fan of a team, I'd much rather make a 2 year mistake than a 4 year mistake. Word is that this offer is to appease the fans and say that they made an effort to re-sign Manny when everyone knows Boras wants at least 4 years. That may indeed be the case but while Manny isn't worth $25 million a year, much less $30 million, this is the type of risk that large market teams like L.A. should be taking.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

One More Thought

I'd just like to add one more thought on the ALCS. It's about the MVP award, which was given to Matt Garza. Garza pitched brilliantly over two games, including the clinching Game 7, recording a 1.38 era in 13 innings with 14 strikeouts and 6 walks. There is certainly no issue giving the award to Garza as he won both his starts, and pitched fairly dominantly allowing only 8 hits between them. I would however like to point out the performance of B.J. Upton. Upton hit .321 with 4 home runs in the ALCS to go along with 4 walks, 7 strikeouts and 2 stolen bases. Evan Longoria's stats were comparable, with Longoria also hitting 4 homers, but I just want to point out how good Upton has been this whole postseason. He's hit 7 home runs in the postseason, after hitting only 9 during the regular season. He tried to make up for his power outage during the regular season with more stolen bases, but it was a down year after his phenomenal 2007 campaign. This is the B.J. Upton I was hoping we'd see more of this year, and I must say it's a joy to finally watch him hit the ball with authority. I hope that no matter what happens in the World Series, Upton is able to carry this type of performance over to next season because he's a supremely talented player that everyone should have the pleasure of watching- much like a Grady Sizemore. I'm glad many of the Rays are finally getting exposure on a national stage, because it's great to see them get the recognition they deserve after watching them perform so well in obscurity all year.

Monday, October 20, 2008

ALCS in Review Part 2

In this post I'd like to go into a little bit of detail about Game 7. Specifically the later innings after all the excitement (scoring) was done. I was particularly impressed by Joe Maddon's ability to learn from the gaffes he made in Game 5, and how he applied them in Game 7.

I thought he made a mistake going with Garza in the top of the 8th, having already thrown 100+ pitches, but he was smart enough to pull him after he allowed the first batter to reach base. The first reliever he went to was Dan Wheeler, who we know well from the Game 5 meltdown. I was immediately concerned that he was calling upon Wheeler for 6 outs at this point, much like the debacle from 3 nights before. After Wheeler allowed a base hit and recorded an out, Maddon went to the bullpen for J.P. Howell to face David Ortiz. Bringing in a lefty to face Ortiz was a wise decision as he has struggled against lefties to the tune of a .221/.308/.433 line against them in 2008. Howell did his job and got the second out of the inning via a groundout to second. Next, Maddon brought in mid-season acquisition Chad Bradford to face Kevin Youkilis. Youkilis worked a walk, and Maddon went to his possibly unprecedented 5th pitcher of the inning. This move was a stroke of genious and while he may not have had a ton of options, this was definitely his best one. Maddon brought in David Price, the Rays #1 overall pick of one year ago, to pitch to J.D. Drew, the hero of Game 5. Price started him off with a filthy slider over the outside corner, and didn't appeared to be fazed by the pressure of pitching with a World Series Berth on the line. Price then pumped another slider in for a strike, and all of a sudden he had Drew down in an 0-2 hole. He fired high with a 96 mph fastball, and then missed again evening the count at 2-2. This is when he made a pitch that made me a little weak-kneed (yes, I'm that much of a dork): Price tossed a 97 mph fastball at the knees and just cut the outside edge of the plate. It was a thing of beauty, and Drew didn't have a chance of holding up his swing, though I'm not sure it would have mattered if he did.

As the Rays batted in the bottom of the 8th, the TBS cameras panned over to show a shot of the empty Rays bullpen. Maddon was not warming anyone up despite a righty heavy part of the lineup coming up for the Sox. It was a bold move to leave in a rookie in this type of situation, but David Price was used to facing high pressure situations since he had pitched for Vanderbilt and Team USA. And while those experiences paled in comparison to the one he was in right now, Price was more than up to the challenge. Additionally, people had been talking about Price being this years Joba Chamberlain- and this is exactly how Joe Maddon used him. Except Maddon didn't have a Mariano Rivera in his bullpen, so he let Price take center stage. Price allowed the leadoff man on via the walk, but beared down and recorded the next 3 outs and propelled the Rays into the world series.

The Rays are just a phenomenal story, never having posted even a .500 season before this one, and now appearing in the world series, and much credit should be given to the front office for enduring the losing seasons and making small acquisitions while constantly building for the future. Since the new ownership took over, VP of Operations Andrew Friedman has done a great job making low risk acquisitions with high upside, while using the depth in the minors that they built while finishing under .500 for 10 consecutive seasons. Making trades for Edwin Jackson, Dioner Navarro, Jason Bartlett, Matt Garza, Chad Bradford, Gabe Gross, Dan Wheeler and smart signings such as Carlos Pena, Troy Percival, and Eric Hinske. These are just a few of the pieces that Friedman was able to acquire, mostly without much fanfare, yet all of them played an important part of this 2008 Rays season. I'd also like to point out (and agree with) an article that points out that this Rays team is probably going to be the least talented of the next 5 years. Simply incredible what this team could be in a few years, and on such a low payroll, even with arbitration...

ALCS in Review Part 1

Wow. What a series. We finally receive a compelling playoff series in 2008. It was just full of surprising performances, questionable decision making and just all around fun. Most of the fun didn't start until Tampa Bay took a 3-1 lead in the series, although I think they deserve a lot of credit for bouncing back from a series opening loss at home, to take 3 straight to the defending champions. Let's go straight to game 5 though...

Up 7-0 in the 7th inning, after a sterling performance by Scott Kazmir, Manager Joe Maddon called up Grant Balfour. This was an interesting decision to me, because Balfour had been Maddon's go-to reliever in tight situations throughout the playoffs and now he was using him in a 7-0 game. The other thing about this decision is the number of available arms in the Rays' pen for a situation like this. I mean, why include Edwin Jackson on the LCS roster if not for pitching in a blowout? What purpose is he serving, except for coming in to a 7-0 game? Balfour got a couple outs, but could not close out the inning, and ended up with 2 men on, 1 man in, and David Ortiz at the plate. This is where Maddon makes a second baffling decision by leaving Balfour in to face Ortiz. The Rays' have 3 lefties in their pen, and all of them are quite effective against lefty hitters. He could have gone to J.P. Howell, Trever Miller or much-heralded rookie, David Price. Instead he leaves Balfour in to give up a 3-run homer to Ortiz, and let the Red Sox get a little life. The third questionable move of the inning by Maddon was bringing in Dan Wheeler to attempt to get 7 outs. Wheeler is able to escape the 7th, but immediately walked Jason Bay on 4 pitches to start the 8th. The mistake Maddon made was not using Wheeler in the first place, but leaving him in to face J.D. Drew. With another lefty at the plate, Maddon again refused to go to the bullpen, and it cost him this time as well, with Drew homering to bring the Sox within one. After giving up the game-tying run in the 8th, Maddon FINALLY went to a lefty (Howell) in the 9th with Ortiz batting second. Howell was able to get 2 quick outs, but then goldenboy Evan Longoria made a bad throw on a Youkilis grounder, with Youkilis ending up on second base. This is where Maddon makes his final mistake. He walked Jason Bay to get to J.D. Drew. While this make some superficial sense, if we look a little deeper we see that Drew is 4-7 in his career against Howell, and on top of that Jed Lowrie and Kevin Cash were the 2 hitters behind Drew. If anything, don't you pitch carefully to Bay and Drew, and go after Lowrie/Cash if both Bay and Drew get on? It's easy to second guess in retrospect, but I can't help but think that this collapse could have been somewhat easily avoided.

Part 2 will cover game 7, and how Joe Maddon proved himself (at least in my eyes) to be a good manager by learning some valuable lessons from game 5.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008


I just wanted to say that I would comment on the respective LCS series after they have reached their completion. I have many comments on both of them, especially the NLCS, but rather than make snap judgments, I'd like to see what happens before commenting on the goings on within each of them.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Dodgers vs. Phillies

While biding my time before heading to Philadelphia to attend Game 1 of the NLCS (the second post-season experience of my life), I came across an interesting article centered on the Diamond Mind simulation. It is an extremely in-depth simulation, and explained quite well in layman's terms in the article, so I won't try to rehash it here. It's a good article and worth the read anyway. What I found interesting about it is that the Dodgers win in 62% of the simulations. After reading Rob Neyer's blog yesterday, I was fairly convinced that the Phillies were indeed the better team in this series. I still feel that the Phillies are the better team in this series, but this is obviously a closer series than the numbers might indicate, and I think that like the simulations suggest the Dodgers will emerge victorious (there is probably some bias there). One of Neyer's points in yesterday's blog was that the Phillies were hotter than the Dodgers, noting their September records were equal, but the Phillies finished better over their last 16 games. While this may be true it is worth noting that the Dodgers' September run differential was +49 compared to the Phillies' +17.

Today Rob is back discussing the Diamond Mind simulation as well as another article, and he comes to the same conclusion I had after reading his post yesterday. While the Phillies may be a better team, it doesn't make them favored to win this series. The matchup has been examined a ton, and while much has been made of the the Dodgers having low-ball pitchers and the Phillies being low-ball hitters, Neyer addresses this:

"the Dodgers are exceptionally skilled at preventing
home runs, giving up only 123 all season, fewest in the majors. And it's across the board. All three of their top starting pitchers gave up only 13 or 14 homers this year."

This is a great point to make, especially coming off the heels of a series in which the Phillies did much of there damage with the long-ball, and consistently won on the strength of one big inning. The Dodgers also made a roster adjustment today; dropping Takashi Saito and adding Hong-Chih Kuo. This will likely improve their chances in the series as Kuo is devestating to lefties, and has the ability to neutralize the Phillies big duo of Chase Utley and Ryan Howard. He is a bit of a question mark as he has only thrown once in the last month, but Saito was pretty questionable himself coming off of an injury.

Neyer concludes by saying "The Dodgers are the trendy pick and the Phillies are the better team. But sometimes being better isn't good enough." And I couldn't agree more.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Heat of the Moment

Successive song titles used for my posts? As Gov. Sarah Palin would say "You betcha!". Anyway, I was a bit off on the scores, but correct on the picks as both the Red Sox and Rays pulled out series clinching victories on Sunday. What I want to talk about comes about because of what one Angels player said after the Game 4 loss to the Red Sox. Cue Angels Game 1 and 4 starter John Lackey:

"We lost to a team that's not better than us. We are a better team than they are. The last two days, we shouldn't have given up anything."

I was discussing this quote with a friend of mine today, and he said that it was a classless thing for Lackey to say. I don't necessarily dispute this claim, but what I do think is that it's understandable. This is a fierce competitor who just lost to the Red Sox for the third time in five years, and is predictably a bit bitter. He also wasn't completely off base in his comments. The Angels had a 100-win season under their belt, and while you may say that comes against weaker divisional opponents they had also won 8 of 9 against Boston this season. Judging from a larger sample size, i.e. season series and the season as a whole, can you blame Lackey for thinking his team was better?

He is justifiably upset at getting bounced from the playoffs in the Divisional around once again, however he does need to realize that the Angels didn't play better this series. Additionally they had a mediocre run differential (+68 to Boston's +150) working against them. I don't hold anything against John Lackey for voicing his frustration, in fact, I empathize with him and I like that he feels his team should win whenever it takes the field. The only issue is, in this case he was wrong. The Angels weren't the best team, and they did not match up well with a Boston team that looks primed for another run to the World Series. So while it might not have been respectful or dignified, I don't think it's classless so much as misinformed.

Monday, October 6, 2008

It Ends Tonight

Aside from being a comically bad song by The All American Rejects, the title is my prediction for the ALDS tonight. We have two Game 4's taking place after the Angels staved off elimination, defeating the Red Sox 5-4 in 12 innings last night. Tonight is a rematch of the Game 1 starters for both squads as Jon Lester will face off with John Lackey. There will be more at stake than just which way to spell Jon/John is better, as the Angels are once again on the brink of elimination, playing at hostile Fenway Park. Despite almost throwing a no-hitter earlier this year at Fenway, Lackey traditionally has struggled pitching in Boston to the tune of a 6.34 ERA in 44 career innings. Additionally, Jon Lester has been pitching very well the entire season, and especially of late and obviously has no qualms pitching on the big stage as he closed out Game 4 of last year's World Series.

In the early game we have Andy Sonnanstine facing Gavin Floyd as both teams go with their 4th starters. The White Sox have been extremely good at home this year and I think there's a decent chance for them to push this to a fifth game. However, the Rays defense is fantastic and Sonnanstine does a good job pitching to that strength. I think the Rays play this game with a decent amount of desperation, not wanting to go back home the losers of 2 straight games, and manage to close this one out.

You is a game of subtleties, and they can strangle you... Yeah, I am not happy I did that either. It's the end of the day, forgive me. Prediction: 6-2 Red Sox, and 5-3 Rays.

Friday, October 3, 2008

Missed Opportunity

Evan Longoria launched solo home runs on the first two post-season pitches he saw yesterday afternoon, and proceeded to add an rbi single in his third at-bat. One might be asking, what type of missed opportunity is that? The Rays hit the jackpot, didn't they? That they did, and they did a great job of locking up their investment to what is surely going to be a steal of a contract barring injury. Longorio is signed to be with the Rays for 9 seasons (including this one) for a total of around $45 million. If they choose not to exercise his 3 option years, it would be a 6-year pact for a total of $18 million. Having Longoria for a total of $5 million per season is an absolute heist for the Rays and I couldn't give more credit to Andrew Friedman and his staff for having the forsight to lock up such a talented player despite the inherent risk involved.

So, after all that...what is this missed opportunity I allude to? Longoria went 3rd overall in the 2006 draft, behind Luke Hochevar and Greg Reynolds. Neither of these players has been nearly as promising and the top 10 hasn't really panned out as we might have expected. The three best players from that top 10 would have to be Longoria, Tim Lincecum (10th-SF) and Clayton Kershaw (7th-LAD). Brandon Morrow (4th-SEA) was rushed to the big leagues, but still has shown considerable promise, and Andrew Miller (6th-DET) has yet to harness the command and control to make himself a dominant pitcher. I don't completely fault the Royals for taking Hochevar #1 because they were working on a budget, and despite being a Scott Boras client, he was willing to sign for a somewhat reasonable amount ($5.3 million), despite coming off a nasty negotiation with the Dodgers, and pitching in the Independent League with somewhat diminished stuff. I am stunned though that the Rockies didn't take Longoria with the second overall pick. They had just drafted Troy Tulowitzki, also of Long Beach State the previous year, and could have had a dominant hitting and fielding pair on the left side of the infield for the next 6 years if they took Longoria. Instead they opted to continue to try to develop their own pitching by drafting the underachieving Reynolds, who had a low k-rate for someone with his size and stuff. Imagine what the Rockies could be if they were playing with Tulo and Longoria on the left side of the infield.

While the draft is riddled with missed opportunities (look at Ricky Romero going 6th in front of Tulowitzki in 2005) this must be a particularly hard pill to swallow because no one looked at Reynolds as being the better prospect than Longoria, except apparently Colorado. win some and lose some right? After all, Colorado was able to nab Dexter Fowler in the 14th round in 2004...

Carston Charles Sabathia

What more can be said about the guy? He took the mound for the fourth time in 13 days last night, and to what should be no one's surprise, he struggled. His stuff seemed flat, and he labored through the short time he was on the mound. This was epitomized by his nine pitch struggle to put away opposing pitcher Brett Myers. Sabathia is an ultimate team player, and he showed this by willingly taking the ball every four days, and going the whole nine innings when Ned Yost or Dale Sveum didn't trust the bullpen with multi-run leads.

What this resulted in was 3,816 pitches over the course of the regular season for C.C. Sabathia. While there is often an emphasis on an innings limit for young pitchers, there has been some research done that's indicated that a pitch limit might be more effective. 3,000 pitches is often the threshold for pitchers, and for Sabathia to be at almost 4,000 is certainly worrisome. I came across some research a while back (I can't find it as of yet, but will continue looking) that looked at the pitchers who threw 3,000 in a season and what happened to them the following year. I believe a majority of them went to the disabled list at least once the following season. While I understand why Milwaulkee pitched Sabathia the way they did and while I understand Sabbathia doing what his team asked of him, I am tempted to question why the team would ask that of someone. I know they only retain his rights through the end of this season, and that the post-season is important, but we've reached a time when the players ought not to be abused whether a team controls their rights or not.

I just want to say that I stand in awe of what Sabathia has done in his time as a Brewer. Well frankly after his first 4 starts he's been downright unbelievable. His k/bb ratio is an insane 251/59. That does come with 253 innings pitched, which has got to be worrisome for any time looking to throw $20 million + per season for the next 5-6 years. If I were a team acquiring this incredible pitcher, I would absolutely look to scale back his innings next year, because if history has taught us anything, it's that these elbows and shoulders are fragile, and this kind of workload could mean a nasty injury in the near future, and I'd just hate to see that happened to this type of person and pitcher. He's something special that we should be looking to preserve, not push to his breaking point.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Let's Try This LiveBlogging Thing

Let's get this thing started. I have no idea how to do this, but I'm gonna give it my best shot.

9:33- Tony Gwynn tells us the Dodgers are doing everything right on the basis of the one game they've played so far. That's why he gets paid the big bucks folks.

9:36- Apparently all Lou Piniella wants out of Carlos Zambrano is 7 good innings. Way to shoot for the moon Lou.

9:37- Dick Stockton tell us Lou Piniella says that if the Cubs have to go to their bullpen in the 5th inning, they're going home. The game is being played at Wrigley though, so what exactly does this mean?

9:39- We're given the Cubs defense and Jim Edmonds is highlighted for having a Gold Glove. Why is this relevant? He's like 65 now with no range. If anything he's a defensive liability.

9:41- Big Z looks pretty locked in here in the first inning. He K's Ramirez to retire the side, and looks to be dealing. I think taking pitches is the way to go for the Dodgers here...He's an emotional pitcher and can self-destruct at any time, let's see if they channel my advice.

9:44- I really like the techno-twins Slav and Vieter.

9:46- Bad start for Chad Billingsley and the Dodgers. Soriano singles off a slider that caught too much of the plate, and then Martin loses a fastball in the dirt to advance Soriano to second. Can we agree that almost anyone named Chad would be better as a Chaz? Also, how come no one uses Chet as a nickname anymore?

9:50- For the first, but invariably the last I have correctly called a pitch a strike that the umpire called a ball. TBS' strike-zone thing has backed me up.

9:52- Chet Billingsley has struck 2 people out in the inning so far, but has also thrown 3 pitches in the dirt, keeping Russell Martin on his toes. Interesting inning. At least he's keeping it low for the most part.

9:57- Frank TV is like the Scott Boras of television ads. It's annoying as hell, you wish you never heard or saw it again, but according to the numbers it's wildly successful. Go figure.

9:58- Andre Ethier bangs a single to right field to prove that Zambrano is fallible today. And we learn that James Loney does indeed hit to the whole field. Tony Gwynn tells us that that's a good thing. Good thing he's here.

10:02- Matt Kemp watches strike 3 for the first out in the inning. Runners are still on 1st and 3rd. That's a big out because a double play ends the inning with no damage. See? I could be Tony Gwynn.

10:03- Odd play. Mark DeRosa boots the ball, still goes for the double play and the throw pulls Theriot off the bag. Everyone is safe, and the Dodgers lead 1-0.

10:04- Ok, there's something of a conspiracy. Another hard hit grounder, and this time Derek Lee misplays it and everyone is safe with the bases loaded. These kind of things tend to unravel Big Z, and Pitching Coach Larry Rothschild makes a smart decision to try to calm him down.

10:07- Raffy Furcal drops down one of his patented running bunts. Gwynn calls it a "gutsy play" and I'm inclined to agree. Bunting with 2 outs and the bases loaded is a ballsy play, no matter how fast you are.

10:10- Russell Martin hits a bases clearing double, and give the Dodgers a 5 run lead. When Martin is hitting, the Dodgers are a very tough team to beat. Hard not to think that Martin benefited from hitting in front of Manny right there. This is certainly not how anyone thought the first 11 innings of this series would go.

10:12- Ernie Johnson is the focus of some stupid commercial. I only bring this up because I'm happy TBS went out and got him to be the host of the studio show. He really does well on TNT, and I think he's one of the top studio hosts out there. You won't appreciate him til you're stuck with someone bad, trust me.

10:20- Chuck Billingsley strikes out imminent NL ROY winner Geovany Soto with a nasty slider. The Cubs have been biting on that pitch so far this night, and it bodes well that he's saving his curve for another time through the lineup. He should go at least 6 tonight if he keeps this up.

10:24- Zambrano comes back to go 1-2-3. This is big because he's such a volatile pitcher emotionally. While some might say the damage is done, this Cubs lineup can put up runs and this game is by no means over as long as he can keep them in it.

10:30- Chaz shows us his curve to K Fukudome who has just been terrible since May. He's looked fantastic after giving up that single to Soriano. We're told that Zambrano was looked at as much as any other Cubs hitter by the Dodgers pitching staff. He's hit .337 with 4 HR's this year. And he's a switch hitter. Thank you Tom Verducci.

10:33- Billingsley walks Zambrano which causes me to refer to him by last name only. He proceeds to throw the first pitch in the dirt to Soriano, and Martin comes out to calm down Billingsley. Good job by both Martin and Larry Rothschild to calm down their pitchers at the right times.

10:34- Another ball by Billingsley, and Rick Honeycutt decides Martin didn't know what he was talking about and goes out to talk to Chad. The homeplate umpire breaks up the gab session, and we're back to baseball. Soriano pops out, and the pep talk seems to have worked.

10:36- Frank Caliendo looks nothing like Donald Trump.

10:39- Another Frank TV promo. This time he recognizes that there are an obnoxious amount of Frank TV ads, and pokes a little fun at it. This doesn't result in fewer ads or less loathing of Frank. A completely unproductive ad if there ever was one.

10:41- Chet Billingsley comes to bat and he looks like he could borrow some facial hair from Casey Blake. Can't they put their lockers next to each other or something? Someone look into this.

10:42- Billingsley hit a grounder to Aramis Ramirez, and so far the Cubs have errors from their 1st, 2nd and 3rd basemen. This is immediately followed by a single from Furcal, and again even with two outs, these are the type of things that get to Carlos Zambrano. He's at 66 pitches through 3 2/3. This pitch count update is presented by BlackBerry.

10:46- Martin strikes out to end it, but what could have been an easy 4th got extended, and the Cubs are most likely going into their bullpen by the 6th inning for the second straight game. These things matter in 5 game series.

10:47- These Geico Cavemen commercials have really lost some of their edge, but I see nothing wrong with playing some 80's music while 2 dudes wear some sweet leather jackets. Hey, it's not Frank TV, right?

10:51- DLee led off with a single, and Aramis Ramirez immediately hit a tailor-made double play ball, but the ball hit Lee's hand as soon as Dewitt released it, so Ramirez is safe at first. It's been an odd game to say the least.

10:54- This time the double play goes as scheduled with DeRosa hitting into it. Billingsley's been generating ground balls whenever someone has been on base. Good sign for Dodger fans out there.

10:57- The announcers mock Manny's hair and he responds by crushing the ball to dead center. I'm not sure if this was more impressive of the ball he hit off his shoelaces deep into the centerfield stands. It was an inside fastball from Zambrano, and he really just turned on that pitch. It's really incredible what he's done recently. Takashi Saito recently referred to Manny as "a baseball playing festival". What more do you need to know?

11:01- Speaking of Manny, if you haven't read Bill Simmons' article on him that came out today, I recommend you do it now.

11:14- Zambrano nails Casey Blake with a pitch, and I can only assume he's jealous of his beard.

11:17- Zambrano gets the last out of the 6th on a pop up, and I think I'm calling it a night. 6-0 in the 6th, and I've been up since 7 am. All in all I think it was a successful evening for me, despite not lasting the entire game. Sadly I am just not going to be able to stay conscious the entire game. If you bothered to read the last 2 hours of commentary, well- seek help. I'll be back with a post about todays games tomorrows (likely to highlight Longoria and Sabbathia). Thanks for joining me.

One Thought About Last Night

The one thing that struck me as weird about last night's victory for the Dodgers over the Cubs was Joe Torre's use of the bullpen. Or should I say potential use. I understand pulling Lowe after 6 innings, because while he was pitching pretty well, he was by no means dominant, and he was at 94 pitches. Normally I'd throw him out there for the next inning, and if he breezes good, if he struggles pull him- but this move had more to do with game 4 than with how he was doing tonight. Bringing in Cory Wade was a good move, and Wade looked good getting his feet wet with a 2 run cushion.

This was where it got weird for me. The Dodgers have an interesting situation at the back of their bullpen. Takashi Saito, the normal closer is pitching with a torn elbow ligament and hasn't looked the same since returning from the disabled list. Meanwhile, fill-in closer Jonathan Broxton has been pretty dominant over his career, and fared well as a replacement for Saito. Saito is also not available on back-to-back days at this point. So when Broxton came out for the 8th inning with a 4-run lead, I was a little perplexed. I know Torre wouldn't use him for 2 innings in the first game, but why use both Broxton and Saito in the same game? Why show the Cubs both your "shut-down" guys? And why potentially eliminate Saito if he's needed in game 2 with less of a lead? I don't see why Wade couldn't have gone another inning, or someone such as Joe Beimel, or Chan Ho Park couldn't have come on and pitched the 8th to set up Broxton for the 9th. This wasn't even a save situation! It was a 4-run game, and we could see shots of Saito warming up for the 9th inning. There's just absolutely no reason to use your "best" reliever who can't pitch on back-to-back nights to pitch with a 4-run lead. Presumably they already used their second best reliever in Broxton, and exposing your best reliever just doesn't make any sense. Warming him up, I completely understand because he could be needed if another reliever gives up a run or two in the 9th inning, but Torre seemed intent on using him until Russell Martin provided the Dodgers yet another insurance run in the top of the 9th. This brought Greg Maddux out of the bullpen to close game 1 of the series, and despite allowing a hit, he did just that. I personally thank Russell Martin for keeping Saito in the bullpen, and allowing us to watch Maddux pitch in the playoffs, and had been wondering what his role would be this post-season. Overall though, a nice job done by Torre handling the ball game, and it was a good game to watch as well. I look forward to tonight's rematch.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

About That Return

I have been coerced into watching the game elsewhere and being distracted by a lot of people for tonight. I will be liveblogging game 2 starting at 9:30 pm EST on Thursday instead. I swear it will happen people. Have faith.