Sunday, April 25, 2010

Mets vs. Braves

First Inning
The Mets fielders follow Mike Pelfrey onto the playing field, and applause scatters down from the home fans. If the Citi Field crowd seems lacking in enthusiasm for this Sunday Night Baseball matchup, perhaps it's because raindrops are falling as well.

Three thousand miles away, I'm sitting in my recliner fighting off beads of sweat, not because of the expected intensity from tonight's intradivisional competition, but because the late afternoon California sun shines through our apartment windows and turns the living room into a sauna.

From my long distance, high-def, tropical viewpoint, the field looks damp, but not exactly soaked, as Braves leadoff man Melky Cabrera steps into the batters' box. Stadium floodlights are reflected in the moisture on Cabrera's helmet, which features a glossy sheen not unlike a freshly polished bowling ball.

Pelfrey, the Mets' tall right-hander, retires Cabrera on two quick pitches, and sets down the next batter, Martin Prado, without much trouble. So far, so good.

Who but Larry Wayne "Chipper" Jones should step to the plate with two out so get the Atlanta offense moving. Nicked up and aging but menacing as ever when facing the Mets, L-Dub draws a five-pitch walk.

That's fine. Let him on first. He can't run, which he shows by failing to score on a long double to right by the cleanup hitter Brian McCann. Pelfrey walks Troy Glaus to load the bases for Jason Heyward.


Heyward, displaying a tremendous combination of plate coverage and plate discipline, works the count full and the fouls off several pitches before popping up harmlessly to end the Braves' threat in the first.


Having stymied the Braves most talented young hitter, the Mets face off against Atlanta's top young pitcher, Tommy Hanson. Hanson sets down Angel Pagan and overpowers Luis Castillo. So far, so bad.

Jose Reyes bloops a single that falls eight feet in front of left fielder Cabrera, and then wastes little time taking second base off Hanson and McCann. When Jason Bay grounds a ball softly down the third base line, L-Dub shows his age, diving for a ball that a third baseman shouldn't have to, and short-arming his throw way off line. Amid the confusion, Jose Reyes scoots home, and the Mets nab their first run of the game.

Second Inning
ESPN's television broadcasters tonight are Jon Miler, Joe Morgan and Orel Hershiser. Two Hall of Famers and a Cy Young award winner -- hey, not bad.

Hershiser is almost certainly best remembered for that magical 1988 season, when he was not only the Cy Young winner but picked up some other serious hardware as the Dodgers' MVP in both the NLCS against the Mets, and the World Series against the Dodgers (although Orel's postseason brilliance may be forgotten by most fans in lieu of a particularly memorable Kirk Gibson-Dennis Eckersley encounter in Game 1).

Anyway, Hershiser's most famous and longstanding achievement from the '88 season was his streak of pitching 59 consecutive scoreless innings. It just so happens that Mike Pelfrey hasn't allowed a run since his first start of the season, a stretch of 19 innings going into tonight's content.

The streak seems destined to end, though, as Pelfrey has really labored to get through the first two innings, needing 60 pitches. Perhaps the rain can be blamed; I wouldn't say he's been wild, but Pelfrey has walked three through two, which doesn't bode well unless Hanson starts to slip as well.

Pelf works his way through two, though, with the streak intact, and Hanson answers by mowing down the first couple of Mets batters, then farting around with Henry Blanco and walking the punchless backstop.

Joe Morgan freaks out, calling it a sin to walk the No. 8 hitter with two outs, which ordinarily I'd agree with, since you'd love to have the opposing pitcher lead off the following inning. In this case though, bringing Pelfrey to the plate means you're tiring him out even more, and coming off two long innings, the last thing Pelfrey needs if he's already tired is to be digging in for an at bat against Tommy Hanson.

I'm not suggesting Hanson was pitching around Blanco intentionally, but I don't think it was actually that bad a move, all things considered. Maybe credit Bobby Cox for this one? Maybe a savvy Braves beat writer will ask him about it after the game.

For his part, Pelfrey doesn't go down without a fight. After working the count to 2-2, Pelf fouls off three straight Hanson offerings before grounding out to second base to end the inning. Way to go Pelf! I liked his effort. This could be a disastrous next half-inning in the field for him, but he showed me something.

Third Inning
The third inning isn't quite as disastrous as I predicted, as the Braves make three outs with a game-low 16 pitches. More importantly, the scoreless streak stays alive when Heyward comes to bat with men on first and second and one out but grounds a double play ball at Reyes to end the threat.

This makes five runners stranded by Heyward in his first two at bats. I'll take it, but just as John Maine was able to pitch around trouble early in last Sunday night's game against the Cardinals (also the ESPN Sunday Night game), the Mets' good fortune against the Jay Hey Kid can't continue all night long.

In the Mets' half of the third, Luis Castillo breaks for second with one out and Reyes batting, and after Brian McCann's throw sails into center field, Castillo alertly advances to third. Unfortunately, on the next pitch, Reyes' ground ball up the middle -- slowed by the wet infield grass, no doubt -- is gobbled up and amounts to the second out of the inning. Four-five hitters Bay and Wright are unable to plate Castillo, and the Mets fail to capitalize on McCann's error.

After Reyes' failure to drive in Castillo, Joe Morgan criticizes the Mets' new No. 3 batter for not hitting the ball hard up the middle, and characterizes Reyes' at bat as a misstep. Morgan seems to think that the job of a No. 3 hitter is to work the count until he can either hit the ball hard through the infield, or hit the ball deep enough into the outfield for a sacrifice fly. I'm not trying to pick on Joe Morgan, but I think he and I aren't watching the same game.

It's pretty obvious (to me, at least), that the wet grass has helped both teams so far (remember Heyward's inning-ending double play just a few minutes before), and Reyes' ball, which ordinarily would have scooted through for an RBI single, just happened to not be good enough tonight.

If not for the weather, Castillo wouldn't have even been on third base, and might have even been caught stealing. Do you really think McCann would have thrown the ball into center field if it weren't raining?

Also, is there something special about the third spot in the order that dictates a player should be more patient? Moreso than the leadoff spot, even? Ugh, Morgan, you're killing me...

Fourth Inning
I was so caught up trying to articulate my frustration with Joe Morgan that I miss the entire top of the fourth inning. Noticing that the score was still 1-0 heading to commercial, I decide to celebrate Pelfrey's active streak (and cool off) by grabbing a soda and sticking my head in the freezer for a minute.

I get back to the action with one out in the bottom of the inning just in time to see the wet Citi Field grass take away another grounder up the middle. This time the victim is Jeff Francouer. By the time Braves shortstop Yunel Escobar gets to it, Frenchy's ball is almost in shallow right-center field, the batter safely at first.

Even if Escobar hadn't flubbed the transition from glove to hand (a bungle leading to a non-out), Escobar might have been too far away to throw out Francouer anyway, and the play is ruled a "hit." Escobar sure looked pretty stupid on a ball he normally wouldn't have been able to get to anyway, but that's about all the damage the Braves suffer, as Hanson shuts down Blanco and Pelfrey to end the fourth.

Fifth Inning
Martin Prado drives a ball past Francouer in right for a double to lead off, but Pelfrey mans up to fan Chipper on a mean splitter away, and K-Zone treats us viewers to a replay of Jones' flailing two-strike swing. Nice work, Pelfrey. I don't care if he's hurt, old, retired, or dead, it always feels like an accomplishment when the Mets make that bastard Chipper look human.

Midway through his next at bat (facing Brian McCann), Pelfrey crosses the 100-pitch mark for the night, before walking McCann and bringing pitching coach Dan Warthen to the mound for a conference. As Jon Miller notes, ten men have reached base against Pelfrey so far tonight, and even though none have scored against him, this should probably be his last frame.

The high wire dance continues as Pelfrey magically induces a 5-4-3 double play from Troy Glaus. Huzzah! It's officially on!

Streak Watch: 24 innings Completed, 35 Behind Orel (BO).

After the commercial, Orel deftly points out that expectations have changed quickly for Pelfrey; we're not just expecting his outings to last more than five innings, we're also expecting Pelfrey to pitch cleaner innings. I know what he's saying, but I also am expecting Pelfrey to pitch zero innings more tonight. An ESPN camera picks up a lefty warming up in the Mets bullpen, so hopefully this is it for Pelf for tonight.

Pagan makes a quiet out to lead off the inning, and Castillo strokes a single to right. Once again, with Reyes batting, Luis takes second base. Unfortunately, McCann doesn't field the ball well enough to throw the ball into center field this time, so Castillo has to stay at second for now.

As it turns out, Castillo doesn't even get to third base this inning. Reyes chases a Hanson curveball that looks like it may have tagged the dirt five inches in front of the plate (for some reason, I didn't watch the K-Zone replay with quite as much interest as L-Dub's flail-job...) and Bay skies one to Escobar for the third out.

Sixth Inning
Even at first glance, it's clear that Pelfrey's night is over. The new Mets pitcher is a dark skinned lefty, and no sooner does Raul Valdez throws his first pitch of the game than the rapidly increasing rainpour, which has caused puddles to gather around various patches of the infield, leads the umpiring crew to call for the tarp squad.

Dinner time...

Some ninety minutes later
The game hasn't been officially called yet, but it seems like it's all over, and a near-complete game for Pelfrey, who threw all the Mets pitches but one tonight.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Mets vs. Cardinals

The Day After
Sunday Night Baseball's Mets-Cardinals matchup comes on the heels of a 20-inning contest. Without a doubt, my favorite thing about ballgames that go so ridiculously far into extra innings is that once a manager has used his entire bullpen, he has to get creative and put a position player on the mound in a desperate attempt to get outs.

Indeed, last night featured pitching performances from guys who aren't used to competing against major league hitters: Felipe Lopez, St. Louis' utility infielder, pitched a scoreless 18th; Joe Mather, the Cardinals outfielder, pitched two inning and was eventually sacked with the loss; and Fernando Nieve, the Mets setup man who sported an 8.44 ERA going into Saturday's game and whose poor effort in the series opener "earned" him the loss.

While it's nice the Mets were able to hang on for the win, the club's victory last night might end up hurting them in the medium/long term. Specifically, I'm afraid that the bullpen is being used too much. Last night the Mets offense wasted a fine performance by their one and only dependable pitcher, Johan Santana, who tossed seven scoreless frames, and in the process continued to tax a bullpen that has been used more than almost any other in the league.

Fun fact: through 11 games, the only NL team whose starting pitchers have thrown fewer innings than the Mets' starters is the Washington Nationals. Yikes.

It doesn't get any easier for the Mets anytime soon, as the team doesn't have a scheduled off-day until May 23. I'm not saying they should have forfeited or tried to lose last night, I'm just saying, maybe they should have let "Magic Man" Nieve stay in the ballgame until the Cards knocked him out of it, and keep the rest of the pen fresh for the weeks to come.

With that second-guessing of Jerry Manual out of the way, let's move on to tonight's presentation of Sunday Night Baseball on ESPN!

Orel Hershiser points out that Adam Wainwright is the Cardinals' "Ace 1A" behind Chris Carpenter. To illustrate why Wainwright is an ace, Hershiser cites the tall righthander's innings pitchers total: "Out of a possible 18 innings pitched in his starts this season, Wainwright has pitched 15."

I get what Orel's saying, but that's a little deterministic, don't you think? I mean, would you say that Johan Santana pitched seven out of a possible nine innings last night? The starting pitcher doesn't have any control out of what happens once he leaves. Silly Orel.

First Inning
John Maine pitches to contact and the Cardinals make said contact, spraying fly balls all over the new Busch Stadium's outfield. Ryan Ludwick strokes a double to center, and after retiring Albert Pujols on another flyball to center field, Maine gives up a hit to Matt Holliday.

Fortunately, Holliday's knock is fielded by a charging Jeff Francouer, who fires a throw to home plate in time for Rod Barajas to tag out Ludwick, also charging.


I think I'm okay with this pitch-to-contact approach form Maine, even though I'm terrified at the the thought of Pujols and Holliday making contact all day long.

Second Inning
Frank Catalanotto leads off the inning as the Mets' cleanup hitter, and Jeff Francouer follow with a walk. If these two facts aren't enough to signal the coming of the apocalypse, I'm not sure what are.

Through pluck, bloop, and error, the Mets pick up three runs, which is exactly one run more than they were able to scratch out in Saturday's 20-inning affair. You could certainly forgive both teams for failing to display their crispest ball, but the biggest boner of the inning was committed by Wainwright, who didn't even figure into last night's action, and whose attempt at nabbing Angel Pagan off first base ended up sailing into right field, allowing Gary Matthews, Jr. to scamper home to score the third Mets run of the inning.

In the bottom of the frame, John Maine struck out the first two Cardinals batters, including the "Black Sheep" Molina brother (as Bill Simmons has termed Yadier), who caught all twenty innings last night. If I owned Yadier in a fantasy league right now, I would find a way to roster another catcher for the upcoming week.

Once again, Maine gets himself into and out of a jam, striking out Wainwright after allowing Cardinal runners to reach first and third. Maine's been flirting with disaster so far tonight. He threw 28 pitches in this inning and is working hard to stay afloat. His luck can't last the whole game.

Third Inning
Thanks to ESPN, we get to relive the final at bat of the 2006 NLCS, a.k.a. Wainwright vs. Beltran. It's too bad Beltran is on the disabled list and thus not a participant in what has so far amounted to a mini-revenge session against Wainwright. At least his replacement in center field tonight, Angel Pagan (he of the second inning bloop), is doing his part to punish the Cards.

Alex Cora, David Wright, and Catalanotto go down in order (shocking, I know), and in the bottom half of the inning, Maine works the Cardinals hitters a little differently the second time through the order, playing hard to get and walking two batters in the process.

Many of Maine's pitchers are in the dirt; maybe he just doesn't have a feel for his full repertoire this early in the season, maybe he's just over-throwing. Whatever the cause, I continue to be worried about him. Rasmus just misses crushing Maine's first offering, and lines a ball hard to left for the third out of the inning. Manuel really needs Maine to give him at least five innings tonight to give the bullpen a rest (six seems out of the question at this point), and I just hope Maine can survive the test.

Fourth Inning
Wainwright seems to be settling into a nice rhythm, mixing in his good curveball and effortlessly delivering fastballs that dart into the strike zone with authority. In other words, he's pitching with a special level of confidence that comes from facing the Mets.

Adding possible injury to insult, Rod Barajas, the third batter in the inning, is hit by a pitch on his wrist but in an attempt to avoid getting struck turns around for an awkward swinging third strike, and starts toward first base with apparent tears in his eyes, apparently choosing to ignore the home plate umpire's "strike three" signal.

Before the start of the bottom of the fourth, ESPN broadcasters Jon Miller and Joe Morgan grill Mets manager Jerry Manuel about who will be available out of the Mets bullpen tonight. Manuel indicates that only a few of the regular arms (Igarashi, Feliciano, and Takahashi) might be called into battle tonight, "unless we have a chance to win." There ya go, Jerry! Nice confidence!

Meanwhile, John Maine's struggles continue. After issuing a walk to the pitcher (Wainwright), Maine receives a visiting from Mets pitching coach Dan Warthen, while Manuel gets the bullpen ready for the coming implosion. Somehow, Maine pitches out of trouble once again, but something tells me this isn't ending well.

Fifth Inning
Leading off the inning, Pagan gets his second hit of the game and is bunted to second by Maine. Wainwright issues a walk to the apparently fearsome Alex Cora and, facing David Wright with two men aboard, two strikes, and two out, pulls the string on an awesome curve that has Wright bending away in fear, the same pitch (as Jon Miller adroitly notes) that ended the Mets postseason run in 2006. Ugh.

Maine falls behind 3-0 on number two hitter Ryan Ludwick to start the inning before firing off two strikes and getting Ludwick to foul off a couple of offerings. Meanwhile, the ESPN announcers replay Maine's mound conversation with Warthen from last inning, with Maine imploring, "I am throwing my fastball!"

Okay, but his fastball is topping out at 87 MPH right now and he's throwing it way high to Ludwick, which means he's out of gas. After inevitably walking Ludwick, Maine gets Pujols to fly out on the first pitch but then gives up a single up the middle to cleanup hitter Matt Holliday.

This is the first Cardinal groundball of the game that I can remember, which is only appropriate because Maine reverts to his flyball-inducing ways in the next at bat by surrendering a game-tying homerun on a fastball thrown right down the pipe to Colby Rasmus, who had hit Maine hard in the previous at bat.

Maine mercifully retires the next two batters on flyballs to the outfield, but the damage has been done. Great. We got our five innings out of him. Blech.

Eighth Inning
(We skip ahead here, as I had to take an extended break from this game for dinner and a movie with the lady. We pick it up after two relatively uneventful innings, the score still 3-3).

Wainwright fans Jose Reyes and quickly retires Alex Cora (shocker, I know) before getting ahead of David Wright 0-2. Wright doesn't bite on a few superb curveballs by Wainwright but ultimately goes down swinging to end the inning.

Matt Stoner (?) faces the weak side of the Cards' lineup to start off the bottom of the eighth, his third inning of the ballgame. Stoner shuts down shortstop Brendan Ryan but Wainwright, batting for himself in the bottom of the 8th inning (!) strokes a double down the left field line with one out, and Manuel summons the veteran Pedro Feliciano to try to stymie the home offense.

Feliciano battles pinch hitter Felipe Lopez and finally strikes him out on eight pitches for the second out of the inning. Pedro has been with the big league club since 2002, longer than any current Met. In terms of longevity, he is the Albert Pujols of the Mets. No, he's never won an MVP or appeared in an All Star Game, but Feliciano has been a steady, reliable member of the Mets' relief corps for nearly a decade, and while he's a long way from having his uniform number retired by the team, I trust him more than any Mets reliever at this point.

Naturally, Manuel yanks Feliciano. Pedro's replacement, Ryota Igarashi, promptly serves up a first-pitch fastball to Ryan Ludwick, who plates the winning run on a deep fly to left center field. Cardinals win. Ugh.

Friday, April 9, 2010

Bold Prediction: Don't Stop Blevins

Today's Bold Prediction:
Jerry Blevins will not walk any batters in Oakland's weekend series against the Angels.

The A's lefty curveballer walked at least one Mariner batter in each of his three appearances this week, and as a result leads all ML relievers in free passes.

While it's no guarantee that Blevins will even see action this weekend, I think he will reign in it if his number does get called.

Bold Prediction:
The starting pitchers in today's Reds-Cardinals game will have more combined hits, runs, and RBI than the first basemen in the starting lineup."

It was quite an auspicious start to the 2010 season for Bronson Arroyo. Not only did the Reds right-hander knock in a run with his fifth inning bloop single, but he also notched the 1,000th strikeout of his ML career.

Perhaps more pertinent to my prediction, even though Arroyo kept the great Albert Pujols at bay, unfortunately the Reds' own Joey Votto singled twice in the game, so the hitters pushed the pitchers at two combined H/R/RBI total.

2010 Bold Prediction Record: 1-1

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Bold Prediction: Offense out of the Nine-hole

Today's Bold Prediction:
The starting pitchers in today's Reds-Cardinals game will have more combined hits, runs, and RBI than the first basemen in the starting lineup.

Okay, so this may be a little far-fetched; it's no secret St. Louis Cardinals will have the most special hitter on the planet in the lineup today, and Joey Votto's no slouch either.

But for some reason I think Bronson Arroyo (who homered in his first two starts in 2006) and Brad Penny (who batted over .150 in four of the last five seasons) could really shine in today's game at the Great American Ball Park.

Yesterday's Bold Prediction:
Early on in the season, it's typical to see a manager go to the bullpen after five or six innings regardless of how well the starting pitcher may be doing. There are a few reasons for this. in order to avoid risking injury, it's important not to push a hurler too much as he works on building strength. Also, managers want to give their relief pitchers work, since they need to experience regular live action in order to get a feel for their craft.

Through Day 3 of the baseball season, no starting pitcher had pitcher more than seven innings. I thought that would change yesterday, and it did. In fact, two pitchers recorded at least 22 outs: Luke Hochevar of the Royals (23) and Matt Garza (24). Hochevar was very efficient with his pitches, needing only 89 to get through his workload, while Garza's 114 pitches represent the highest pitch count of any starter in this young season.

Bold Prediction Record: 1-0

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Somos Numero Uno!

Thanks to my mom for sharing this article with me. It looks like the Mets opened the season with more foreign-born players than any other team. Cool!

I'm reminded of the
neat infographic at Flip Flop Fly Ball charting the growth of the Latin American and Asian population within MLB (and the unsurprising death of the European population).

Random thoughts:

  • Both the NY Times article and Craig Robinson's timeline show that Dominican-born players outnumber any other international constituency which reminds me just how much I enjoyed the film Sugar, which you don't have to be a baseball fan to enjoy. I'd say the film was a cross between Maria Full of Grace and The Scout. But, you know, way better than that sounds.

  • I'm glad that the Mets have a Canadian on the team. Hopefully the 2010 version of the Mets will be a nicer, friendlier version of the Mets. I plan to celebrate Bay's first homerun as a Met with a Molson, and maybe a hug.

  • The NY Times article also notes, "In four of the past five years, the Mets have led the majors with with the most players born elsewhere." I'm willing to bet that the Mets have also led the major with the most injured players born elsewhere, or anywhere, for that matter...

Bold Prediction: Over 21

Here we are, three days into the young season, and no pitcher has recorded more than 21 outs in a game. Eight hurlers have pitched exactly seven innings. They are: Dallas Braden, Mark Buehrle, Scott Feldman, Yovani Gallardo, Roy Halladay, Dan Haren, Tim Lincecum, and Shawn Marcum.

My bold prediction for today is that at least one pitcher will record more than 21 outs. That's right folks, you heard it hear first: At the end of the day we will have a new innings pitched leader in Major League Baseball!

ZWL Tracker: 1-0

One game into the 2010 season, Zito sports a 1-0 record no matter how you slice it, which is good, because most fans still aren't hip to the Zito Win method of performance evaluation. The Giants and their fans might expect Zito to toss six innings of one-run ball every time out, but if last night's success proves to be an aberration, I'll be tracking his ZWL record all season long in this space, and everyone is welcome to enjoy this revisionist exercise along with me!

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Introducing The Zito Win

Sometime during the 2008 season, my friend Nick and I were one of many thousands of Bay Area baseball fans horrified, violated, and generally non-plussed by the downright pathetic performance of Giants pitcher Barry Zito.

No matter where you turned, Zito jokes abounded, and with good reason: during a twenty-game stretch the previous season, the lefty had won only three games, and was even relegated to the bullpen one time (albeit, only for an inning). As frustrated as Giants fans had become during the Zito Experience, each poor outing he turned in led to a fresh layer of disappointment. Die-hards cursed the man and even casual fans seemed to pick up on the stench of disaster that accompanied every Zito start.

Meanwhile, more realistic fans like me and Nick began to realize that it was no longer fair to expect Zito to rediscover the magic that led to his then-record $126 million, seven-year payout. The Good Zito wasn't coming back, and if we were going to survive the remaining five-plus years on Bad Zito's contract without suffering massive cranial leakage, we all needed to shift our already-low expectations.

One night at AT&T Park, Nick and I observed the train wreck in person. Trying to scavenge for something constructive, we brainstormed various ways we could help salvage Zito's career by looking at the results of his "performance" from a non-traditional viewpoint. Much in the same that way that a rehabbing ace pitches against collegiate or low-minors batters to build up strength and confidence on his path to recovery, even a pitcher barely hanging on to his job like Zito will look like an All-Star if we lower the bar sufficiently.

Like Alexander Cartwright and Bill James before us, that night we invented the Zito Win.

When trying to evaluate a starting pitcher's success rate, it's not uncommon to look at his win-loss record. It's not a perfect metric by any means, but in Zito's case, through his first season and a half, his W-L record stood at 14-25. This was a terrible record, and certainly reflective of Zito's dismal performance, but somehow it just didn't seem to do him justice, and here's why:

If you listen to baseball broadcasts on TV or on the radio, you'll hear the color commentator celebrate a pitcher because his team has a high winning percentage in games started by that pitcher --- "He gives his team a chance to win every time he goes out." Well, through 2007 and the first part of 2008, Barry Zito certainly hadn't given the Giants a chance to win every night, but when the Giants did win, he must had something to do with it, right?

How to earn a Zito Win, Method #1:
If your team wins and you were the starter, you get the win.

Another expression we've all heard baseball announcers say is that a pitcher's done his job if he "keeps his team in the game." Different teams score different amount of runs, and the Quality Start metric tracks a pitcher's ability to complete six innings while allowing three runs or fewer. Nick and I decided that Zito needed a little more rope than that, though, because he'd been struggling so much. Besides, "quality" isn't an adjective, anyway, so we felt it was okay to re-write the definition a little bit:

How to earn a Zito Win, Method #2:
If you pitch at least give innings, and give up no more than five runs, you get the win.

Barry Zito may not have been performing up to the All-Star standards the Giants were paying him to, but by our Zito Win method, he had a real chance to succeed game in, game out. We figured that if Zito heard about this metric he might feel good about himself and start to turn things around. Maybe he heard us that night, and maybe he didn't. But one thing's for sure: Barry Zito has one heck of a ZW-L record:

2007 2008 2009 Total
Original WL 11-13 10-17 10-13 31-43
Zito WL 24-9 25-7 27-6 76-22

Even with my terrible HTML layout skills, it's plain to see that we're looking at a pretty special few seasons as as long as we're measuring Zito this way. All of the team's wins became Zito Wins, and many of the other games that were originally no-decisions or losses become Zito Wins as well because of the pitcher's sub-9.00 ERA, or ZERA.

Tonight Barry Zito makes his first start of the season for the Giants, against an Astros lineup that doesn't have a lot of thunder. I think I smell a Zito Win.

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Yanks vs. Red Sox, Game 1

Pre-Game Notes:

ESPN's pre-game team for the Yanks-Red Sox opening night broadcast: Karl Ravech, Bobby Valentine, John Kruk, Nomar Garciaparra, and... Curt Schilling.

After narrating a series of Curt-sucking highlighting, Ravech asks Schilling if he'd rather be on the field than behind the mic and Schilling coldly shoots him down: "I have no desire to put that uniform on right now." Geez Curt, was it really that bad? Can you at least pretend that it gave you joy to be a major leaguer?

For what seems like an eternity, Schilling explains the importance of throwing first-pitch strikes and getting ahead of the hitter. Schilling reels off statistic after statistic after statistic, tripping over his own words and completely losing 80% of ESPN's audience in the process. If Schilling is supposed to be the missing piece of the broadcast team that makes us forget Peter Gammons is gone, it isn't working.

Inexplicably, Dr. Dre and Lebron James join Ravech on the field to plus Beats by Dre and talk about the importance of music for professional athletes. Ravech to LeBron: "Are you naked as an athlete without music in your ear?" Good thing Greg Oden wasn't in town. That would have been awkward.

Game Notes:

  • Orel Hershiser did well as the third man in the booth alongside Jon Miller and Joe Morgan. He wasn't afraid to criticize either the players --- after Granderson's homerun: "Beckett is getting lulled to sleep thinking his fastball is better than it is." Ouch. --- or the umpires --- "Joe West's strike zone can be the size of a postage stamp." --- and I felt I really learned something by listening to Orel.

  • Kevin Youkilis got the first Jewish hit of the season, as well as the first Jewish run of the season. If we set the over/under on number of Jewish All Stars this year at 1.5, I'm taking the over. Youkilis and Ryan Braun are money in the bank

  • My girlfriend Courtlyn, who is not a baseball fan, on Derek Jeter's squinty-eyed approach at the playe: "This guy looks stoned"

  • Courtlyn on J.D. Drew: "I used to really like the name 'Drew' for a girl, and Sophie."

  • Something I want to verify by reading blogs today: According to Jon Morgan, Mike Lowell got the biggest ovation from any player not in the starting lineup.

Keeping Them Honest: Mitch Willians

On the MLB Network's "30 Clubs in 30 Days" preview show about the Phillies, the Wild Thing proclaimed that new Philly second baseman Placido Polanco is "the best two-hole hitter in the game," and projected that when Polanco comes to the plate and Jimmy Rollins is on first base, Rollins will end up in scoring position 80 percent of the time.

Let's see how that works out.