Monday, October 12, 2009

Bud Selig Can Jump Up My Butt

I had the privilege of going to my first baseball playoff game since I had standing-room tickets for the Orioles and White Sox back when I was a teenager (I've had tickets for other playoff games that ended up going unplayed), and I did something I swore I'd never do: I left a postseason game before it ended. For this I can thank Bud Selig.

As you know, the Rockies-Phillies game didn't start until after 8:00 last night. Game time temperature, depending on who you believe, ranged from 28 to 35, but the cold wasn't really that much of a problem. Everyone was bundled up, and there was as much excitement in the stands as I've ever experienced at a sporting event. Strolling vendors were selling hot cocoa with whipped cream. It wasn't a very well-played game, but it was an exciting one, with lots of back-and-forth momentum, and it was a real thrill to be there.

But between all the walks, and the pitching changes, and the extra TV time between innings, the game just crawled along. The clock ticked past 11:00 sometime in the seventh inning, and I did some quick calculations as to how long we'd be out if we held out till the end. I figured, at that point, that the game would end around midnight, and it would take us about a half hour to get to and out of our parking facility, so we'd be home around 1:00 a.m.

That's just not acceptable. It would be one thing if the game had turned into an extra-inning marathon, but this wasn't the case. I have two boys who needed to be in school today, so after the seventh inning, we decided to cut our losses. We also have tickets for today, which made it easier to leave last night.

But what really grinds my gears about this is that it was so avoidable. As soon as the Dodgers finished their sweep on Saturday, there were three playoff games scheduled for Sunday, with a big gaping hole in the 3:30 Eastern slot. Would it have been so hard, at that point, to announce that the Rox and Phils would play Sunday afternoon? Would it have been so hard to announce that was a possibility at the moment the Dodgers went up two games to zip?

I realize that the whole reason this game was scheduled so late is because there were four games on the schedule for Sunday and they needed to be staggered. But why were there only two games on the schedule for Saturday? If you play them three and three, you don't require one of the games to go past midnight.

We hear all the time that these scheduling foofaraws are the result of doing everything for TV, but the ratings for last night's game had to be horrible anyway. A grand total of one hour of it was on in prime time in Philadelphia. By the time the game ended, the only people watching it would have been in the smallish Denver market - and it was past midnight here, so even that audience couldn't have been that big.

Still and all, it was really thrilling to be there last night, and I don't regret going. I am rather chagrined that we didn't stick it out, but I honestly don't feel responsible for that. Bud Selig and his gang totally screwed this up. I'll be out there this afternoon, and I'm staying till the end, no matter what. I'm not going to let Selig ruin my love of baseball any more than he already has.

Friday, October 9, 2009

Cholly Chooses

When Charlie Manuel brought Joe Blanton in to pitch the sixth inning (then left him in to start the seventh), I assumed that meant that Cholly had decided Blanton would not be starting Game Three, still scheduled to take place tomorrow. Then when Cholly brought in J.A. Happ, who promptly took a Seth Smith liner off his knee, I assumed that meant Happ wouldn't be starting tomorrow either. I guessed we'd be getting Pedro Martinez, which leaves me with mixed feelings. Of course, like all real baseball fans, I love Pedro, but I still want to see the Rockies smack him around.

But now, as Friday dawns, we find out that Cholly still hasn't figured out who his starter is going to be tomorrow. According to the morning paper, he's going to talk about it on the plane ride to Denver.

Exsqueeze me? Good heavens, Manuel, don't you realize that it's kind of important who starts a playoff game for you? Wouldn't you want to have a plan in place starting, oh, sometime around the beginning of the series?

The only thing that would make sense is if Manuel is betting on a snowout tomorrow night, and wants to bring back Cliff Lee on Sunday. This way, no one's feathers are ruffled by not starting after being announced as a starter. But that's a mighty small reward.

I still think we're going to see Pedro in Game Three. Neither Blanton nor Happ pitched a lot yesterday, but you'd still be bringing one of them back on one day's rest. And Happ might be hurt.

I also think we're going to see Game Three on Sunday.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Braun vs. Tulowitzki, Again

Over at Bill James' website, someone asked him about Troy Tulowitzki's ranking in the MVP race, and Bill noted that he'd put Pujols first, then "Hanley in the mix behind Albert, along with Fielder, Braun, Adrian Gonzalez, Chase Utley, Tim Lincecum, and, of course, Elijah Dukes. Tulowitski's a good player, but I can't really see him at that level."

First of all, it's Tulowitzki with a Z, just like Liza. Second of all, Ryan Braun? The two were about as similar as two hitters can be this year: Tulo was ahead by one point of slugging percentage, while Braun had a nine-point edge in OBP. Braun's small advantage there, plus adjusting for the ballparks, leaves the Hebrew Hammer a half-step ahead of Tulo as a hitter. OPS+ sees it as 144-135 in favor of Braun.

But then you've got a good defensive shortstop measured against a bad defensive leftfielder. A nine-point advantage in OPS+ can't come close to making up that difference.

Tulowitzki is not at Braun's level? It seems to me that Tulowitzki was pretty clearly the better player this year.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Phillies 5, Rockies 1

Not a lot to say about a game like this, which is easier to take than a close loss or a blown lead or something like that. It seemed clear from the fifth inning that the Rockies weren't going to win.

A couple of observations:

* The big thing with Cliff Lee is that he didn't walk anyone. The Rockies led the National League in walks this year, by a wide margin, and when they don't draw any walks, their offense is really slowed. Lee leads the Phillies in fewest walks issued, by a wide margin; he allowed 1.1 walks per nine innings while in Philadelphia.

The Phils as a whole don't really walk people either. They were second in the league in fewest walks allowed, behind the Cardinals. Whether this means you might as well leave big walkers like Stewart and Iannetta out of the lineup, or whether it means they need to be in there, I really couldn't tell you.

* Torrealba is really helpless behind the plate, and the Phillies know it. Yes, he threw out one basestealer today, but that was Ryan Howard, who is only slightly faster than Curly Howard, and Ryan looked safe to me. If Yorvit stays behind the plate, the Phils are going to steal them blind.

* Ubaldo would have been in much better shape had those two wind-blown fly balls been caught. But the Rockies would have lost anyway.

Roster Ramblings

There's a small upside to the de la Rosa injury, and that's that Jim Tracy left him off the NLDS roster, opening up room for another pitcher. If de la Rosa had been iffy to make his start, Tracy probably would have brought along Jorge as well as Jason Hammel for insurance, even though Hammel would have been highly unlikely to get into a game.

But with de la Rosa definitely out, Tracy was able to add the 66-year-old Jose Contreras. Contreras has been very good with the Rockies, with a 1.59 ERA in 17 innings. He seems perfectly happy to pitch out of the pen at this stage of his career, and he seems like the kind of wily veteran who can come in and get a couple of outs when needed just before tearing his hamstring.

The odd man out is Josh Fogg, whom Tracy seems to dislike for some reason. I'm not sure why you take Matt Belisle (5.52 ERA this year) over Fogg (3.74), especially considering Fogg is much more versatile and can give you several innings in a blowout or extra-inning game.

Tracy also chose to take Eric Young Jr. over Omar Quintanilla, which is kind of a gutsy move but I'd like it better if I thought EY was actually a good baserunner instead of just being fast. Young ended up being four for eight on stolen base attempts, which is really poor for a guy you're counting on as a pinch-runner. Quintanilla's primary value is that he can play shortstop, but Barmes can fill in for Tulo if anything goes screwy in a game, with Young (or even Ian Stewart) taking second base. And as a lefthanded hitter on a team with a strong lefthanded tilt, Q has no value as a pinch-hitter, even if he could hit.

Jason Giambi made the roster too, of course. It would be fun to see him hit against Brad Lidge.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

The Curse of Jorge's Groin

The redoubtable poster yclept puck over at Baseball Think Factory is reporting that Jorge de la Rosa is out for the National League Divisional Series, a victim of his own groin. This is bad news for a couple of reasons. First of all, it would be nice to have a lefty to throw at Utley, Howard and Ibanez, and this makes the Rockies' rotation completely northpaw.

It also means that Jason Hammel would be pitching Game Four - I assume - at Coors Field, and Hammel had a 5.73 ERA at home this year, as opposed to a sterling 3.13 on the road. Let's hope the Rockies can wrap this thing up in three, like they did two years ago. If not, we could be seeing a lot of Josh Fogg on Sunday night.

Same As It Ever Was, Pt. 2

Wednesday afternoon: Rockies at Philadelphia
Thursday afternoon: Rockies at Philadelphia
Saturday night: Phillies at Rockies

Does this look familiar? I'd be happy with the same results, although I'd be shocked if Franklin Morales gets the start in Game Two.

Dream Weaver

Do these Rockies remind anyone else of Earl Weaver's Orioles? Weaver, especially toward the end of his career, had a squadron of outfielder/DH types that Bill James called "rotating tribesmen," a notion that should be familiar to anyone following the Rockies' outfielders. The only true regular is Brad Hawpe, sort of like Weaver had Ken Singleton, and even Hawpe sits against lefties some. (He'd sit a lot more if the Rockies had more right-hand-hitting outfielders.)

Then you've got:

* Ryan Spilborghs as Gary Roenicke, the righthanded hitter who can play all three positions and has a broad range of offensive skills, although he's not outstanding at any of them. He's also kind of like John Lowenstein, in that both were thought to be Jewish, although Spilly isn't really.

* Dexter Fowler as Al Bumbry, the centerfielder/speedster.

* Carlos Gonzalez as Don Baylor, the speedy youngster expected to grow into his power. Yes, Baylor was really fast when he was younger.

* Seth Smith as Merv Rettenmund, a late bloomer who was just devastating for the 1970-71 O's, with walks, power and a .300 batting average, but then, sadly, fell apart.

Weaver of course was also famous for his low-average power hitters who could draw bunches of walks, meaning he'd have been delighted with the Rockies' pair of .228 hitters, Ian Stewart and Chris Iannetta. He also moved Bobby Grich from shortstop to second base, just like Clint Barmes, although unlike Grich, Barmes couldn't draw a walk if you handed him a pencil and a pad of paper.

Weaver loved his defense too, and these Rockies are quite good at catching the ball. When Stewart is in there, every infielder is solid or better, and only Hawpe is weak in the outfield. Yorvit Torrealba can't throw anyone out, but Weaver never cared about the stolen base anyway.

This kind of defense also helped the Orioles turn journeyman pitchers who can throw strikes into winners. "The only things we can't defend, in my opinion, are walks and a ball hit out of the ballpark," Tracy said in the Post today. Mike Cuellar and Pat Dobson, meet Jason Marquis and Jason Hammel. This means that Ubaldo Jimenez is Jim Palmer, and Aaron Cook is Dave McNally. And Omar Quintanilla is Chico Salmon.

Same As It Ever Was

In 2008, the Rockies won 74 games. This year, Rockies manager Jim Tracy won 74 games. Of course, he was missing for the first 46 games of the season, so he had some catching up to do.