Oswalt & The Astros

May 24, 2010

Houston Astros pitcher Roy Oswalt:

“I just kind of asked as an option, and what [the Astros] were thinking as far as which direction they’re going, do they plan to get young, or try to get some more players, or what direction are they going? They didn’t really have an answer for what they were going to do right now. I still don’t want people to think I’m leaving because we’re not doing well right now. The reason is I don’t have much of a window left to play, and I want another shot at winning.”

There are two reasons this quote is amazing:

  1. Assuming Oswalt is telling the truth – and there’s no reason to doubt that he is – this confirms what most already suspected: that the Astros have no idea what they’re doing. Most intelligent folks would agree that the best course of action for the franchise is to identify the players on the 40-man roster that could help them win in, say, 2015, trade as many extraneous veterans as they can for whatever prospects they can get, and pour more money into the farm system. It’s the classic rebuilding project, and it’s exactly what they should be doing. But if the Astros are still really and truly unsure of what the right play is, then that’s a huge indictment of the organization’s leadership at all levels.
  2. The last two sentences are fantastic. Paraphrased: “I’m not interested in leaving because we’re terrible. I’m leaving because I want to win before I retire.” I’m giving Oswalt a hard time, I know, but I really don’t blame him. He’s a baseball player, not a newspaper editor, so his phrasing isn’t all that deft. But he has given the organization 1,864 innings of 3.21 ERA pitching over the last nine years, and hopefully the Astros will do what’s best for all parties: honor Oswalt’s wishes while getting the best package of prospects possible in return.

The Granderson Trade, And Other Thoughts On The Off-Season

December 15, 2009

I suppose it’s about time that I post something here. So much has changed since December 2nd. Tiger Woods’ life and reputation have been irreparably changed. Roy Halladay has been traded. In a move that will surely solve all of the franchise’s problems, the Knicks signed former lottery pick Jonathan Bender. And most importantly, I set a new personal record by riding eight separate trains (in order: 1, 3, 2, 5, R, V, D, C) in one day. It is truly a new world.

Other than my epic day of subway riding, the most pertinent development in the last thirteen days has been the New York Yankees trading for center fielder Curtis Granderson. I found out about this the way I usually find out about important sports news – by my phone buzzing incessantly while I’m at work (my phone darn near broke the day David Ortiz was outed as a steroid user). After personally assuring each and every one of my students that, yes, that is my phone that’s buzzing and yes, I’m aware that it’s a terrible injustice that I can have my phone in school and you can’t, I found a brief moment to read one of the six text messages sitting in my inbox. By chance, I happened to see the one co-founder Keesup sent me, which read something like “[Expletive] you. Seriously? Granderson?” He later sent me the details of the trade, and after much contemplation, I’ve decided that I approve of the Yankees’ decision. Read the rest of this entry »

Wrapping Up My Strongest Predictions From The 2009 MLB Season

October 14, 2009

It has been a hard week. My sixth graders are of the unwavering belief that I exist solely to torment them. I’m down to the final days of my early twenties (or perhaps not, as some think 23 still qualifies). There has been no baseball since Monday. I need cheering up, which is convenient, because I’ve been meaning to write a piece reminding my unsuspecting readers of out how right I was about these predictions. Well, I was on 80% of them. Here’s the long final word on these prognostications, in ascending order of accuracy. Read the rest of this entry »

Like Shooting Fish In A Barrel

July 21, 2009

I’m a little worn down from yesterday’s extra long post and a hectic day at work, so I’ve chosen to produce the easiest bit of content I know: a critique of a Joe Morgan chat. Enjoy these nuggets and – if you’re in New York City – stay dry.

Matt (New Jersey): Hey Joe. Other than Pujols, is there any better 1B than Justin Morneau? What a fantastic player he is…

Joe Morgan: You’re 100% correct, with the exception of Pujols. Justin Morneau for the last 3 years continues to improve. That’s the mark of a great player, that you continue to improve. He’s considered an offensive player as much as anything. He doesn’t run as well as Pujols, but he’s a great hitter. Prince Fielder and Justin Morneau are the future stars at that position, though Pujols is still young.

Justin Morneau was born on May 15th, 1981, making him almost exactly seven months younger than Albert Pujols. I will bet you a popsicle that Joe Morgan thinks Morneau is five years younger than he actually is. Also, I’m pretty sure that Fielder and Morneau’s 1.000ish OPSes make them current stars at the first base position.

Michael (Houston): Do you think the Astros can really do it?

Joe Morgan: Yes. I don’t know what’s the in water there in Houston, but it seems to energize these guys in the second half every year. I thought they could have made the playoffs last year, except for the hurricane that moved those three games from Houston to Milwaukee. I think they can make the run this year.

If Joe Morgan thinks the Astros can make the playoffs, then they aren’t going to make the playoffs. After this anti-endorsement, I’m more confident about this than ever. For more detailed explanations about the Astros forthcoming failure, look here and here.

Matt (Jacksonville): Joe, the Cubs can’t seem to get on a consistent roll. Is there anyway for them to get consistency this year?

Joe Morgan: Last year there was something about the Cubs personality of the team. There was something different. They were a fun team to watch. I enjoyed watching them. I enjoyed talking to them. There just seems to be a different personality of the team this year. In addition, the confidence level has fallen a little bit. The injury to Ramirez set them back. Everyone talked about DeRosa and he’s one of my favorite players, but Jason Marquis is also gone. It’s just a little different now. The answer is, I don’t know if they’ll be able to re-gain that consistency of last year, but they still have a shot at their division.

The Cubs’ mediocre record has nothing to do with a change in team personality. It has everything to do with this:

  • 2008: .354 OBP, .443 SLG, .797 OPS
  • 2009: .323 OBP, .403 SLG, .726 OPS

Their offense has gone from one of the very best in baseball to one of the very worst. But yes, let’s waste an entire paragraph attributing the Cubs’ decline to “a different personality” and not the inability to hit a baseball.

Ben (Lincoln, NE): So Mr. Morgan, are the White Sox legit contenders? Because it seems most analysts still only think the Tigers or Twins have a real shot at the AL Central… and I’m not sure why they ignore the southsiders…

Joe Morgan: I definitely believe the White Sox have a chance. Any time you have Dye, Thome, Ramirez, you have a good team. I don’t know when Carlos Quentin is coming back, but if they can get healthy, I think they definitely have a chance.

Carlos Quentin returned to the White Sox yesterday, as reported by Joe Morgan’s employer. He also played in last night’s game, going 1 for 4 with a single. But that’s okay, I’m sure Morgan’s professional responsibilities don’t include knowing about a 2008 MVP candidate’s recent return from an injury.

Time to grab some dinner, watch Sergio Mitre make his season debut, and wonder why the Yankees refuse to put Phil Hughes into the rotation. Until next time.

Checking In On My Five Strongest Pseudo-Predictions

July 20, 2009

I get much of my material from wrongheaded or outright stupid predictions. Without assertions like this, this, and this, Fan Interference would be reduced to the ramblings of a man with nothing against which to push back. So, since I’ve spent some time lambasting particularly ridiculous augury, it seems only fair that I take an objective look at my five strongest pseudo-predictions for the 2009 Major League Baseball season. Here they are:



In early March, Jayson Stark argued that the Red Sox’ free agent signings did as much to improve their team as the Yankees’ did theirs. As usual, this story was reduced to the tale of the underdog Red Sox (and their $120 million payroll) valiantly persevering in the face of the monolithic Yankees and their infinite resources. My problem with Stark’s argument was his failure to grasp the idea of marginal improvement. At the start of the off-season, the Red Sox had a much stronger team than the Yankees. Therefore, their free agent signings (a fourth outfielder, a fifth starter, a bullpen arm, and more starting pitching depth) were good but only a slight improvement for an already wonderful team. The Yankees, on the other hand, had a flawed team that required serious work in important areas. So they signed C.C. Sabathia, A.J. Burnett, and Mark Teixeira – three of the top five available free agents. These signings represented a significant improvement because of the team’s initial weakness. Stark failed to understand this, making his argument irksome and faulty.

Let’s take a look at how the Red Sox’ signings have performed in the first half of the season. Rocco Baldelli – signed as insurance for J.D. Drew and to hit left-handed pitching – has put up a .282/.358/.471 line in 85 at-bats. These are wonderful numbers for a fourth outfielder, but no one should be surprised that Baldelli has against had some problems staying healthy. Brad Penny was signed to be the team’s fifth starter, but he’s pitched even worse than that. He has a 5.02ERA and a 1.50 WHIP, with pretty good control but floundering stuff (118 hits in 98 innings). Takashi Saito was brought in to shore up the bullpen with an experienced power arm. He has been merely fine, striking out 28 in 30 innings but walking too many batters. Lastly, John Smoltz was supposed to be a late-season boon to the Red Sox rotation. At this point, we simply don’t know if the signing was a good one or not. Smoltz has thrown 20 innings in four starts, producing a 5.40 ERA. It’s just too early to tell. As you can see, the Red Sox imported a solid group of bit players, but nothing warranting emphatic commendation.

The Yankees signed C.C. Sabathia to replace Chien-Ming Wang, who was masquerading as the team’s ace. Sabathia has had an good but not great first half, posting a 3.66 ERA while struggling somewhat with his control. We must consider him a slight disappointment at this point, even if it is early. A.J. Burnett’s 3.81 ERA is deceptive. He’s walked far too many batters, but his ability to strike out batters has kept this number from getting out of control. He’s done what many expected – wild variance between dominating and worthless starts. Mark Teixeira has been wonderful. The durable first baseman has a .280/.381/.551 line with 23 home runs, even with a woeful first month of the season. He has fulfilled the lofty expectations.

There is simply no competition between these two groups of players. The Red Sox signed a group of useful parts that will play relatively minor roles in the team’s race for the pennant. The Yankees signed an elite group of talent that will make or break their attempt to make the postseason. Baldelli, Penny, Saito and Smoltz have been worth roughly two wins so far this season. Sabathia, Burnett, and Teixeira have been worth nine.

Both then and now, you could easily make an argument for Red Sox superiority over the Yankees. But if the debate is about the quality of talent imported during the winter, there is no contest. Stark’s assertion appears just as wrong now as it did then. Read the rest of this entry »

90-Win Season An Absurd Expectation For The Houston Astros

March 26, 2009
Astros Manager Cecil Cooper expects to win 90 games this season.

Astros Manager Cecil Cooper expects to win 90 games this season.

I forget how it happened exactly, but I recently discovered that prominent members of the Houston Astros expect to win 90 games this upcoming season. Manager Cecil Cooper was quite clear about this, saying:

“We should win 90 games . . . I believe we’ll win 90 games, 90-plus.”

Left fielder Carlos Lee:

“If we stay healthy, yeah, we can win 90.”

Star first baseman Lance Berkman:

“I believe that we can win at least 90 games. At least 90. It could be 91 . . . Why wouldn’t we [win 90]? We won 86 last year. I feel like we have a better team this year.”

I’m here to burst Cooper, Lee, and Berkman’s respective bubbles. I’m going to tell you exactly why the Astros won’t sniff 90 wins this season, and why even mentioning that number as a remotely possible goal is ludicrous. “Why wouldn’t we win 90?” Here’s why you won’t, in succinct and ruthless bullet-point format: Read the rest of this entry »