The Cycle: Winless in Philly, Old Farts Arguing, Breaking Tradition but not the Law

Posted: June 27, 2012 in ALL II
Tags: , , , , , ,

Not to be confused with the ever popular “The Cycle” on MSNBC, this “cycle” will cover four stories in baseball that caught my attention over the past week or so.

Single: Cliff Lee has no wins and it’s almost July!

Chika Okafor and I got into a somewhat legitimate debate about pitchers between my man Roy Halladay and his guy Cliff Lee.  I say somewhat ridiculous because the Doc is clearly the better pitcher, a point Chika later conceded, but has been for quite some time.  People tend to forget his wasted days on the Blue Jays that easily drew comparisons to Kevin Garnett on the Timberwolves.  Lee’s development and resurgence was clear as he bounced around the American League to later support a dominant Phillies staff that could not sustain their success due to injury this year.  Injury and poor offense at the worst possible time.  Cliff lee represents the inadequacy of evaluating a pitcher solely on the basis of wins.  Despite having no wins, Lee has an ERA of 3.72 with at least eight quality starts and the Phillies own a scoring average of nearly 4.4 runs per game, at least slightly above the National League average this season.  Sadly, Lee’s starts have coincidently been the times where the Phillies have failed to give him run support.  Thus far, Lee is only getting 3.1 runs per game in his starts.  This includes his 1-0 loss when he pitched ten innings against the Giants and two separate (but not equal) 2-1 losses.  This is not to say the Phillies have lost all the games he started; in fact, the Phillies have three wins in games he started with wins going to relief pitchers usually after strong starts to keep the game close.

This has always been my defense of advanced metric in assessing pitchers, usually ERA+ and other figures where wins and losses don’t tell the complete story.  “King” Felix Hernandez’s Cy Young campaign of two years ago featured a .500 record but top status in nearly every other pitching category of importance.  Sabathia, who had a great season, possessed many more wins but was not as dominant in part to a very powerful Yankees offense.  Look at Yankee’s starter Ivan Nova at 9-2 this season.  Great record but simple digging in a box score/stat sheet reveal at 4.25 ERA and .282 BAA, certainly not All-Star figures.  The difference?  The Yankees, the overall leaders in Home Runs per game, score over six runs per start for Nova which covers up his darn near two home runs given up per start.  Just like with anything else, context matters.  Let this be another indictment of wins/losses being a tad bit more complicated than individual numbers suggest.

Double: Joe Maddon vs. Davey Johnson, the genuine piss fight we needed

Pine tar and baseball has not caused this much of an outrage since George Brett came the closest to killing an umpire that I could remember after being called out for pine tar too high up on the bat after a game winning home run.  Although the principals in this dispute remained calm, shots were fired as Joe Maddon and Davey Johnson differed on Joel Peralta’s pine tarred glove resulting in an eight game suspension which began on June 22.  Davey Johnson, for some reason, suspected Peralta of using pine tar on his glove and naturally asked for the glove to be inspected.  He subsequently was tossed from the game and Major League Baseball suspended him for cheating in some capacity or another with the pine tarred glove.  All is fine with me as rule violators should be tossed and reprimanded until we learn that Peralta previously pitched for the Nationals two years ago and Davey Johnson likely relied on insider information to expose Peralta’s cheating.  And then…manager war of words!

Maddon: Johnson’s actions were “cowardly,” “bush league,” and “bogus”

Johnson: Claimed he would not talk about the issue then started talking about the issue. “”Any time there’s a rule violation, as far as I’m concerned, it’s just a rule violation. My only comment to him is read the rulebook. It’s simple.”

Maddon: “I totally understand that. Davey’s right. I’m incapable of reading the rulebook, and there’s also reading between the lines in some situations that needs to be looked at, too. He’s been around long enough; he knows better than that.”

Johnson: In response to some wise-arse media member who inquired if they would meet in person to settle their media rift: “No, I don’t know him that well, but I thought he was a weird wuss anyway, so no. I understand where he’s coming from. His job as a manager is to protect the players, striking out at whoever is causing your players any grievance.”  After that Johnson took a turn and shot at Maddon’s twitter activity and reputation as someone who is intelligent: “I don’t want to get into a shouting match with Joe. I looked him up on the Internet and found out he is a tweeter, so he can get to more people than me. But it was interesting reading. But you can tell him I have a doctorate of letters, too. Mine’s from Loyola in Humanities, and I’m proud of that, too.”

Maddon: Seemingly more concerned with the intellectual war, Maddon suggested Johnson’s glove checking move was “”an attempt to indicate a higher form of baseball intellect.”

ALL II’s Thoughts:  If they guy was cheating then he is cheating.  Maddon’s assertion that pine tar is commonly used by pitchers appears to be validated throughout the league and with pitchers I have interacted with throughout my years playing and watching the game.  While I respect and love Joe Maddon, his defense that pine tar use – as ubiquitous as Viagra at the local retirement homes – is weak.  He suggests players police themselves which is why this is not a greater issue despite many people using it.  You know the last major issue that players should’ve been policing themselves?  Steroids.  Not exactly apples and oranges but certainly players didn’t exactly check themselves before they wrecked themselves (and the game).  Still, Maddon raises a great point in that players and fans seemed to not care about pine tar on gloves which should mean something.

Johnson, on the other hand, is pretty low for using some old information for something that doesn’t seem like a major issue in the game.  Do I think this will hurt the Nationals from getting future players? Heck no but it will make veterans cautious of what they do while in Washington D.C.  The worst part is the fact that Johnson agrees with Maddon that Peralta should not be suspended.  Uhh, it is against the rules?  You wanted policing.  Now you don’t want all of the policing.  You need to do better, Davey.  Own your baggage.  You called him out, you should know the rules and the penalties for those crimes.  All in all this is a non-story but two old people arguing really sums up why this game is so popular with the kids!

Triple: Four Man Rotation

Colorado Rockies manager Jim Tracy announced the Rockies would move Jeremy Guthrie to the bullpen and begin going with a four man rotation, a pitching model of yesteryear.  Tracy suggested that each started would get a 75 pitch limit thereby distributing more starts to pitchers that, by the numbers, should be better than a fifth starter.  Teams rarely experiment with the non-five man rotation with those that do resulting in limited success.  The obvious question is simple: If intuitively we know taking starts away from the worst pitcher and giving them to four better pitchers should be more beneficial to the team and we know players have higher batting averages the more they see a pitcher in a single game, why does the four pitcher rotation fail?

Looking at the Rockies this season and other teams that tried to return to four pitchers, the answer appears to be that the pitchers on the roster are not good enough.  This is evidenced by some pretty simple figures provided by Sport Illustrated’s Jay Jaffe: “The Rockies’ rotation is downright awful, even beyond the fact that they’re toiling in Coors Field, the game’s least pitcher-friendly environment. Their 6.31 ERA is dead last in baseball, and more than two runs worse than the average starter’s ERA of 4.15. Their 5.19 innings per start is second-to-last; the major league average is 5.96. Rockies starters are delivering quality starts (by definition six or more innings, three or fewer earned runs) just 26 percent of the time, not only the game’s worst rate but also half of the major league average.”

Teams that resort to making fundamental changes with their rotation probably need to make a big change because what they have is not working.  This does not mean that a four man rotation would fail, but it does mean that good teams do not have an incentive to shorten up their staff over a season because, unlike Facebook, if it ain’t broke don’t fix it.  I hope a team does try to move towards the four man rotation especially with pitch counts becoming more significant among younger starters.  Doubt it will happen but with the balance of power back towards pitching, clever teams should look for advantages to maximize their good starters over the course of a long season.

Home Run: Rocket Man Bigger Than Congress and Justice

Not being a legal expert, I turned to the Editor-in-Chief to provide his legal acumen on his beloved former Yankees star.

Thank you prosecutor for once again proving private sector big name attorneys can and will always take down the government. We appreciate your attempt to rectify the wrong doings and cheaters who thought their names were prominent enough too perjure themselves in congress. Clemens had the best lawyer money could buy, Rusty Hardin while the government tripped over themselves at every step. Hardin made it look easy, not because he was brilliant (which he is), but because the prosecution made it really easy during trial for the veteran criminal defense attorney.

Let’s not forget there was an original mistrial ordered by the judge due to the prosecutor playing footage that was deemed inadmissible by the trial judge. That didn’t stop our paid by tax dollars federal prosecutors from continuing to pursue what they called justice, while the evidence was so clearly stacked in the defense’s favor. Brian McNamee, their star witness, changed his story and conjured up evidence seemingly weekly in an attempt to corroborate a story that seemed as though he didn’t even believe. The prosecution did a horrendous job handling their star witness and his wife in the conference room and it was exposed on the stand. Conference room witness Rule #1: No surprises. Treat your witness as with as much thorough questioning as the defense would. Rule #2: Consistency. Urge it; Demand it. Rule #3: Make sure his wife doesn’t have a conflicting story. No, rule #3 doesn’t really exist, but the prosecution has to know that the conflicting story about the syringe was a possibility

The prosecution was too eager to make a statement that they forgot the most important question of all, is there reasonable doubt? Reasonable doubt oozed from the erratic and inconsistent testimony of Brian McNamee and more embarrassing Andy Pettitte. Andy Pettitte, Roger Clemens’ best friend in baseball. I’m sure he has no problem recalling a conversation he had with Roger Clemens saying Clemens used HGH. Oh yeah, he did have a problem with that. The prosecution should have done its due diligence to be more specific in pin pointing when and where this conversation occurred. Not only that to make that story so full-proof that any preliminary questioning the defense put forth could poke a hole in his testimony. Turns out it, Pettitte wasn’t too sure about exactly if that conversation ever took place.

Tax payer money was supposed to be used on getting justice for baseball fans and to ensure the integrity of the game and of Congressional hearings. While baseball did not take much of a hit, Congress and our Federal prosecutors office certainly did. I’m glad to see that justice was served. If the prosecution was able to convict Clemens with this defense, now that would have really been a failure of our justice system.

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