Unrestricted View

"Lou is not talking about mechanics when he goes out to the mound,"
~Chicago Cubs pitching coach Larry Rothschild

Wednesday, May 31, 2006

MLB Notes

The Astros signing of Roger Clemens has been made official. He is expected to make a couple starts with the Round Rock Express before joining the club. Graham and I live just 25 miles south of Round Rock and are desperatly trying to find out which games he will be pitching. Rocket is scheduled to make his first start with the Astros on June 22 against the Twins. Ironically, just yesterday I purchased tickets for me and my pops to see the Twins on June 21.

I've heard alot of speculation that the real reason Roger sat out the first couple months is that he had tested positive for steroids and given a 50 game suspension. The theory is that with the whole Bonds fiasco already putting a black eye ont he sports, Bud Selig decided to keep this one out of the public, much like the theory that Michael Jordan was suspended by David Stern for a year. To be honest, I hate Clemens as much as I love conspiracy theories. After seeing The DaVinci Code, I'm convinced that not only is the Priory of Sion real, but that Tom Hanks himself is the new Grand Master. But this Clemens conspiracy theory has absolutely no ground on which to stand on. I think it's pretty irresponsible to accuse somebody of taking steroids with little to no evidence.

The Cubs and Rangers swapped Phil Nevin and Jerry Hairston Jr this afternoon. This should give the Cubs a viable (maybe?) 1st baseman until Derrek Lee returns. Graham will have more opinions about that than I would. I'm not sure how this helps the Rangers. Nevin had a $10 million contract, but the Rangers are picking up a portion of it. It's not yet known how much. So maybe it's just a cost cutting move, because I don't know where Hairston is going to play. I suppose it does give them some flexibility in dealing one of the outfielders. We'll have to stay tuned to see if it's just a precursor to another deal.

The Royals fired GM Allan Baird and hired Atlanta's assistant GM Dayton Moore. If you're going to pull an assistant out of an organization Atlanta is the one to do it from. Moore's going to have his work cut out for him though as long as the Royals remain under the same ownership. I can't imagine why anybody would want that job.

Here is an intersting rumor about Alfonso Soriano and the Angels.

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Not So Fast

Yesterday afternoon Newsday reported that the Astros had signed Roger Clemens to a deal that would pay him $3.5 per month for the remainder of the season. Seemingly 15 minutes later that rumor was denied by both the Astros organization and Clemens' agents.

My guess, along with most everybody else's, is that Clemens will indeed return to the Astros but since the deal has not been finalized, the organization is not reporting the news. Within the past few weeks it had been seeming more and more likely that The Rocket was choosing between Houston and Boston if he decided to return. Most people, myself included, would agree that the chances of Clemens coming back to Houston were far greater than the two alternatives. Without jumping to conclusions, it appears we were right.

So assuming the rumors are true, the question now becomes, "How much will Roger help the Astros?" After a good April, the Astros have slipped in the month of May. They currently sit one game above .500 and 3rd place in the division - 6.5 games behind front runner St Louis.(The only team in the division to outscore its opponents this season) It's tough to imagine, all other things equal, that Roger Clemens would be worth 6-7 wins to a team above a replacement players in what will likely be just over 100 games. He did post an 8.9 WARP last year, but that was in 162 games and it's hardly likely he comes close to repeating his 1.87 ERA of that season.

Roger's presence probably won't help the Astros win the Central, but he could make them one of the top Wild Card contenders in what is a weak National League this year.

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Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Eric Gagne Will Return on Thursday

Eric Gagne has successfully made his journey back into Dodger Blue. Well, he will when the team announces his return on Thursday, June 1st. He completed three AAA stints with the Las Vegas 51's, after recording his second consecutive save this Memorial Day. He threw 17 pitches, 11 for strikes, with a K and a hit allowed.

"You've always got to wait for the official word, but I think I get my say in it," Gagne said concerning his return to Chavez Ravine. The Dodgers, at 29-22, could use him ASAP (who couldn't?!) since they are embroiled within the race for first in the NL West, the most competitive division in baseball. Only 3.5 games separate first from fifth, and they're all over .500. And, with Penny freaking out after his last removal and having arm trouble, the LA Ballclub needs all the good news they can get. And Danny Baez's 9/14 in save opps isn't exactly what Jim Tracy was hoping for out of a stopper.

With Nomar (.362/.427/.606, 34 RBI) and Lofton (.315/.379/.431, 11/11 in SB) having outstanding starts to the season, and the Dodger offense leading the NL in OBP, #3 in BA, #1 in Runs Scored and #4 in fewest strikeouts, all they need is Gagne to close out the close ones. Oh, and the pitching staff is already #2 in the NL in ERA, their eight blown saves was one of the only things holding them back (only the Braves and Marlins are worse with 12 and 10 BS respectively). The race in the NL West is about to get a lot tougher.

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Monday, May 29, 2006

Vote For Neifi

In the spirit of our new campaign to get both Neifi Perez and Juan Castro voted into the All Star Game, I present to you the cover of the still unreleased Sports Illustrated.

Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting
Thanks to "wrveres" of Fantasy Baseball Cafe Forums for the picture.

Vote for Neifi and Juan here.

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Sunday, May 28, 2006

Tigers Win Eight Straight

The Detroit Tigers are on a roll. I'm sure all of you are aware of them by now. Just how is Jimmy Leyland getting it done? How did he take a 71-91 '05 team and turn them into the best team in the Major Leagues? I mean, the Tigers haven't had a winning record since 1993. Think the fans in D-town are diggin' it? Hell yeah they are. Not that Jim hasn't done this before. He's also the last guy to put a winner together in Pittsburgh, with three straight Division Championships from 1990-92. Yeah, Pittsburgh actually used to win games. Hard to remember, isn't it?

Now, Leyland has these guys in Detroit believing in themselves. It's not just the tirade he gave a few weeks ago (that Ozzie Guillen tried to do last night, without the class or effectiveness). The Tigers are #4 in MLB in BA, #2 in SLG, #1 in HR, #1 in ERA, #4 in Walks Allowed, #1 in Saves, and #1 in SHO. They're even #10 in FPCT and #2 in DER. These guys aren't faking it, ladies and gentlemen, they're for real. Ozzie has a reason to be worried. I mean, who thought Rogers, Bonderman, Robertson and Verlander were going to be better than the five horses they have at The Cell (at least for now)?

I, being a Cub fan, love to see the underdog get it done. Also, I understand the importance of a manager, since the Cubbies have about the worst one in all of baseball. And I'm not a ChiSox hater, so that's not my motivation. My Bro is a big White Sox fan, and I respect that and the Southsiders in general. They have the same opportunity to build a team as they do on the Northside, but just do it better than the fools in the Ivory Tower. Back to Motown, it's great to see Detroit get off to a good start. It's a long season, for sure, but it looks like the fans in Comerica Park are going to have a lot of fun. Can they stay injury-free and stay on a roll? This baseball fan hopes so.

Now I'm off to watch the Indy 500.


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Saturday, May 27, 2006

Make Your Voice Heard

For years I've been complaining about letting fans vote on the All Star Game. Every year it's a popularity contest. Guys worthy of the honor get shafted and big names who have been hurt all year, ie Nomar Garciaparra, take their place instead. I understand that it's supposed to be an exhibition game for the fans, so why not let the fans decide who particpates? It makes sense. But when The Commish made the insane decision to actually base home field advantage for the World Series on the outcome, the term exhibition became a misnomer.

Now we have fans, many of whom know very little about the game of baseball, deciding which players will compete for their respective league to claim the right to home field advantage in the most important series of the season. In my opinion this is a travesty.

So I propose we have our message heard. We should show MLB how poorly us fans can be of choosing capable players to represent their league.

How do we do this? Simple. The blogosphere is interconnected and has alot of readers. By getting the word out to all the blog readers to vote for a specific, drastically unworthy player into the All Star Game it should be absolutely clear to the league how bad of an idea it is to let fans vote for the participants of such a meaningful game.

Without further ado, here are the two players Unrestricted View deems unworthy enough to make the All Star team.

NL-Neifi Perez(Cubs/2B)- .195/.220/.241

AL-Juan Castro(Twins/SS)- .233/.262/.292

All who read this, please spread the word. Let's make this happen.

Vote Here

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Doing Our Part

Here at Unrestricted View, we feel it is our duty - scratch that - moral obligation to assist a fellow blogger in such a worthy cause.

With that said, I present to you Jay the Joke.

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Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Hello Again Old Friend

It was good to see Mr. Thomas in the Cell for his home coming. He single handedly kept the A’s in the game with 2 big shots. This made me think, since I was one of those fans that were pushing Frank out the door, how do I remember Frank and would I have cheered for an opposing player. The Sox are a much more productive/dangerous team this year even if he did come back. I would have reacted to him coming up to the plate with cheers, until he came up and hit his 2nd long ball. At that point he is an Athletic and I would have booed him just like the crowd. Probably to the point if my Brother was next to me, he would cover my mouth and pull me down, just like when I was haggling the Shooter and New Shooter in a Sweep of the Padres several years back in Wrigley. I will never forget what he did for the Sox but I still say he needed to go. Thanks again Frank for being a Sox.

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Friday, May 19, 2006

Was It Worth It, Russ?

MLB slapped Russ Springer with a 4 game suspension and an undisclosed amount of fine for successfully beaning Barry Bonds once in his five seperate attempts.

I say good. I was at that game and anyone who saw the at bat knows Springer was clearly trying to hit Bonds regardless of what he says. No matter what your opinion of Bonds is there's no place for that kind of vendetta in baseball. After the third pitch that hit Bonds' bat right above the hands, the umpire wouldn't have been out of line to go ahead and give Bonds his base to avoid the inevitable.

The most unfortunate part of the situation was the Houston fans cheering the entire event. I had to double check to make sure I hadn't somehow been transported to Philadelphia through a portal. The sad part about the fans' behavior is that Houston has never been known for rude or vehenemous fans. If anything Houstonians have been too disinterested in the game.

But everytime Bonds visits a new city we see firsthand how fickle and easily instigated our society can be. The fact that fans are giggling and high-fiving each other after every taunt leads me to believe that most of them could give two shits about Bonds' steroid use or Babe Ruth's home run mark. They're just going along with what the others are doing. Well cheering for somebody to get beaned by a 90 mph fast ball is a poor excuse for commrodary if you ask me.

So congratulations Astro fans. You've made the city of Houston look ridiculous. Was it worth it?

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AL Central - Quarter Mark

Today we take a look at the AL Central.

Tigers - Surprise! The Detroit Tigers are MLB's best team at this point in the season. They're currently on pace to win 109 games, so it's usually pretty tough to find a whole lot wrong with a team like that. The offense is going to hit. The only thing that can slow them down is injury to Magglio or Carlos Guillen. Based on their track records that seems almost inevitable.

What's surprised me most about the Tigers is the success the pitching staff has had. I was quite sure that the $8 million per year the club threw at Kenny Rogers was one of the worst signings of the offseason, yet so far he has proven me wrong. Verlander's success has come a bit quicker than expected, although it's not unusual for young pitchers to come out of the gate smoking and cool down after 10-15 starts. (ie Matt Cain, Felix Hernandez, Zake Duke) The Tigers have only 3 pitchers with ERAs above 4 and all of those guys are middle or long relief. You have to assume they can't keep pitching at this rate. Yet I said the same thing about the White Sox last year. So we'll see.

White Sox - Kudos to Kenny Williams for not standing pat with a championship team. Thome is the AL MVP at this point. It's apparent that as long as he's healthy, he's still one of the best hitters in the game. While the pitching carried the team last year, it's the hitting that's winning ball games this year. The White sox rank 3rd among all teams in runs scored.

Their going to need to continue to hit because the dominant pitching staff of last year that supposedly only got better didn't. Garland has been terrible. Garcia has been average. Newly acquired Vasquez has a great K/BB ratio but still sports a 4.22 ERA while pitching against Minnesota, Kansas City, Seattle, and Tampa in 6 of his 8 starts. Until he starts facing real major league lineups on a regular basis, we'll have to withhold judgement on his performance.

Indians - Cleveland is starting to look like the new A's after starting slowly each of the past 3 seasons. The Tribe's young hitter have not dissapointed in scoring a MLB leading 242 runs. Travis Hafner is another MVP candidate. If the 3 best hitters in the AL this year are Hafner, Thome, and Ortiz it will be hard for the sports writers to justify not giving the MVP to a DH. Jhonny Peralta should start hitting a little more but not enough to offset the inevitable fall of Casey Blake, Ben Broussard, and their respective .370 and .388 batting averages.

None of that will matter if the pitching staff doesn't perform to it's capabilities. Cliff Lee has been good although his 4.26 ERA doesn't show it. His peripherals suggest that he's just been a bit unlucky. The return of CC Sabathia will help but the Tribe needs better outings from the entire bullpen, Paul Byrd, and Jake Westbrook if they plan on making this division a 3 team race.

Twins - As a Twins fan it's painful to discuss how awful most of this club has been this season. So I'll focus on the good. Francisco Liriano has finally been inserted into the rotation. Unfortunately it was 8 Kyle Lohse starts too late. Joe Mauer continues to prove the Twins were'nt insane to take him number one overall. Luis Castillo has been as advertised plus some. The bullpen is still one of the best in baseball. And for all of his faults, Justin Morneau is showing the power the Twins have lacked since Kent Hrbek.

And of course, Johan Santana remains head and shoulders above every other pitcher in baseball. His 3.23 ERA is impressive by itself, but it becomes even more so when considering two things. One, he is pitching with the worst defense in the AL according to DER. Two, seven of his nine starts have come against New York, Chicago, Detroit, Cleveland, and Toronto who rank 1,2,3,4, and 7 in the AL in runs scored.

Royals - This team is an absolute joke. They are on pace to win a mere 42 games which would tie them with the 1952 Pirates for 6th worst record of all time. Reggie Sanders 4 home runs lead the team. Only 2 regular players have an OBP over league average. Grudzielanek's .319 BA is the only regular's BA over .274. No Royal starter has an ERA under 4. Three have ERAs above 6. To top it off, Steve Phillips has been rumored as a candidate for the GM position. Yes, the same Steve Phillips that chose Cliff Lee as the best LHP in baseball.

The AL West is on deck.

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Thursday, May 18, 2006

AL East - Quarter Mark

Being the intelligent reader that you are, I'm sure you are well aware of the effects sample size has in sports and baseball in particular. While the passing of every game gives us more reliable information about the teams and players, I've always felt that the quarter mark of the season is the first point in which you can start to see some meaningful statistics.

In attempt to fight the boredom that comes with being out of school and not having money to do anything, I'm going to run through all 6 divisions looking for things we've learned about the 2006 baseball season. First stop - the AL East.

Yankees - NY has been neck and neck with Boston most of the year. The lineup has been as predictably good as the rotation has been predictably bad. Mussina has been the lone bright spot in the rotation thus far. At age 37 he's somehow figured out a way to increase his strikeout rate while lowering his walk rate simultaneously. His .263 BABIP is the lowest of the staff, which suggests he has been a bit "hit lucky" but nothing too drastic. The low strikeout and high walk rates of both Randy Johnson and Mariano Rivera should be something of a concern for the organization. Rivera should be fine, but Johnson is clearly not the pitcher he was of even two years ago.

The strength of this ballclub is the offense, but with Sheffield on the DL and Matsui out for likely 3 months, they have some serious holes in the outfield. Bernie Williams simply is not a productive major leaguer anymore and Bubba Crosby is more suited as a 4th outfielder. Lucky for Yanks, The Boss has deep pockets and will be looking at other options. The bad news is that other than Phillip Hughes, the club doesn't have alot of chips to play with. No amount of mid-level Yankee "prospects" is going to pry Abreu from Philly or Hunter from Minnesota.

Red Sox - Looking at the overall numbers, it's tough to find anything to really criticize. Other than a few key pitchers' inability to keep the ball in the park, nothing really alarms me. I guess the biggest problem facing Boston is the rotation. Schilling and Beckett should be fine, although I don't expect either to dominate. Wakefield is Wakefield - which is nothing more or less than a league average pitcher. But the back of the rotation is quite scary if I'm a Sox fan. Clement is at an age where you can no longer project what he could be and you just have to accept him for what he is - an inconsistent pitcher with control problems.

The offense should still remain in the top 3 of the AL even with the two Alexes (Cora/Gonzalez) wasting every 9th at bat. Lowell has rebounded to his '02-'04 form and seems to be the doubles hitter he was until last year. It's nice to see the organizaation finally find a spot for Kevin Youkilis.

Blue Jays - Everyone's sleeper pick of the year has not dissapointed. I expect at some point they will. It's not that the Jays aren't a good team. I can see them winning 86-89 games. I just don't see them hanging around so closely to Boston and New York much past the All-Star Break. Alex Rios and Vernon Wells have carried the offense along with Troy Glaus. Wells will drop off but still put up more than respectable numbers. Rios I feel will drop off considerably. The same problem that has always slowed his development, plate discipline, has not changed a bit. As of now his IsoD (OBP-BA) is a meager .018. In layman's terms it means he's still only taken 6 walks vs 21 strike outs.

Halladay is still great, though his low strikeout total (24K in 49.1 IP) concerns me. Lilly's ERA is artificialy low and the other 3 at the back end of the rotation are nothing to fear. A healthy Burnett makes this staff quite a bit better, but still not as good as advertised.

Orioles - This pitching staff is a mess. The root of the problem is control. The team is averaging 4.74 BB/9 led by Daniel Cabrera's 39 walks in 41.1 innings. I fully expect Leo Mazzone to right this problem at some point. It just doesn't seem like it's going to be this year. Sabernomics has a running tab that calculates both the Orioles and the Braves pitching statistics so we can keep an eye on The Mazzone Effect. It's something worth peeking in at every week or so. Until this pitching problem is solved it doesn't matter how good the offense is. This isn't a .500 ball club.

Devil Rays - Pitching is the problem here as well. Other than Kazmir there's not a guy in this rotation that has any business starting for a MLB team not in Tampa or Kansas City.

The offense is full of potential. Johnny Gomes is hitting out of his mind. I expect him to be a 30 home run guy, but I keep waiting for him come back down to earth. The rest of the offense seems allergic to getting on base and once they get there all they want to do is run. Getting Cantu, Lugo, Huff, and Baldelli back into the lineup still won't be enough to overcome the pitching woes.

Overview - As always this division is going to come down to Boston and New York. Only this time I think the loser misses the playoffs too. It should be a great race, but at this point I give the edge to Boston. They haven't had the injuries the Yankees have had, so their offense is every bit as good. The Sox have the edge in pitching which will tip the balance in their favor.

The AL Central is on deck.

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Tuesday, May 09, 2006

NBA Playoffs Round Two

Well, Kobe's pretty damn good, but he's a quitter when his back's on the wall (e.g. taking two shots for one point in the second half of Game 7 vs. the Suns). Maybe the Lakers Brass will get him some help next year, although with their salary cap situation the way it is, I wouldn't hold my breath or anything.

Let's talk instead about those who made it. The Nuggets prove they're overrated as well, being the only top four seed in either league not to advance to the Second Round. The Clippers sure are happy about it, though. I'm sure Elton Brand has sent a thank you card to Carmelo by now. It's the first time the Clippers have ever been to the Second Round. Congrats, but don't expect to make it to the next round.

The Phoenix Suns did what no one thought they'd do. First they went down 3-1 to the Lakers, which was surprise #1. But did they hang their heads and sit on the bench and pout? No. They just went out and played hard and took the next three from the #7 rated Purple and Gold. Nice. Watch out Clips, this team is ready to play.

Then there's the San Antonio Spurs. Not only did they have to play the best #8 seed in recent memory, perhaps ever, in the Sacramento Kings, but now they have to play the second best team in the West in the Second Round. Unreal. But, did they cry about it? Well, yes, actually, but the still came out and played the game (the early game, since the NBA evidently loves LeBron more then the defending champs) and took it to the Maverics in Game 1. Will Dallas come back in Game 2? Not if Tim Duncan has another 31 point, 13 rebound, 2 block, 4 assist performance. But Tony Parker has a bit of a thigh bruise (allegedly from playing, not from Eva), and the Mavs are a great team, so don't expect anything but another outstanding game.

That, however, shouldn't be expected out of many of the Cavs/Pistons games. Game 1 was a laugher, with Detroit making a mockery out of the Cleveland team. Ouch. Well, NBA, you got James into the second round, but the buck stops here. The Pistons are going to roll right into the Semifinals to take on the winner of the Nets/Heat. Defense wins championships and the Pistons are showing the league that they're after one thing: The Trophy.

Speaking of the East, it was impressive to see the Heat come back from getting their asses beat to make it respectable, but if Riley can't stop Jason Kidd from going off (22 points after averaging just 8.0 in the first round) then it could be a long plane ride home to Miami. But, I just can't count out Riley, the Big Diesel and Dwayne Wade just yet, so don't be surprised to see this thing get back to even real soon.

Alright, that's about all I've got for today. Once again, expect Detroit to once again trounce on the Cavs tonight, and for the Spurs/Mavs game to go to the wire. The Mavs don't want to go back to Dallas down two, so there's going to some hard fouling going on in the paint. Watch Duncan complain like no one else since Magic and Ginobli to flop like no one else since Divac. If I had to wager on it, I'd say Dirk Nowitski finds a way to get it done tonight and the series gets back to even.

But I've been wrong before.


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