Thursday, July 29, 2010

Arizona's Unbelievably Bad Bullpen

I usually try to avoid kicking a team too much when it's down, but Arizona's bullpen is something to behold.   Not only are the D-Backs 23 games out of first place, but they are dead last in bullpen ERA in the ML by a wide margin:

Bullpen ERA
29. Milwaukee 5.10 (16-16)
30. Arizona 6.59 ERA (9-21)

The only team since 2000 to finish with a team bullpen ERA over 5.55 was the Devil Rays in 2007 (their final season before shortening to just "Rays") at 6.16 (silver lining: the Rays finished 5th in bullpen ERA in 2008 on their way to the World Series).

One of the more worst stats is that their closer (Chad Qualls) has an of 8.51 ERA in addition to 12 saves.  Qualls has been a durable, quality reliever for the last 6 years, and had never had an ERA over 4.00 before this year. 

The only pitcher in ML history to complete a season with at least 10 saves and an ERA over 7.50 was Mike Perez in 1994 for St. Louis (12 SV, 8.71 ERA), and no one has done so with 15 saves.

Any signs of hope? A few.
Esmerling Vasquez: 1.86 ERA, 11 G in July (after a bad start)
Juan Gutierrez: 3.86 ERA, 18 G since June 1 (after an even worse start)
Blaine Boyer: 2.85 ERA, 17 G since June 1
Aaron Heilman: 3.60 ERA, 44 G this season

If Chad Qualls can get it turned around, they might finally have a small, somewhat reliable group of relievers they can go to and simply finish the season as a bad bullpen on the upswing rather than one of the worst of modern times.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Why have the Giants scored so many runs in July?

Ever since 2004 (Barry Bonds' final MVP season), the Giants have had a lot of trouble scoring runs.  A lot of trouble.  Those struggles continued into 2010, but they are surprisingly at the top (or at least near the top after tonight's effort) in runs scored in July.
  • 2004 850 R (7th)
  • 2005 649 (29th)
  • 2006 746 (24th)
  • 2007 683 (29th)
  • 2008 640 (29th)
  • 2009 657 (26th)
  • 2010 440 (17th)
    • April 101 (20th)
    • May 109 (23rd)
    • June 108 (22nd)
    • July 122 (1st)
The big difference maker in July has been Buster Posey, a rookie, and arguably the game's most productive hitter this month (.469 BA, 7 HR, 23 RBI).  Aubrey Huff has also been having a great July (.380 BA, 7 HR, 18 RBI).  The Giants have hit 25 HR in July alone, which is 7th best in the ML, and they are 15th best for the year.  This is unusual for the Giants, who were they were either last in the league in HR or 2nd to last from 2007-09.

Buster Posey, who is now the everyday catcher for the Giants, entered July with 1 HR in 97 AB this season, but has been on fire the entire month.  He didn't come completely out of nowhere: he was the 5th overall pick in 2008, and won the 2008 Golden Spikes Award (the year before super-phenom Stephen Strasberg, the year after regular-phenom David Price, two years after future-Hall-of-Famer Tim Lincecum and two years before uber-phenom Bryce Harper). 

In tonight's game (a 4-3 loss to the Marlins), Posey batted 4th, so he is clearly now a vital part of the Giants' playoff hopes.  That's a lot of pressure to put on a rookie, but it shows how desperately the Giants need the firepower he has provided this month. 

He had played a lot of first base this season, but became the primary catcher after Bengie Molina was traded to the Rangers on June 30th.  I doubt that it's a coincidence that he started hitting when he was allowed to settle into his natural position every day, which bodes well for the Giants. 

Posey and Huff have provided some thunder to this lineup, which they have been lacking for a long, long time.  The Giants have cooled off a bit (the big explosion in runs was between the 1st and the All-Star Break), but it's still a welcome change for them. 

Their pitching is excellent as always (3rd best ERA at 3.37), but it's the offense that has allowed them to go 16-6 in July (one of the best records in baseball), instead of around .500 like the previous two months. 

They'll probably settle more into the middle of pack in offense, which would still be a huge improvement over the last few years, and make them tough to beat.  With even a little offense, the Giants are extremely dangerous, and could be tough to stop in the NL Wild Card or even NL West race.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Where are the AL games on Sunday Night Baseball?

I'm sure other people have written about this, but the scheduling for Sunday Night Baseball (which is released before the season starts) for this season has been kind of ridiculous. 

ESPN has aired 16 editions of Sunday Night Baseball so far, and they have 3 more scheduled before they begin making them on the fly (with 2 weeks notice).  4 of those games were interleague, and that couldn't be helped because the entire league plays interleague games at once.  Here is a breakdown of the rest of the games:

Yankees at Boston (April 4, May 9)
Texas at Minnesota (May 30)
Royals at Angels (July 4)
Boston at Yankees (August 8)

St. Louis at Milwaukee (April 11)
Mets at St. Louis (April 18)
Braves at Mets (April 25)
Mets at Philadelphia (May 2)
Phillies at Milwaukee (May 16)
Milwaukee at St. Louis (June 6)
Cubs at Dodgers (July 11)
Phillies at Cubs (July 18)
Cardinals at Cubs (July 25)
Dodgers at San Francisco (August 1)

Yankees at Mets (May 23)
White Sox at Cubs (June 13)
Dodgers at Boston (June 20)
Yankees at Dodgers (June 27)

Appearances by division
AL East (Yankees, Boston) 7
AL Central (Royals, Twins, White Sox) 3
AL West (Texas, Angels) 2
NL East (Braves, Phillies, Mets) 8
NL Central (Cubs, Cardinals, Brewers) 11
NL West (Dodgers, Giants) 5

Teams with 0 appearances: Orioles, Blue Jays, Rays, Tigers, Indians, A's, Mariners, Nationals, Marlins, Reds, Astros, Pirates, Padres, Rockies, D-Backs

Yankees v. Boston 3
Non-Yankees v. Boston AL-only Games: 2
NL-only Games: 10

I don't blame them for wanting to show the Yankees playing Boston as many times as possible because I'm sure it gets big ratings.  I also don't blame them for not wanting to show games with most of the teams that weren't included.  The only teams on the list that are contenders are the Tigers, Reds, Rays, Padres and Rockies, and no one was predicting that the Reds and Padres would be any good. 

That doesn't explain, though, why there are only 2 (!) AL-only SNB games out of 19 that don't have both the Yankees and Boston (who also got 3 of the 4 interleague slots too).  The Cubs have been on SNB the last two weeks, and they'll be on again this Sunday. 

Yes, they have a national following, but they also won only 83 games last year, while the Rays won 84, Tigers won 86 and the Rangers won 87 (and they're all doing a lot better than the Cubs now). 

It's a business, and they can show what they want, but I hope this trend doesn't continue, because there is a lot of good baseball they could be showing outside of a few teams in the NL East and NL Central.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Strikeouts and Walks

.120+ BB/PA, .90+ BB/SO (2010)
Chipper Jones (also 2000-03, 2007-09)
Albert Pujols (2004-09)
Mark Teixeira (2008)
Daric Barton
Kevin Youkilis
Chase Utley
Johnny Damon
Nick Markakis
Ian Kinsler
Aubrey Huff

1.50+ BB/PA, 1.50+ BB/SO (2000-2010)
Mark Grace 2000
Barry Bonds 2000-04
Jason Giambi 2001
Brian Giles 2002-03, 2005
Todd Helton 2003-04
Albert Pujols 2008-09

Monday, July 19, 2010

Joey Votto

Following up on the Reds, Joey Votto wasn't just a notable initial snub to the All Star Team, and a candidate for the NL MVP Award this year, but he is among some very elite company for stats to start his career:

Age 27: .310 BA, .395 OBP, .940 OPS, 1500+ PA (Started career after 1935)
Ted Williams
Frank Thomas
Albert Pujols
Todd Helton
Joe DiMaggio
Johnny Mize
Stan Musial
Mickey Mantle
Joey Votto

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

The Reds

The Reds are unexpectedly (at least for me) contending this year and they appear to have a good chance to stay in it until the end, in part because the division is weak, including the Cardinals (although I wouldn't be completely shocked if they ran away with it).  This is not typical for the Reds: they haven't won a playoff game since they swept the Dodgers's in their 1995 NLDS. 

Since the 1975 World Series, they have been in 7 playoff series, and 6 of them have been sweeps (the lone exception was the 1990 NLCS, where they beat the Pirates 4-2).  They swept the Phillies and the Yankees in '76, were swept by the Pirates in '79, swept the A's in '90, swept the Dodgers in 1995 and were swept in '95 by the Braves. 

Since then, the closest they got was a wild-card playoff in '99 against the Mets, where they were shutout by Al Leiter (Steve Parris started for the Reds, lasting 2.2 innings, followed by Denny (Neagle), Danny (Graves) and Dennys (Reyes)).

Let's get to the 2010.  How are they winning?

ERA: 4.19 (18th) 49-41
April: 5.41 (28th) 12-11
May: 3.84 (12th) 18-11
June: 4.19 (16th) 14-13
July: 2.58 (4th) 5-6

Runs: 437 (5th)
April: 106 (14th)
May: 162 (5th)
June: 118 (16th)
July: 51 (9th)

The good news is that they had a month of having amongst the worst pitching in baseball, and were still around .500.  They also had a few below average offensive months and still ended up around .500.  They don't strike me as the kind of team that will put up solid, consistent numbers and go 17-12 every month, but they could continue around .500 most months and put up a lot of wins in one.  It will probably be a rollercoaster and they'll need St. Louis to keep playing poorly too (their problem has pretty much all been offense).

They're even more unpredictable now too, with two of their starters pitchers (Aaron Harang and Homer Bailey) on the DL.  One of the young pitchers in their starting rotation, Travis Wood, nearly threw a perfect game last week, though, so they could have some tough decisions coming later this season. 
Another piece of good news is that Nick Masset, who was very good for them out of the bullpen last year, has rebounded from a dismal start (11.32 ERA in April) and is pitching well now (1.59 in July).  They're also getting help from a rookie named Logan Ondrusek, who also started slowly (11.25 ERA in April), but hasn't allowed a run in 15 of his last 16 appearances. 

The problem in July is that they're not scoring runs (13 R over their last 6 games, including two straight shutouts going into the break).  It's probably just a dry spell instead of a long-term problem, and they're still 5th overall in runs scored.   

The good news is that they probably don't have to worry about most of the NL Central and the wild card is a possibility in the NL, even for a team only 7 games over .500.  They have a good shot at sticking around in the race until the end, and maybe even winning their first playoff game in 20 years.

Update (7/19): They now have the best ERA in the ML in July (2.42) after allowing 3 runs over 3 games to the Rockies (taking 2 out of 3) in their first series after the break.  That isn't like to change with them having a 4 game series coming up against the Nationals (25th in runs in July) at home this week.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

OPS 2009-10

.925+ OPS 2009, 1st Half 2010
Miguel Cabrera
Albert Pujols
Kevin Youkilis
Adrian Gonzalez
Joey Votto
Adam Dunn

.925+ OPS, 2008-10
Albert Pujols
Kevin Youkilis

sub-.750 OPS 2009, .925+ OPS 2010
Aubrey Huff
Josh Hamilton

.925+ OPS 2009, sub-.750 OPS 2010
Adam Lind
Pablo Sandoval
Derrek Lee

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

All Star Games: HR

All Star Games without a HR
2009: AL (Winner)
1999: AL
1990: AL
1987: NL
1985: NL
1978: NL
1968: NL
1963: NL
1958: AL
1957: AL
1953: NL
1944: NL
1938: NL

1st Inning HR
1934 Frankie Frisch (Lefty Gomez - AL)
1935 Jimmie Foxx (Bill Walker - NL)
1940 Max West (Red Ruffing - AL)
1942 Lou Boudreau, Rudy York (Mort Cooper - NL)
1946 Charlie Keller (Claude Passeau - NL)
1948 Stan Musial (Walt Masterson - AL)
1949 Stan Musial (Mel Parnell - AL)
1952 Jackie Robinson (Vic Raschi - AL)
1955 Mickey Mantle (Robin Roberts - NL)
1959 (1) Eddie Matthews (Early Wynn - AL)
1960 (1) Ernie Banks (Bill Monbouquett - AL)
1961 (1) Rocky Colavito (Bob Purkey - AL)
1965 Willie Mays, Joe Torre (Milt Pappas - AL)
1977 Joe Morgan, Greg Luzinski (Jim Palmer - AL)
1979 Fred Lynn (Steve Carlton - NL)
1989 Bo Jackson, Wade Boggs (Rick Reuschel - NL)
1993 Gary Sheffield (Mark Langston - AL)
2004 Manny Ramirez, Alfonso Soriano (Roger Clemens - NL)
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