Friday, February 25, 2011

The inevitable battle for second place

Let's be honest, right? The Braves are playing for second place and the Wild Card. When the Phils went out and signed Cliff Lee to join "H2O" smart money just went ahead and penciled them into the World Series. In ink. The rest of us should be happy that our teams are allowed to be beaten mercilessly by our new Philadelphian Overlords. Not since the Mets brought in Johan Santana to team with Pedro Martinez and Mike Pelfrey has such an unstoppable juggernaut been unleashed in the NL.

Oh, but our passions are deep, and it is spring. Perhaps we can at least dream to one day hope. In this spirit that I present part one of A Series of Datum with Commentary In Tabular Format.

2010 WAR Commentary

Roy Halladay 6.9 Roy Halladay is really damned good.
Tim Hudson 5.4 Tim Hudson is better than the rest of the Phillies' rotation.
Roy Oswalt 5.1 Oswalt posted two straight years of 3ish WARs and was on track to do that again, until he went insane after the trade to Philly. He won't be insane again in 2011. He's 3-4 WAR pitcher.
Cole Hamels 4.7 Hamels is really good and young enough to still improve. He's Philadelphia's second best starter.
Cliff Lee 4.3 Very good, yet still extremely overrated.
Tommy Hanson 2.5 It doesn't take a Braves partisan to suspect that Hanson is primed, after two years of 2.5ish WARs, to move into the league of Hamels and Lee. He's 24.
Derek Lowe 1.7 For fun, I call Derek Lowe “The White Man's Kenshin Kawakami.” Outside of Joe Blanton Lowe is the most likely to just go whammo and suck completely in 2011. He's 38.
Jair Jurrjens 0.0 Jurrjens had an injury plagued 2010. In 2009 he posted a 5+ WAR. There's no reason to think he can't do that again when healthy for 2011.
Joe Blanton -0.7 Aging mediocrity.
Mike Minor -0.7 Up and coming #3.

Halladay sets himself apart from the rest of the field. That's obvious. And the Phils are more likely to get good pitching from their #4 guy (Oswalt) than the Braves (Lowe.) But Mike Minor is just as likely to out-pitch Joe Blanton.

The doom, it is overstated.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Pettitte Crimes and Miss Demeanors

So yesterday we unveiled The Pettitte List to a rousing chorus of soused crickets. At the exact same moment Joe Posnanski was turning out some 7000 words on the best players of his lifetime, which you'd think would be enough, but was actually merely the intro bit for his thoughts on Gary Sheffield and the HOF. It's like synchronicity or something, wherein "synchronicity" means nothing remotely like what it's been used for in any real world language game to date.

Now Joe, as everyone knows, is the most beloved man in all of sports-writing. Some attribute this to his passion, encyclopedic knowledge of virtually every American game, intellectual honesty and mastery of the writer's craft. I personally attribute it to voodoo, but then again I tend to attribute pretty much everything to voodoo given the slightest option. Joe Posnanski, voodoo priest. Works for me.

Anywho, as these things go, The Pettitte List post generated like, twelve comments over at BTF, which is a new record for one of my bits not directly related to physical violence or Dan Szymborski's sub-basements. As such, we shall continue to ride this tiger. Because, dude, it's spring and I'm thinking about baseball again.

The Pettitte List: Gary Sheffield

1. Q: Does Andy Pettitte Gary Sheffield deserve to be inducted into the MLB Hall of Fame? A: No.

2. Q: Would anyone other than mindless Yankee fanboys, paid Yankee media shills or Andy Pettitte's Gary Sheffield's immediate family honestly believe... A: Wait! How close to me is Gary Sheffield standing? Because if he's within say, oh, sixty feet and six inches of my skull and he's waggling that bat around like he did and he's glaring at me the way he glared at pitchers, I want to change my vote.

2a. Q: You can't change your vote. You already answered the first question. A: But Gary Sheffield could hurt me if I say no. I once saw him almost nutsack a defender on a damned short hop line drive to left field. He was the terror of every third base coach that ever lived. Even the ones that died before he started Little League!

2b. Q: You've made your bed, now lie in it. A: He was Doc Gooden's cousin, too. Don Sutton told me so. Like, every single at bat for all of 2002-2003. Sometimes twice per at bat.

2c. Q: Does Sheffield's attitude or inclusion in the Mitchell Report alter the likelihood of you voting for Gary Sheffield for the HOF? A: No. The only thing that matters is how close he is to me physically and whether or not he is doing that bat waggle thing. Bat waggle at my head = "Yes." No bat waggle = "No."

3. Q: If Andy Pettitte Gary Sheffield gets elected to the MLB Hall of Fame, what would be the general reaction? A: I suspect the entire state of Milwaukee might disappear into a cataclysmic sink hole, which admittedly would be another reason to vote for the man.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Keltner Schmeltner, Pettitte Scones

Way back in pre-history, before the internet and talking super-computer proto-gods, Bill James published the 1985 Baseball Abstract. The Abstract was a running publication where internet dorks talked about statistics before the internet even existed. It was printed on mule-skin with ink condensed by stomping the fruit of thistleberries into a fine pulp. Notably, this had to be done while the thistleberries were still living and attached to the thistles, because it only makes ink if the berries scream for their lives as you stomp.

Anyway, in the '85 Abstract James published one of his more famous pieces - The Keltner List. The Keltner List was a simple, non-mathematical series of 15 questions fans could ask about any given player to determine whether or not he was worthy of enshrinement in MLB's Hall of Fame in Cooperstown. It's still quite popular even today, 25 years after first publication, usually as a conversation starter for recently retired borderline players (Javy Lopez, Gary Sheffield, etc.) The list is also still useful for its original purpose from 1985, which was to ask in a somewhat obtuse way the question "Seriously, some nutters actually thought Ken Keltner was worthy of a HOF vote??"

Alas, 25 years is a long on passing time, and our current Twitter-driven dialogue is short on attention span. It seems the list might be in need of some updating. In the spirit of brevity, concision and open handed giving, I humbly suggest Keltner be replaced with my new list of fewer, less difficult questions. I call it The Pettitte List.

1. Q: Does Andy Pettitte deserve to be inducted into the MLB Hall of Fame? A: No.

Much simpler, no?

If required, The Pettitte List may be expanded into Facebook posts as follows.

2. Q: Would anyone other than mindless Yankee fanboys, paid Yankee media shills or Andy Pettitte's immediate family honestly believe Andy Pettitte deserves to be inducted into the MLB Hall of Fame? A: No, and his wife wouldn't vote for him either if it were a secret ballot.

3. Q: If Andy Pettitte gets elected to the MLB Hall of Fame, what would be the general reaction? A: Murray Chass.

Consider this an opportunity for education and advancement.

Monday, February 14, 2011

5 million BCE, drop out of the canopies. Better and more varied food sources. Discovery of wanderlust.

A million years later, bipedal motion. Extended hunting ranges. The ability to carry goods long distances. Grasping thumbs.

Two million years gone. Discovery of fire and the eating of meat. Brain size jumps from 700cc to 1300cc. The first stone tools, migration out of Africa and eventually, inexorably, internal combustion engines.

Monday, February 14, 2011 CE. Easy off of Howell Mill. Straight shot down the on-ramp through Northside. Kick to 4th before you even hit the interstate proper. 70-something and the throttle isn't halfway spun.

Grasping hands. Bipedal motion.

The waters part. Moses out of Egypt on I75. Whatever. Arrow straight slash across six lanes. All in for 6th before you hit the deceleration zone heading into the pivot.

60 degrees. No clouds. No humidity. Modern man and his machines. The fool has said in his heart there is no G*d. Oh, poor Guanilo, you sad sack medieval bastard. You had no idea.

Stomp back down to 4 for the turn. 200-odd degrees south to north. The pure, unadulterated laws of physics as holy texts. In on the high line. Flash the knee into the lean. Drag the toe. Boot on asphalt, the burdens of consciousness a distant dream. Read and react. Apex. Throttle. Kick. Throttle. Kick.

I am Jack's existential forgetting. I am Jack's unrepentant childish glee.

Just shy 6 million years of evolution, this little Japanese machine you've named after a fictional mercenary's favorite weapon and the chaos of weather systems too complex to conceive combine in this moment of pure Buddha-under-the-tree mindful emptiness. The fool has said in his heart. Poor, sad Guanilo. If only for a fleeting moment, the world is right and true.