Results tagged ‘ Miguel Cabrera ’

The Non-SABRmetric Argument Against Miguel Cabrera

It was my privilege to be part of this morning’s MLB Network Hot Stove roundtable on the real election of 2012 – Cabrera v. Trout (reairs at 4 PM ET if you’re reading this before then).

If you noticed the index cards in my hand, you’ll know that I offered a lot of data – not about VORP or WARP or BABIP or any of the new analytics – but essential hardcore boxscore stuff that undercuts the second biggest argument for Miguel Cabrera as American League MVP: That preference has to be given to the guy on the winning team, and that Cabrera ‘carried the Tigers on his back into the playoffs.

Firstly, the Tigers finished with only the seventh best record in the American League. That’s seventh out of fourteen. In the pre-division days they used to call that The Second Division – and it was a sign of shame. As it applies to this topic, there is also this embarrassing reality:

Angels (Trout’s team)           89 wins, 73 losses

Tigers (Cabrera’s team)        88 wins, 74 losses

The Angels, playing in a far tougher division, won more games than the Tigers did – yet any MVP doubt is supposed to fall on Cabrera’s side because he was on “the winner?”

It doesn’t make sense – it’s a remnant of the days when only one team per league made the “post-season” – and it wasn’t Cabrera who won the AL Central, it was Cabrera and the rest of the Detroit team -but I’ll just concede it to Cabrera’s supporters.

What I will not concede is this assumption that Cabrera deserves the MVP over Trout because, since the Tigers made the playoffs, he was necessarily more valuable – especially as the Tigers managed to sneak past the collapsing White Sox ‘down the stretch.’ One of the cards I didn’t get to fully reveal on the show suggests Cabrera was hardly repeating the Carl Yastrzemski feat of 1967 over the last two weeks of the season.

After the games of September 18, the Tigers were two games behind Chicago. The remainder of the season gives us a small but insight-filled sample of what Cabrera did – and what he didn’t do – over the last 15 games.

CABRERA, AFTER 9/18/12:

Games:                                 15

Average:            .291 (16/55)

Homers:                                4

RBI:                                      10

BB:                                          3

It should be noted that three of Cabrera’s RBI came in one game – on September 29 – and two others came on October 2. So he drove in runs in seven of the Tigers’ 15 stretch games.

And there’s a fascinating statistic from those games. The Tigers only won four of them. In other words, they were 4-and-3 when Cabrera drove in runs in a game…and 6-and-2 when he didn’t.

More confusing to the Cabrera “Pennant-Winner” meme, is Detroit’s record when other Tigers drove in runs in those final fifteen games:

TIGERS RECORD WITH RBI BY…

Prince Fielder                  6-1

Alex Avila                         4-0

Jhonny Peralta               4-0

Austin Jackson               4-1

Delmon Young                4-1

Andy Dirks                       3-1

Miguel Cabrera               4-3

But…those RBI in those four games won those games, right? The MVP surely did something essential in the most essential of simple stats, down the stretch, right?

Not really, no.

This is from a card I was in the middle of reading when Chris Russo cut me off. He had reason to do so.

CABRERA RBI AFTER 9/18/12, DETAILS:

1. 9/19: Tigers leading 4-0 in 7th when Cabrera hits solo HR (6-2 win)

2. 9/22: Tigers leading 7-0 in 4th when Cabrera hits solo HR (8-0 win)

3. 9/23 (1st Game): Scoreless in 4th: Cabrera RBI 2B produces 1-0 lead (10-4 loss)

4. 9/23 (2nd Game): Scoreless in 1st: Cabrera RBI 2B produces 1-0 lead (2-1 loss)

5, 6, 7. 9/29: Tigers leading 2-0 in 7th when Cabrera hits three-run HR (6-4 win)

8. 10/1: Tigers leading 1-0 in 6th when Cabrera hits solo HR (6-3 win)

9, 10. 10/2: Tigers losing 1-0 in 3rd when Cabrera 2-RBI 2B produces 2-1 lead (4-2 loss)

I’d grade the actual game situations in which Cabrera produced as ‘tepid.’ Two of his RBI (and half of his homers) were clearly unnecessary tack-on runs. His three-run blast on September 29th would prove necessary when the Tiger bullpen melted down; the solo job on October 1st might have been necessary – hindsight can’t give us a clear answer. On the other hand, the drove in the first run in both games on September 23rd, and his double wiped out a one-run deficit on October 2nd – and that the Tigers blew all three of those games should not subtract from the clutchness (clutchiness?) of those hits.

My point in here is not to dismiss what Cabrera did for the Tigers as the White Sox plummeted past them. There are countless fielding plays, runner advancements, and just his presence in the lineup to consider as “clutch” contributions. But the RBI-by-RBI examination proves conclusively that Miguel Cabrera did not carry the Tigers on his back down the stretch. He was not the slam-dunk MVP of his own team at the team it mattered the most. Without fine-toothed comb examinations of each game it’s hard to say who was, though the superficial data suggests it was Fielder.

I’ve already gone on at length about why I don’t think the Triple Crown matters in MVP voting (it’s outdated analytics, as dangerously misleading as if we based the voting on the first set of statistics that were so popular pre-1871, which was a ratio of Runs Scored to Outs Made). But I added one bit of research that underscores Rob Neyer’s point that if you have a Triple Crown, it usually means that a lower-than-normal average or homer or RBI total has proved to lead the league in what can only be described as a happy anomaly:

LOWEST AVERAGES TO LEAD AMERICAN LEAGUE SINCE THE INTRODUCTION OF THE DESIGNATED HITTER IN 1973:

.326   Bill Mueller, Boston, 2003

.328   Joe Mauer, Minnesota, 2008

.329   George Brett, Kansas City, 1990

.330  Miguel Cabrera, Detroit, 2012

.331   Michael Young, Texas, 2005

Cabrera won the Triple Crown – in part – because batting average was way lower than usual, and he produced the fourth lowest average among the last 40 A.L. batting champions during a year in which he had terrific homer and RBI numbers.

So you don’t have to go to WARP or VORP or VOR-WARP to deflate the Cabrera MVP qualifications. Good old-fashioned numbers and easy to read details can do it for you.

Oh, by the way, about clutch? During that same post-9/18 time, Trout went 16/52 (.308) with three homers, six RBI, and ten walks. Moreover, after August 19th, as the rest of the Angels made their feeble attempt to stay alive in the West, they were unbeaten…in games in which Mike Trout drove in runs.

The Winner Of The Debate: Mike Trout

I am so old that the previous two Triple Crowns were won in a) the first year I had any awareness of the game, and b) the first year I was a true fan.

I got kinda spoiled.

It was – and is – a singular accomplishment. Miguel Cabrera deserves all the praise. He deserves to be in the company of F. Robby and Yaz and all the rest. He does not deserve the Most Valuable Player Award.

I know, I know, I’m the traditionalist and the one who whined here about Felix Hernandez getting the Cy Young last year. And I’m not going to hang this entirely on the idea that historically there was nothing automatic about a Triple Crown equaling MVP (ask not just Ted Williams, but Lou Gehrig). But I also have an appreciation of (if not a slavish dedication to) all the statistics that have come into the game since Carl Yastrzemski’s matchless September got him his place in history in 1967. And the thing being left out of the arguments about Cabrera versus Mike Trout is that the reason “The Triple Crown” was such a big deal all that time was that it wasn’t just the imaginary title we gave the leader of three Glamor Batting Categories – it was the imaginary title we gave the leader of the only three batting categories we had.

I exaggerate only slightly here. The years that the baseball cards were horizontal and not vertical, we also got Games Played, At Bats, Hits, Doubles and Triples printed on the back. Well, those were just for us kids, right? What about the grown-up stuff?

Who’s Who In Baseball - the softcover handbook, still printed, the last vestige of the fabled baseball publishing industry of the 1930’s – offered exactly what the baseball cards did…plus stolen bases.

Still, that was nowhere near official. What about the bible of the game? The veritable New Phone Book of the season ahead and the season behind? What about The Sporting News Official Baseball Guide? It dated to 1942 and its antecedents stretched back to Beadle’s Dime Base-Ball Player edited by Henry Chadwick in 1860.

Here’s exactly what were considered baseball’s official stats the year Yaz did The Miggy:

(Sorry for the warping. My ’68 guide still has some spine left to it)

This is way more sophisticated, no? Games, At Bats, Runs, Hits, Total Bases (ooooh, Total Bases), Two Base Hits, Three Base Hits, Homers, RBI, Sacrifice Hits, Sacrifice Flies, Stolen Bases, Caught Stealing, and “Percentage” – Batting Average.

By the way, Caught Stealing was a revolutionary statistical addition.

Notice anything missing there? I don’t mean WAR and VORP and OPS and UZR and RISP and Percentage of Pitchers Faced With ERA under 4.00. I mean:

In 1968 baseball’s OFFICIAL STATISTICS DID NOT EVEN INCLUDE ON BASE, OR SLUGGING PERCENTAGE.

The Triple Crown was The Triple Crown because it was the most sophisticated measurement of a batter’s total impact on the game. And in terms of historical placement, it was a gold mine. When Frank Robinson and Carl Yastrzemski won their Crowns we were still a couple of years away from The Baseball Encyclopedia. What those of us who did not have complete runs of The Sporting News Guide, The Reach Guide, The Spalding Guide, The Players’ League Guide, and Beadle’s Dime Base-Ball Player had, was The Official Encyclopedia Of Baseball.

In one fan’s lifetime, in my trip from an eight-year old going to his first Yankee game to the 53-year old sitting in the front row last night going deaf from the excessive PA system, who used to host the telecasts of the World Series before the turn of the century (!), we went from what you see to the left, to WAR and PZR.

That – Full Name, Birth Date, Birth Place, Date of Death (sometimes), Batted/Threw (sometimes), Games Played, Won-Lost Record, and Batting Average – was all that we had for the official baseball historical record the last time somebody won the Triple Crown before Miguel Cabrera did it last night. No homers, no RBI, no Slugging Percentage – no hits, no runs, no errors!

And – you’re right – Ruth’s entry is the most sophisticated one in the book because he was a pitcher and a position player! 

So I applaud what Cabrera did, and I want to buy him something to thank him for doing something that merely reminds me of the excitement of a player sweeping the statistical board – as we thought we knew it – when I was a kid.

But I’ve grown up (somewhat) and so have the statistics. And I won’t labor them anew here but Mike Trout had a remarkable season according to the closest thing we have to an all-encompassing number, WAR:

AMERICAN LEAGUE WAR (2012)

1. TROUT, Los Angeles (10.72)

2. CANO, New York (8.23)

3. VERLANDER, Detroit (7.44)

4. CABRERA, Detroit (6.95)

5. BELTRE, Texas (6.66)

6. PRICE, Tampa Bay (6.47)

7. GORDON, Kansas City (6.28)

8. HARRISON, Texas (6.09)

9. SALE, Chicago (5.80)

10. ZOBRIST, Tampa Bay (5.6)

11. HUNTER, Los Angeles (5.5)

12. JACKSON, Detroit (5.30)

In short, Trout was about 30 percent more valuable than the runner-up (and that’s with Robinson Cano’s explosive finish), and he doubled the value of the 12th best player in the league. For contrast, the top five guys in NL War finished in a grouping of 0.5 (Buster Posey 7.2, McCutchen 7.0, Braun 6.8, Molina 6.7, Wright 6.7) allowing room for interpretation and argument. To get down to half the value of the WAR champ, you have to go to Carlos Beltran and David Freese and a tie for 33rd.

That room for argument is non-existant in the American League. Miguel Cabrera won a Triple Crown, and Mike Trout’s season was 54 percent more valuable. 

Which is, at minimum, the added value of all the new statistics, since Yaz won, and I was a kid, and there were only 20 teams – and “The Triple Crown” was the best we had.

 

Montero-Pineda: No Big Deal?

The reaction to the Pineda-Montero trade is unanimous: Everybody seems to believe it was a hugely significant deal, but a ripoff of biblical proportions. Unfortunately, I have yet to read consecutive analyses saying who did the ripping.

My concern is the other part. Ever the contrarian, I am not convinced this is an epic trade, nor a rip-off. I’m not convinced by either of these guys.

I suppose the confusion originates with the similarly disparate conclusions about Montero’s ability to survive on the major league level. Before he hit the Bronx last September there was no middle about him. He was either the next great slugger and at least a sufficient catcher, or an overrated stumblebum whose ceiling might be Jake Fox.

I don’t think September cleared things up for us. He drove in a dozen runs and slugged .590 in 61 at bats, and showed the kind of jaw-dropping opposite field power off the middle-to-high fastball that seems to appear only once per decade. But as the Yankees cruised towards the division title amid the Red Sox collapse and a Rays surge that could never have threatened them, they trusted Montero to start exactly one game behind the plate. He wound up catching thirteen more innings in two other games and four of five baserunners stole off him. He did not impress defensively.

Nevertheless, the real question mark should be how New York used him – or didn’t use him – in its post-season cameo. Yes, Jorge Posada got on base eleven times in 19 plate appearances (five singles, four walks, a hit batsman, and a triple) but he didn’t drive in a single run and six of his eight outs were whiffs. It is intriguing that only one of the hits, only one of the walks, and the lone HBP came in the two Yankee wins (9-3 and 10-1 wins no less). Posada’s fireworks were mostly empty calories. Montero, meanwhile, appeared only in the rout portion of the latter and went 2-2 with an RBI.

The Yankees also just traded a bat when the forecast for their 2012 production is not optimistic. Alex Rodriguez slowed to a crawl last year, Curtis Granderson vanished in late August and Russell Martin long before that, Nick Swisher was all over the place, and there is only one Robinson Cano. I realize Joe Girardi envisions the DH spot as a place to park the fading Rodriguez or the beaten-up Swisher on a given day but this “keep ‘em fresh” use of the DH implies that the batters you’re going to use there are still of value. To me, the Yankee batting order got almost spasmodic in the second half of last season and a great young power-hitting bat in its middle would be far more useful than another young starting pitcher.

That is, if the Yankees really believed Montero was a great young power bat. I’m convinced that for all of Brian Cashman’s comparisons of Jesus Montero to Miguel Cabrera and Mike Piazza, he has decided that there is some grave flaw not just in his glove but in his bat. Cash was reportedly ready to trade Montero to Seattle for Cliff Lee in 2010 but balked at trading Montero and Eduardo Nunez (this was confirmed for me last summer by another Major League GM). Cashman has been surprisingly willing to trade this supposed blue chip prospect for whatever the drooling Mariners would surrender. It was suggestive enough that he seemed to value Nunez more highly than Montero. And now, if he  just traded a Cabrera or a Piazza for a Michael Pineda, he’s an idiot – and I don’t think he’s an idiot.

And I’m giving Pineda the benefit of the doubt here. I was first astonished by this guy’s potential during a throwaway appearance at the end of a televised Mariners’ game late in spring training 2010. His spectacular start to 2011 was no real surprise to me, and I’m assuming even though they cuffed him up for three earned on five walks and three hits in five innings at Seattle on May 27th, the impression was left on New York brass that this was one of the coming mound stars of the game. After all, before that start at Safeco, Pineda had been 6-2, with 61 K’s in 58-1/3 innings. He’d only given up 46 hits and only twice had walked more than two men in a game.

Pineda went 3-8 thereafter.

He was still good in June, and what followed could very easily have been exhaustion – except he had managed 139 innings pitched in the minors in 2010 and 138 two years before that. This was not totally foreign territory. And yet he collapsed at the All-Star Break:

                     GS  IP  ER  BB  K   HR   W  L    ERA   WHIP  G/A   OA

Before         18  113  38  36  113  10    8   6    3.03    1.04     0.84   .198

After            10   58  33  19    60   8     1  4     5.12     1.38     1.38    .236

Look, a 1.38 WHIP is not going to kill you, not with the Yankees. Consider that for all the disappointment the second half tacked on to his rookie season, Pineda got run support of 5.16 for the season (Derek Lowe/Dan Haren/Chris Carpenter territory). The Yankees gave all of their guys a lot more help: Ivan Nova 8.82, Freddy Garcia 7.49, A.J. Burnett 7.19, CC Sabatha 6.98, and Bartolo Colon 6.41.

But there is another disappointing set of splits to consider. Pineda not only did better in the pitcher’s paradise that is Safeco, but he did better in a supremely bizarre way.

Michael Pineda’s home-road splits:

                     GS  IP  ER  BB  K  2B   3B  HR   W  L    ERA   WHIP   G/A  OA

Home          12  77   25  28  82    3     0     9     5    4    2.92    1.01      0.92  .182

Away           16  94   46  27  91   21     2     9     3    4    4.40    1.17      1.05   .234

Do you see it?

Michael Pineda surrendered only 12 extra-base hits at home, exactly one a game. On the road, he gave up 32 of them, exactly two a game. The homers are the same but the doubles helped to kill him.

Another stat to throw at you. His BABIP (for the un-SABRized, the opponents’ Batting Average on Balls hit In Play) was .258. That was the ninth lowest in the majors last year, and while having the ninth lowest opponents’ batting average on anything would intuitively be a good thing, in this case it ain’t. The BABIP for all pitchers combined was .291, which implies that on as much as thirteen percent of the outs Pineda got on balls the hitters hit, Pineda was lucky they were outs. Low BABIPs (or high ones) tend to correct themselves over the course of a season, or from one season to another, which is as good an explanation for his opponents’ actual batting average to jump by .038 after the All-Star Break as is “he got tired at 113 innings.”

There are a lot of numbers in here, but between Pineda’s second half (and road) woes, and the Yankees’ remarkable unwillingness to put Montero on the spot in the playoffs, I infer that this wasn’t a rip-off, and it wasn’t a trade of future Hall of Famers – that it might have just been the trade of a couple of high-ceiling but deeply flawed ballplayers.


							

Sources: Commissioner Selig Reviews Galarraga Game

Major League Baseball sources with direct knowledge of the meeting confirm that key members of baseball’s hierarchy were to convene this morning in New York to review the circumstances of Umpire Jim Joyce’s erroneous “safe” call at first base in Detroit, which last night denied the Tigers’ Armando Galarraga what would have been the 21st Perfect Game in baseball history and the third in just 25 days.

There was considerable doubt that Commissioner Bud Selig felt he could or should intervene in overturning the results of an umpire’s on-the-field ruling. The Detroit News reported that the Tigers might be contacting MLB in hopes of remedying what umpire Joyce later admitted, clearly and emotionally, was a wildly incorrect call. The News quoted Tigers’ General Manager Dave Dombrowski as saying “I wouldn’t get into telling you what I would do. That’s a private matter. He shouldn’t have missed it. It’s a shame for the kid…”
Baseball sources said that as of late morning, the Tigers’ opponents, the Cleveland Indians, had not contacted the Commissioner’s office. Their support of any change to last night’s call might be a key factor.
“This isn’t a call,” Joyce said afterwards, “this is a history call. And I kicked the **** out of it, and nobody feels worse than I do…I took a perfect game away from that kid.”
Jon Heyman of Sports Illustrated and MLB Network tweeted that Commissioner Selig was “involved” and his office would have a statement at some point today.

Some in the Commissoner’s office were to urge Selig to declare that with Joyce’s admission, the 27th out of the game was recorded when Cleveland’s Jason Donald grounded out, first baseman Miguel Cabrera to pitcher Galarraga, covering first. The base hit credited to Donald, and the following at bat, by Cleveland’s Trevor Crowe, would be wiped off the books and thus Galarraga would be credited with a perfect game.
There is precedent for the Commissioner’s Office to decide what is, and isn’t, a perfect game. On September 4, 1991, a so-called “Statistical Accuracy Committee” ruled that the game would only official recognize as perfect games, ones in which pitchers retired 27 (or more) consecutive batters and completed the game without a batter reaching first base. The ruling wiped off the books the 1959 game in which Harvey Haddix of Pittsburgh pitched 12 perfect innings, only to lose the game to Milwaukee on a base hit. It also erased the 1917 game in which then-pitcher Babe Ruth of the Boston Red Sox had walked the lead off batter, then been ejected by the umpire for arguing the call. Reliever Ernie Shore entered the game with none out and that runner on first, who was promptly caught stealing. Shore then retired the 26 batters he faced, and had, at the time of the Commissioner’s Office ruling, been credited with a perfect game for more than 74 years. 48 more no-hit games were also erased by the re-definition of the rules.
There are also countless instances of umpires’ on-field decisions being reviewed and even overruled by the now dormant offices of the Presidents of the American and National League. One such review confirmed a controversial “out” ruling that ultimately decided the 1908 NL pennant. More recently, in 1983, after Kansas City’s George Brett had hit a two-out, 9th inning home run to bring his team from behind to ahead in a game in New York, umpire Tim McClelland determined that Brett had broken the rules by having the gripping substance “pine tar” further up his bat than rules permitted. McClelland nullified Brett’s home run and called him out for the final out of the game. Within days, American League President Lee MacPhail had overruled McClelland, declared the home run valid, and ordered the game replayed, more than a month later, from the point directly after Brett’s home run.

    2010 Forecasts: AL Central

    Having picked Tampa Bay to upend the Yankees in the East, we move to the AL Central.

    I’m less
    confident about assessing CHICAGO than I am about any other team in the majors.
    Here is a team with the terrific burgeoning talent of Gordon Beckham and Carlos
    Quentin – yet its success will depend much more on virtual castoffs like Andruw
    Jones, Juan Pierre, Alex Rios, and Mark Teahen. Here, if Jake Peavy rebounds,
    is a four-man rotation as good as any in the game, but a bullpen where only one
    guy (Matt Thornton)
    does not
    start
    the season as a question mark (how could you possibly get as many ex-studs in
    one place as Kenny Williams has in Scott Linebrink, J.J. Putz, and
    Tony Pena?). The White Sox could
    easily win the division, but I would hesitate to bet on it.

    Everybody
    scratches their head at the quick demise in CLEVELAND – except I appear to be
    the only one who’s doing the scratching in surprise that everybody else is so
    confused. What do you suppose happens
    to a team that is just one game from going to the World
    Series, and then fire-sales Cy Young Award winners in consecutive season – and also
    gets rid of their
    catcher (who just happens to be the second-best offensive weapon at his
    position in the game)? While the Indians may see some pay-off from these deals
    this year (LaPorta at first, Masterson pitching, and, at least for the moment,
    Marson catching), there is no reason to assume that the Indians have simply
    corrected a temporary two-year blip. It is plausible that returns to form from
    Fausto Carmona, Grady Sizemore, and Travis Hafner could propel this team to the
    flag, but it is just as plausible that the bullpen will again be its undoing.
    Remember, this is a team that has not had a reliable closer since Joe Borowski
    in ’07 (and this requires you to believe that Joe Borowski was a reliable
    closer). There is the one wildest of wild cards: the chance that the Kerry Wood
    injury is the ultimate blessing in disguise – that it shelves Wood and his
    not-so-awe-inspiring 20 saves of a year ago and forces Chris Perez to live up
    to his talent. Of course as Winston Churchill answered that clich 65 years ago,
    “if it is a blessing in disguise, it’s very effectively
    disguised.”

    What if
    Dontrelle Willis really is back? What if Miguel Cabrera’s career flashed before
    his eyes over the winter? What if Scott Sizemore and Austin Jackson are actual
    major leaguers? If Jim Leyland and Dave Dombrowski come up trumps with those
    four names, DETROIT should walk away with the division, because the rotation
    seems outstanding, and the Tigers may have created its best bullpen (mostly by
    default, and even though they’re about to find out what the Yankees did late
    last year: Phil Coke can’t really get good lefties out). There are reasons to
    suspect Johnny Damon will not be the kind of all-purpose threat he’d developed
    into in the Bronx; 17 of his 24 homers in 2009 were hit at Yankee Stadium. It’s
    possible Ryan Raburn or Wilkin Ramirez might have to be rushed into the
    line-up. Then again it’s possible Alex Avila may force himself into it, behind
    the plate.

    When the
    A’s still played there KANSAS CITY was the club on whom the Yankees palmed off
    the guys they didn’t want any more. Funny that this year’s Royals start Chris
    Getz and Scott Podsednik, and have Josh Fields on the
    bench and Brian Anderson in the convert-to-pitching Skinner Box. The excuse that the Royals are the quintessential victim of the small market/big
    market divide is nonsense: according to the Forbes figure filberts, the Royals
    profit about ten million a year, gain at least thirty million more from revenue
    sharing, and the franchise is worth three times what David Glass paid for it a
    decade ago. So the free agents brought in to surround the American League’s
    best starter, second or third best closer, fifth or sixth best first baseman,
    and third or fourth best DH – are Rick Ankiel and Jason Kendall? It’s pitiable:
    with a little investment from management the Royals could contend in this
    division.

    Manager
    Ron Gardenhire of MINNESOTA knows 447 times more about baseball than I do. But
    there is one fact that has been irrefutable since Tony LaRussa began to use
    relievers on schedule, rather than when needed: Bullpen By Committee Does Not
    Work. Gardy steered out of the skid just in time last night, designating Jon Rauch as his closer after weeks of saying he’d try the committee route. 
    Do not be fooled by
    reminiscences of the “Nasty Boys” – the 1990 Reds had 50 saves, 31 by Randy
    Myers, 11 by Rob Dibble, 4 by Rick Mahler, 2 by Tim Layana, and 2 by Norm
    Charlton. The Reds would trade Myers within a year and Charlton within two.
    Minnesota’s committee could have been Jeff Reardon, Rick Aguilera, Eddie Guardado, and
    Al Worthington, and it still wouldn’t have worked. There are reasons to fear this team might not be competitive -
    the tremendous home field advantage that was the Metrodome is gone (although
    depending on how the wind current works – see “Yankee Stadium, 2009″ – it could
    turn Joe Mauer into a 50-homer man). The new double-play combo is also symbolic
    of some serious problems. It is made up of two very nice men named J.J. Hardy
    (who was run out of Milwaukee even before the ascent of Alcides Escobar), and
    Orlando Hudson (who has been run out of Arizona and Los Angeles and who somehow
    lost his job to Ronnie Belliard in the middle of the pennant race last
    year).
    It is also
    the direct result of what must be viewed as two disastrous trades (Jason
    Bartlett and Matt Garza to Tampa for Delmon Young, and Johan Santana to the
    Mets for Carlos Gomez – now swapped for Hardy – and nothing of even impending
    value). Nothing would please me more than to see the Team They Tried To
    Contract rear up and fulfill its potential. I don’t think they have the front
    office personnel to pull it off.

    PREDICTIONS:
    I like Detroit to get more lemons out of the slot machine of chance that is
    this division, than I do Chicago. Thus, the Tigers, close, over the White Sox.
    Minnesota and Cleveland will spar for third place and whether the Twins get it
    will largely depend on how Target Field “plays” as a new home. Kansas City is
    last again, which offends me, because there is as little excuse for this
    perpetual state of suspended animation as there would be in Cincinnati or
    Milwaukee or maybe even Denver and Tampa.

     

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