Saturday, January 01, 2005

Happy New Year

Here's hoping that the New Year finds you happy, warm, and well-fed.

This is probably my last post until next Tuesday. I'm still on vacation with family.

In the meantime, feel free to make like Roberto Clemente.

Thursday, December 30, 2004

King of the World

More weird and impressive news about our poised rookie.

Elmer the Great

In October 1936, the two New York teams were playing in the World Series. Lux Radio Theater, then considered the best and most high-brow of radio drama shows, performed "Elmer the Great," a play from a Ring Lardner story about a hayseed pitcher who is better than Dizzy Dean. He pitches in the "World Serious" until he's framed by a gambler. It's a pretty interesting look at the status of baseball players in the 1930s. Not much has changed since then, I think.

Carl Hubbell and Lou Gehrig also appear - star players from the opposing teams - and do what might be called a comedy routine if either man had any talent for radio.

You can find a free stream of the October 5, 1936 program here.

Wednesday, December 29, 2004

Cool Steelers music

Please help Eileen name that tune.

On minor-league stats

Regular readers of the blog know that I can be impatient with fellow amateur Bucco writers who think they understand the value and potential of minor-league players more than the folks in the front office. It's the Allegory of the Cave, as far as I'm concerned. We fans and part-time baseball scholars can only work with shadows cast upon a wall by shapes and beings we can't actually see. And for all the beauty of the translation and projection systems that are publicly available, I'm pretty confident we can be sure that the big-league teams have models and systems that blow these away. And since they are proprietary, we'll never see them.

So I'm cautious when it comes to second-guessing a GM's decision to throw away some A-level pitcher, even if the numbers say that he throws the ball hard. I'll admit it's possible that the GM is a complete moron. I don't think so, but that doesn't mean much. Still, if fellow Pirate fans don't at least concede that it's possible that they can't know as much as him from their rumpus-room iMacs, then they lose some credibility with me. And so what if Rob Neyer, Royals partisan, wants to gloat about acquiring Leo Nunez for Benito Santiago and enough money to pay much of Santiago's contract? My fellow Bucco fans should buck up when it comes to such things. Of course Rob Neyer will look on the bright side of Leo Nunez.

Over at the Birdhouse, a Cardinals blog I just discovered through a link from Primer, Jeff Luhnow, Cardinals Vice President of Baseball Development, talks about the way the St. Louis team evaluates minor-league numbers. I'll quote the part that supports my view of the situation.

I think at Double-A and Triple-A, we’re very comfortable with our methods for converting those stats and projecting major league performance.  Once you get to Single-A and especially down to rookie ball, those leagues, even though they are competitive and you want to win, the pendulum swings more to the development side of things.  A player may be down there working on plate patience or how to hit a breaking ball or control if he is a pitcher.  So, you never know the real picture of what is going on.  Because those environments are more developmental than Double-A or Triple-A, you may be misled.  It becomes more of a challenge.  Our rule of thumb basically is that we look at the stats below Double-A, but the stats we consider important at the minor league level are the ones as the Double-A and Triple-A level.  Those are the ones that we feel are more predictive of major league performance.  That is one of the challenges of the lower minor leagues.
I don't think we have any idea what Leo Nunez is worth. And like most Bucco fans, I'm glad we're not saddled with two years of Charles Johnson. I had reasons to doubt the Bucs would find a use for Nunez any time soon. And while I didn't think Humberto Cota and J.R. House were so obviously insufficient that the Bucs had to go get another catcher, I'm not foolish enough to think that I have all the information I'd need to say, with complete confidence, that I'm smarter than the GM here.

All that said, more power to the folks who want to play it that way. It takes all kinds. Whatever gets you through the offseason, it's all right.

Brian Walton did a great job with that interview and I recommend the whole.

Trading with Arizona

John Perrotto reported last week that the Bucs might get involved in the Return of the Randy Johnson Trade. CNN/SI clipped his paragraph a few days ago.

What would we want off the Arizona roster? My hunch: Chad Tracy.

Tracy works the count and has better range at third than Wigginton. He's shown little power and for that, reminds me of Sean Burroughs. He's young (25) and has two more years of service before he's arbitration-eligible. And he hits left-handed.

The D'backs also have a number of young starting pitchers. But I don't see anything worth Kip Wells and Craig Wilson. Maybe that rumor, like the one Gammons reported with the Bucs non-tendering Fogg, really has nothing going for it.

All hail Bert

Rich Lederer has posted an interview with Bert Blyleven.

Blyleven was traded to the Pittsburgh Pirates prior to the 1978 season, and he helped lead the Bucs to a World Series victory over the Baltimore Orioles in 1979. Although Bert won two games in the postseason — including a “do-or-die situation” in Game Five of the World Series — he became disenchanted with the fact that he was only allowed to complete four games that year (after never having fewer than 11 in any full season) while setting a record with 20 no-decisions.

“Chuck Tanner and I did not see eye-to-eye. My only beef with him ever was ‘why do I have to wait five to six days to pitch if I’m only pitching five to six innings?’ What you’re doing is taking away about 50 extra innings.”

I'm not sure they were counting pitches in the 1970s. Still it's clear in his record that Blyleven's managers restricted the number of starts he made and innings he pitched after the early 1970s. Tanner looks like the first in a series of managers to deny Blyleven 40 starts and 300 innnigs. He gave Blyleven as many starts as any Pirate pitcher in the 1970s but, as Blyleven told Rich, he surely pulled him early often, as Blyleven's total number of innings pitched never got real high again until he returned to Minnesota. I'm away from all of my books and reference books that might explain Tanner's approach. Any old-timers remember what he was thinking? Obviously it's a four-man vs. five-man rotation question. I'm curious if anyone remembers what was the rationale for the latter under Tanner.

The Bucs dealt Blyleven to the Indians in the middle of 1980.

Looking over the Pirate teams from the 1970s, I'm struck by how many games they won. Those teams were good.

Monday, December 27, 2004

Steelers 20, Ravens 7.

Sweet. Stillers secure home-field advantage throughout the playoffs by pounding the crap out of the lowly cheapshot-artists/professional thugs/Cravens. AP recap and boxscore here. Post-game quotes here. Steelers never punted, put up 404 total yards, and stuffed Jamal Lewis for 26 pathetic total rushing yards. My favorite part was the dozen-consecutive-rushing-play-bitchslap:

Drive Summary: 14 plays, 71 yards
  1st-10, PIT29 B. Roethlisberger passed to H. Ward to the right for 7 yard gain
  2nd-3, PIT36 J. Bettis rushed up the middle for 7 yard gain
  1st-10, PIT43 J. Bettis rushed up the middle for 3 yard gain
  2nd-7, PIT46 J. Bettis rushed to the left for 11 yard gain
  1st-10, BAL43 V. Haynes rushed up the middle for 11 yard gain
  1st-10, BAL32 V. Haynes rushed up the middle for 9 yard gain
  2nd-1, BAL23 V. Haynes rushed up the middle for 5 yard gain
  1st-10, BAL18 V. Haynes rushed up the middle for 3 yard gain
  2nd-7, BAL15 J. Bettis rushed to the left for 6 yard gain
  3rd-1, BAL9 J. Bettis rushed up the middle for no gain
  4th-1, BAL9 B. Roethlisberger rushed up the middle for 2 yard gain
  1st-7, BAL7 J. Bettis rushed up the middle for 4 yard gain
  2nd-3, BAL3 J. Bettis rushed up the middle for 1 yard gain
  3rd-2, BAL2 B. Roethlisberger passed to J. Tuman to the left for 2 yard touchdown. J. Reed made PAT

Of course this was followed by my least favorite part, as the Cravens managed to get in another costly cheapshot, "injuring" Rotty's ribs. If anyone's got any info on the rib status, please pass on in the comments thread.

All hail the Bus for racking up 117 to pass Dickerson! All hail Plaxico! All hail James Harrison! All hail an undefeated Heinz field record!