Cliff Lee—Desperately Seeking A Win?

All Star Game, Ballparks, CBA, Cy Young Award, Draft, Fantasy/Roto, Free Agents, Games, Hall Of Fame, History, Hot Stove, Management, Media, MiLB, MLB Trade Deadline, MLB Waiver Trades, MVP, Paul Lebowitz's 2012 Baseball Guide, PEDs, Players, Playoffs, Prospects, Spring Training, Stats, Trade Rumors, Umpires, World Series

Where is this headed? Are the Phillies, so desperate to get Cliff Lee a victory on the season, going to insert him into a blowout as a reliever after four innings to get him a win?

Lee, with a Cy Young Award and post-season dominance on his resume, is being roasted because he hasn’t won a game yet in 2012?

Who cares?

The Phillies and Lee have bigger problems than to worry about the constant harping on whether or not Lee has a “W” next to his name. This is not a veteran hanging on trying to get his 300th career win; nor is it a pitcher who should be concerned about what’s said by outsiders who still equate the “W” with success or failure.

The “win” has received scrutiny in recent years and while it needs to be placed into context how a pitcher accumulates his total, it’s not something to be ignored entirely. It matters to the participants. It’s only in the past few seasons that a pitcher like Felix Hernandez or Tim Lincecum were able to gain their deserved Cy Young Awards because of advanced stats and that there are voters willing to look at something other than the pitcher who won 23 games vs the one who won 16.

That still doesn’t prevent the argument that Justin Verlander didn’t deserve the MVP award last season because the Tigers would’ve found “any” pitcher (conveniently unnameed) to fill in for Verlander and they would’ve won the division regardless.

This argument is ignorant of the Tigers’ early season struggles and that it was Verlander who carried them when they were stumbling around. Only when they made mid-season acquisitions of Delmon Young and Doug Fister; when Joaquin Benoit began pitching the way they expected; and when the Indians came apart did the Tigers take off and run away with the division. Without Verlander they wouldn’t have been in position to do so.

So there are mitigating factors in all statistics, awards and attempts to analyze.

Because Lee doesn’t have any wins doesn’t mean he’s having a “bad” year. It doesn’t mean the Phillies should put him on the trade block.

His contract owes him $87.5 million after this season and he has a 10 team no-trade list. The teams that could afford that contract and surrender the prospects to get him presumably are on the no-trade list because a veteran pitcher isn’t going to want to go to a place that could pay him more money and would be getting him at a discount over the short term. Lee made clear during his free agency that he wants nothing to do with the Yankees.

Ruben Amaro Jr. is not going to do that to him again and wouldn’t get anything more than prospects to add to a club that is still loaded with immovable long-term deals for veterans. The Phillies are what they are and a rebuild or retool on the fly is not on the table.

Lee hasn’t won any games this season because the Phillies’ offense has been unproductive; the bullpen has been shaky; and Lee has allowed runs late in games to sabotage himself. If the Phillies were the Phillies of years past, Lee would have 4-6 wins.

Would that make it all better?

He’s pitched poorly in his last two starts and for someone as mentally tough and impervious to pressure as Lee, it appears as if the talk of him “needing” a win is getting into his head.

That’s only going to make things worse and compound an issue that isn’t an issue for him to worry about or affect him at all.

//

Advertisements

Guilty By Association; Innocent By Facts

All Star Game, Ballparks, Books, CBA, Cy Young Award, Draft, Fantasy/Roto, Free Agents, Games, Hall Of Fame, History, Hot Stove, Management, Media, MiLB, MLB Trade Deadline, MLB Waiver Trades, MVP, Paul Lebowitz's 2012 Baseball Guide, PEDs, Players, Politics, Prospects, Spring Training, Stats, Trade Rumors, Umpires, World Series

It’s a strange world we live in when the person who was rummaging through the garbage on his own time and by his own volition is on the side of “right” and the people who were technically doing “wrong” end up in jail and automatically vilified for the rest of their lives as a toxic name not to be associated with under any circumstances.

But that’s where we are.

The BALCO investigation began when an IRS investigator Jeff Novitzky received a tip that the lab was providing illegal drugs to its athletes and, under his own initiative, poked around the trash of BALCO and found evidence to begin building a case to stop what was essentially a victimless crime that few wanted solved.

Novitzky was the vigilante on an inexplicable crusade.

You can read the sequence of events here.

Because he was seen as a “dealer” who tried to circumvent the law and rules of the sports in which his clients competed, Victor Conte has become that vilified and toxic name.

Of course it’s not that simple.

Once the government got the ball rolling on that case it had to get a conviction to justify what one of their employees—Novitzky—was doing; it was in the media, people knew about it, purists were complaining about the shattered records and ludicrous muscular development and everyone jumped in to get their piece of the action.

But it was all after the fact. The complaints from people inside and outside of sports during the BALCO era were completely ignored for personal and institutional gain.

It’s not unlike the Roger Clemens and Barry Bonds trials that ended with no significant penalties assessed to the two aside from the destruction of their reputations, ruining of their career accomplishments and draining of their finances.

Marlon Byrd failed a test for performance enhancing drugs and was suspended for 50 games. Byrd worked with Conte. Therefore, the simplistic logic goes, it was Conte who gave Byrd the drug.

Byrd claims that the drug he took was unrelated to baseball; that it was a private matter for a medical condition and wasn’t used to enhance his performance. Byrd’s performance validates this claim. He was released by the Red Sox following a disastrous tenure. His production has taken a dive since last season and also resulted in the Cubs dumping him on the Red Sox.

Conte has been the one person whose answers to the questions of his complicity in the case have been consistent and believable. That he was doing something that’s considered against the law and rules of competition is based on a floating set of principles that aren’t inherent, but are created and stem from the judgment of others as to right and wrong. Conte was providing a service to his athletes by helping them improve their performance. Legalities notwithstanding, it wasn’t his problem that the scheduling of X drug made it a violation to use while Y drug was okay; that the heads of baseball and other sports looked the other way as a convenience to themselves.

It’s a capricious set of “rules” that were being “broken”.

Attacked because he tries to cut through the fog of athletics and the sanctimonious pretentions by the heads of the sports whose rules he supposedly violated, a misplaced connection between Conte and Byrd was presented as proof of guilt.

Conte’s main crime now appears to be telling the truth about PEDs and how prevalent they still are; that he accurately says if enforcement and eradication were really the goals, more would be done to improve the tests and procedures.

Factually, it doesn’t appear that Byrd got caught using something Conte had given him.

But that doesn’t matter.

It’s a splashy and attention-getting headline to say, “Marlon Byrd Busted With PEDS; Once Worked With Victor Conte”.

Facts are irrelevant when they would preclude the headline and the story detailing their conspiracy especially when there was no conspiracy at all.

//

The Truth About The Yankees’ Home Runs

All Star Game, Ballparks, Books, CBA, Cy Young Award, Draft, Fantasy/Roto, Free Agents, Games, Hall Of Fame, History, Hot Stove, Management, Media, MiLB, MLB Trade Deadline, MLB Waiver Trades, Movies, MVP, Paul Lebowitz's 2012 Baseball Guide, PEDs, Players, Playoffs, Prospects, Spring Training, Stats, Trade Rumors, Umpires, World Series

The simple stupidity of the Yankees being criticized for relying on the home run ball speaks for itself. Are they supposed to stop trying to hit home runs to prove they can win without it? What’s the difference how they score their runs? Are they sacrificing other aspects of their game chasing homers?

The answer to the above questions is no.

They have players who hit a lot of home runs. If they lose games in which they haven’t homered, it’s a safe bet that they ran into a pretty good pitcher.

The out-of-context stat argument is more complicated. Picking and choosing a convenient stat to bolster an argument is not the true intent of using statistics to begin with. They’re designed to promote a factual understanding and not to fool readers into seeing things the way the writer wants.

Is it a bad thing that the Yankees score via the home run? No.

Is it indicative that they’ll continue that trend once the playoffs start and do they need to be prepared to find other ways to score runs when they’re in games against better teams with better pitchers? They’ll hit their homers, but it won’t be like it is now.

The truly important factor to examine isn’t whether or not they’re hitting home runs, but who they’re hitting the home runs against.

During the regular season there aren’t the top-tier pitchers they’re going to face in the playoffs. The better the pitcher is, the better his stuff is; the better his command is; the better his control is. He’s not going to make the same mistakes as the mediocre and worse pitchers they’re fattening up their power numbers against.

I looked at all the pitchers the Yankees have homered against this season.

The list follows:

Russell Martin: Clay Buchholz, Justin Verlander, Jose Mijares, Homer Bailey, James Shields, J.P. Howell, Jonathon Niese, Jon Rauch

Mark Teixeira: Anthony Swarzak, Felix Doubront, Matt Albers, Bruce Chen, Luis Ayala, Tyson Ross, Bartolo Colon, Graham Godfrey, Hisanori Takahashi, Alex Cobb, Dillon Gee, Mike Minor

Robinson Cano: Jason Marquis, Luke Hochevar (2), David Price, Bronson Arroyo, Tyson Ross, Bartolo Colon, Ervin Santana, Alex Cobb, Johan Santana (2), Tom Gorzelanny, Anthony Varvaro, Tommy Hanson, Miguel Batista (2)

Alex Rodriguez: Ervin Santana, Clay Buchholz, Derek Holland, Justin Verlander (2) Tommy Hottovy, Will Smith (2), Octavio Dotel, Jonny Venters, Tommy Hanson, Jon Niese

Derek Jeter: Wei-Yin Chen, Hisanori Takahashi, Carl Pavano, Matt Capps, Bruce Chen, Justin Verlander, Tommy Hanson

Raul Ibanez: James Shields (2), Jason Isringhausen, Neftali Feliz, Burke Badenhop, Felix Hernandez, Hector Noesi, Bronson Arroyo, Jonny Cueto, Randall Delgado, Chris Young

Curtis Garnderson: Jake Arrieta, Ervin Santana (2), Carl Pavano, Anthony Swarzak (2), Jeff Gray, Phil Coke, Max Scherzer, Brian Matusz, James Shields, David Price, Jason Hammel, Wei-Yin Chen, Will Smith, Bobby Cassevah, Casey Crosby, Bobby Parnell, Tim Hudson, Tom Gorzelanny, Edwin Jackson

Nick Swisher: Joel Peralta, Kevin Gregg, Clay Buchholz, Vicente Padilla, Drew Smyly, Jose Valverde, Luke Hochevar, Tyson Ross, Johan Santana, Cory Gearrin, R.A. Dickey

Eric Chavez: Clay Buchholz (2), Jason Hammel, Tommy Hanson, Jon Rauch

Andruw Jones: Darren O’Day, Matt Maloney, Collin Balester, Steve Delabar, Tommy Milone, Johan Santana, Jon Niese

There are some names above that the Yankees might be facing in the post-season. Shields, Price, Verlander, Hanson and a few others. But they’re not going to be able to use Hochevar, Pavano or most of the other mediocrities to beat on.

I don’t see the names Jered Weaver, C.J. Wilson, Dan Haren, Stephen Strasburg, Gio Gonzalez or Yu Darvish in there.

If the Yankees don’t hit homers, then what?

Understanding the value of their homers is not the brainless bully strategy of, “Me swing hard; me hit home runs; team win.”

What was the score when the home runs were hit? What where the weather conditions? Did the pitcher make a mistake or did the hitter hit a good pitch? Was the game a blowout and the pitcher just trying to get the ball over the plate to get the game over with in either club’s favor?

These questions, among many other things, have to be accounted for.

Those who are complaining about the club needing to “manufacture” runs don’t know any more about baseball than those who are blindly defending the use of the home run without the full story.

Of course it’s a good thing that the Yankees hit a lot of home runs, but those home runs can’t be relied upon as the determinative factor of whether they’re going to win in the post-season because they’ll be facing better pitching and teams that will be able to use the homer-friendly Yankee Stadium themselves mitigating any advantage the Yankees might have. Teams that are more versatile, play good defense, steal bases and run with smart aggression and have strong pitching will be able to deal with the Yankees’ power.

Teams like the Mets are unable to do that.

The Yankees’ home runs are only an issue if they stop hitting them. Then they’ll have to find alternative ways to score when the balls aren’t flying over the fences. This is why it’s not a problem that they don’t have Brett Gardner now. In fact, it seems like the fans and media has forgotten about him. But they’re going to need him in the playoffs because he gives them something they barely have with this current configuration: he can run and wreak havoc on the bases and is an excellent defensive left fielder.

As much as Joe Morgan was savaged for his silly statements blaming the Oakland A’s inability to manufacture runs in their playoff losses during the Moneyball years, he wasn’t fundamentally inaccurate. It wasn’t about squeezing and hitting and running capriciously as Morgan wanted them to do and altering the strategy that got them to the playoffs; but it was about being able to win when not hitting home runs; when not facing a pitching staff that is going to walk you; when a team actually has relievers who can pitch and not a bunch of names they accumulated and found on the scrapheap.

The A’s couldn’t win when they didn’t get solid starting pitching or hit home runs.

Can the Yankees?

That’s going to be the key to their season. Then the true value of their homer-happy offense will come to light.

//

The Kevin Youkilis Trade And All Its Angles

All Star Game, Ballparks, CBA, Fantasy/Roto, Free Agents, Games, History, Management, Media, MiLB, MLB Trade Deadline, MVP, Paul Lebowitz's 2012 Baseball Guide, Players, Playoffs, Prospects, Stats, Trade Rumors, World Series

Yesterday the Red Sox traded 3B/1B Kevin Youkilis to the White Sox for INF/OF Brent Lillibridge and RHP Zach Stewart. Let’s look at the ins and outs.

For the Red Sox:

They had to get Youkilis out of Boston in part because they had nowhere to play him and in part because his time as a centerpiece in the lineup had passed.

Bobby Valentine has gotten the bulk of the blame for Youkilis falling out of favor, but he’s the lightning rod. In truth this became inevitable last September and should’ve been done over the winter.

As GM Ben Cherington said, Will Middlebrooks needs to be in the lineup. He’s injected a desperately needed freshness and enthusiasm into a stagnant atmosphere.

Last season Lillibridge played all over the field defensively making memorable plays and broke out offensively with 13 homers; this season he’s reverted back to normal and his normal—a career slash line of .215/.283/.358—isn’t good.

Stewart has an average fastball and is a 4-A pitcher who the Red Sox can use as an emergency starter or long-man out of the bullpen. He’s going to Triple A Pawtucket.

The Red Sox paid $5.5 million of the $7.6 million Youkilis is guaranteed.

For the White Sox:

The disappointing Tigers have left the AL Central wide open and the White Sox are in surprising contention.

Brent Morel and Orlando Hudson were so bad at third base that 45-year-old manager Robin Ventura could’ve pulled a Roger Dorn and activated himself and couldn’t have been worse.

They needed a third baseman and got a good one for nothing.

For Youkilis:

If he’s healthy, Youkilis can still play. He was stale in Boston, wasn’t in the lineup enough to gain a rhythm and the relationship with Valentine was beyond repair. At age 33, he still has something left. The change-of-scenery plus desire to shove it to the Red Sox will rejuvenate his bat.

Players like Youkilis are judged on the now. When he was hitting, his sour faces were viewed as an intense player hating to fail. When he wasn’t hitting for a losing team and there was a replacement in the wings, he was viewed as an annoying baby.

One year ago today, Youkilis had an .890 OPS, 11 homers and 33 extra base hits. He was an All-Star. The idea that 365 days later the Red Sox would get two journeymen for him and pay him to leave was unthinkable.

But it happened.

It’s best for everyone involved.

//

Courageous Anonymity

All Star Game, Ballparks, Books, CBA, Cy Young Award, Draft, Fantasy/Roto, Free Agents, Games, Hall Of Fame, History, Hot Stove, Management, Media, MiLB, MLB Trade Deadline, MLB Waiver Trades, MVP, Paul Lebowitz's 2012 Baseball Guide, PEDs, Players, Playoffs, Politics, Prospects, Spring Training, Stats, Trade Rumors, Umpires, World Series

This item from MLB Trade Rumors caught my eye:

A National League talent evaluator thinks the Mets should give some thought to trading R.A. Dickey while his value is skyhigh.  The Mets don’t have the money to make the deadline upgrades that they need, so they could instead continue with their three- or four-year plan by making the right-hander available.

An anonymous NL talent evaluator suggests that the Mets should think about trading one of the best stories in baseball; a pitcher who has overcome tremendous odds, injuries, a genetic deformity, sexual abuse as a child and bounced from team-to-team learning an almost-impossible pitch to master; wrote a book and has become a gate attraction everywhere he goes; and is on track to start the All-Star game.

Is that about right?

This is the problem with anonymity; with the suggestions of those who aren’t in a position of power to make any maneuvers; with those who are commenting about complex terms and teams they don’t work for with cut-and-dried simplicity.

Let’s just say the Mets follow this advice. What are they going to get for Dickey that would make it worth the public relations hit? Dickey is 37 and is signed for 2013 at a ridiculously cheap rate of $5 million. Knuckleballers last far longer than conventional pitchers and even if Dickey can’t keep up his current pace (and he can’t), there’s reason to believe that he could be an 180-215 inning pitcher until he’s 42-years-old. That’s five years away.

Are the Mets going to get a package that would replicate that? What would the fans think?

Dickey has become a symbol to Mets fans not because he’s come from the scrapheap to burgeoning star at a late age, but because he never gave up and kept pushing and pushing through endless adversity while refusing to surrender his dream and belief in himself to persevere and make it when few thought he would; when few were willing to give him a chance as anything other than a desperate afterthought or Triple A insurance.

Amid all the suffering endured by Mets’ fans, there’s hope that things are going to get better; that the team will win; that they’re on the right track.

That mirrors Dickey and his life.

Would any return on a Dickey trade be enough even if they get functional big league players ready to contribute in 2013-2015?

It’s very easy for someone to say that teams should do “this” or “that” when not in a position of power to make those decisions. But running a club isn’t about finding players and crafting a roster alone. It’s not a computer or a stat sheet or a game of fantasy baseball. A baseball team is a product. The customer must be kept happy. Mets’ fans have accepted that the team is in the midst of a rebuild and that rebuild is going far better than expected. Trading Dickey would unravel much of the goodwill they’ve accrued and alienate a segment of the fanbase—a fanbase that doesn’t need a nudge to spend their time and money elsewhere.

It reminds me of the caller to Mike Francesa’s show that said he would, in no uncertain terms, tell Jorge Posada that because the left-handed pitcher on the mound was worse against lefties than righties that the switch-hitting Posada was going to bat left-handed against him.

Ignoring that Posada is a borderline Hall of Famer and that this would be considered an insult for a manager, coach or teammate to make such a demand let alone some guy who’d never picked up a baseball and equated understanding out-of-context numbers with an expertise to do such a thing, but Posada’s irascible demeanor and quick trigger temper would make it dangerous to this would-be executive.

He’s going to “tell” Posada to do this?

He’d better be able to take a punch or wear a protective cup under his khakis.

I don’t know who this “evaluator” that thinks the Mets should consider trading Dickey is (if the person even exists), but my evaluation of your evaluation isn’t hidden by anonymity. Here it is: You don’t know anything and wouldn’t have the nerve to put into action that which you advocate if you were in a position to do so. It’s time for you to re-evaluate because your evaluations are ridiculous on and off the field.

//

The Youkilis Situation Could’ve Been Handled Better

All Star Game, Ballparks, CBA, Cy Young Award, Draft, Fantasy/Roto, Free Agents, Games, Hall Of Fame, History, Hot Stove, Management, Media, MiLB, MLB Trade Deadline, MLB Waiver Trades, Movies, MVP, Paul Lebowitz's 2012 Baseball Guide, PEDs, Players, Playoffs, Politics, Prospects, Spring Training, Stats, Trade Rumors, Umpires, World Series

The Red Sox are not known for their amicable partings of the ways with players, managers and executives.

Pedro Martinez, Derek Lowe, Johnny Damon, Nomar Garciaparra, Terry Francona and Theo Epstein all left under acrimonious circumstances so it’s not surprising that Kevin Youkilis is on the trading block and has been treated as if he was a spare part rather than a key to their success over the past six years.

Youkilis isn’t innocent here. His intensity, hatred of losing and temper were once seen as attributes, but once he was injured and his production diminished, those personality traits were suddenly viewed as negative. The temper turned into whining; his hatred of losing became self-indulgent tantrums; the intensity deteriorated into clubhouse lawyering.

What was once galvanizing morphed into the subversive.

It doesn’t matter which is accurate. It’s all about perception. When the team was winning, Youkilis’s personality was part of the fabric that made the club successful; when they began losing, it was a problem that had to be excised.

Bobby Valentine didn’t do the Red Sox, himself or Youkilis any favors by calling the player out for his seeming lack of passion. Boston tends to magnify everything and a manager like Valentine—accustomed to New York and a press corps with a million other stories to cover—certainly didn’t expect what was an innocuous comment to explode the way it did. In New York it would’ve been a story for a day or two and then faded away. In Boston it was a topic of conversation for weeks and validated the players’ fears about Valentine.

The biggest factors for the Red Sox in this haven’t been Valentine, Youkilis, the emergence of Will Middlebrooks or the team’s struggles that have necessitated dramatic changes for the greater good. The upheaval from last fall and departures of Francona and Epstein got the ball rolling. Had Francona been brought back, Epstein would’ve stayed; had Epstein stayed, Larry Lucchino wouldn’t have asserted himself in the baseball operations department; there would be no Valentine. If Epstein had stayed, he likely would’ve insisted on making serious changes to the roster. That would’ve had Youkilis traded last winter rather than heading into the season with him already unhappy at being symbolized for the 2011 collapse.

Blaming Valentine or Youkilis is simplistic. The Red Sox disarray that precipitated the departures of Francona and Epstein set the foundation. They could’ve gotten something for Youkilis last winter. Now they’re probably going to get nothing apart from another name added to the list of players who gave their hearts and souls to the Red Sox and Boston and were unceremoniously—even cruelly—kicked out the door when they’d outlived their usefulness.

It didn’t have to be this way.

It shouldn’t have been this way.

But this is how it is.

//

What’s Wrong With The Marlins?

All Star Game, Ballparks, CBA, Cy Young Award, Draft, Fantasy/Roto, Free Agents, Games, Hall Of Fame, History, Hot Stove, Management, Media, MiLB, MLB Trade Deadline, MLB Waiver Trades, MVP, Paul Lebowitz's 2012 Baseball Guide, Players, Playoffs, Politics, Prospects, Spring Training, Stats, Trade Rumors, World Series

In a sane world, rather than find someone to blame and sacrifice for a poor performance, an organization steeped in common sense and with confidence in their decisionmakers and strategy would look at what’s wrong and try to fix it.

That’s in a sane world.

The world I’m talking about is that of the Miami Marlins and it’s anything but sane.

After today’s loss to the Blue Jays, the Marlins are now 33-38 and, pending the Phillies’ game being played as of this writing, are in last place in the National League East.

It’s a plummet from the heights that owner Jeffrey Loria envisioned in the first year of the new Marlins Park and after the money he spent to import expensive names Jose Reyes, Mark Buehrle, Heath Bell, Carlos Zambrano and manager Ozzie Guillen.

Not only has the team floundered, flipped and flopped on the field, the attendance is 10th out of 16 teams and the empty seats have become more and more noticeable. Judging from their history the fans in Miami and surrounding areas have had other things to do on a warm summer night than to go see the Marlins. That’s been the case whether the team was good or not. With the team playing this brand of uninspiring and disinterested baseball, there’s no reason to go to the park at all.

In some circles, the Marlins were a trendy World Series pick.

That doesn’t mean there weren’t holes and questions.

The starting rotation had Josh Johnson returning from injury and Zambrano, who had worn out his welcome with the Cubs to the point where they paid the majority of his $18 million salary for the Marlins to take him. The bullpen added Bell and, in spite of his declining strikeout numbers and reputation of annoying his bosses, he should’ve been expected to convert the majority of his chances in the negligible save stat. As set-up men they’re using the homer-prone Edward Mujica and a pitcher with a great arm, Steve Cishek, who gives up rockets all over the place whenever I see him pitch. Many times those rockets are hit right at someone making his numbers better than what they should be.

The lineup has been a disappointment and is 12th in the National League in runs scored. Two of their everyday players, John Buck (.165) and Gaby Sanchez (.195) are trapped on the interstate. Reyes has a slash line of .270/.347/.381 with 16 stolen bases. It’s not bad, but not what he was for the Mets in 2011 when he won the batting title and was a phenomenon for much of the season. Hanley Ramirez is hitting better now after a rancid start. Emilio Bonifacio is on the disabled list. Logan Morrison has 7 homers and a .721 OPS.

In the past, the question for Loria has been, “Who can I fire?”

It worked in 2003 when Jeff Torborg was replaced by Jack McKeon. It didn’t work last season when Edwin Rodriguez was replaced by McKeon. Guillen has a 4-year contract at big money and isn’t going anywhere.

This group was Scotch-taped together with big names from the open market without consideration as to gelling and functioning as a unit.

And they’re not functioning as a unit. They don’t put forth the on-field impression that they like each other very much. The Marlins play as if they don’t care; as if they’ve accepted that this is the team, this is their status, and as long as the paychecks are signed and cashable, whatever.

We’re days away from a Loria explosion dutifully filtered through his hatchet man/son-in-law David Samson. It’s generally been Samson who’s been the public face for Loria’s displeasure. That’s coming soon.

One would expect threats and demands will be leaked into the media to express ownserhip’s displeasure. But when does something get done?

A threat is worthless unless it’s carried out in some form and the Marlins under Loria have never been shy to follow through on their threats.

Will they try to trade LoMo? Shake up the bullpen? Or fire someone?

Who is there to fire?

Team President Larry Beinfest has been with the Marlins for a long time and for the most part has done a good job. It wasn’t long ago that he was widely considered one of the best executives in baseball for functioning in that world with Loria and Samson; without money to spend; with the other issues surrounding the club. He still placed a competitive team on the field. This team is a mess. It’s possible that Beinfest wasn’t onboard with the lavish spending spree the club undertook. That’s a dual-edged sword because if that’s the case, he’s expendable.

I doubt that Beinfest will be tossed overboard.

GM Michael Hill is another story. It’s known that Beinfest has been the man running the show and if the Marlins want to do something, firing or demoting Hill would be pretentious and useless, but that’s never mattered to Loria or Samson.

At 33-38 they’re going to do something. It all depends on who winds up in Loria’s crosshairs.

By now, it could be anyone.

The Marlins wanted to make a splash last winter and they did. But that splash is turning into a tsunami and it’s engulfing the club and everything in its path.

//

How Does Pine Tar Help A Pitcher?

All Star Game, Ballparks, CBA, Cy Young Award, Draft, Fantasy/Roto, Free Agents, Games, Hall Of Fame, History, Hot Stove, Management, Media, MiLB, MLB Trade Deadline, MLB Waiver Trades, MVP, Paul Lebowitz's 2012 Baseball Guide, PEDs, Players, Playoffs, Prospects, Spring Training, Stats, Trade Rumors, Umpires, World Series

When a pitcher throws a baseball, he gets his velocity from arm speed. Arm speed is enhanced by the use of his body. The legs, butt, hips and trunk generate the force to the arm and the arm delivers the baseball.

But what about the hands?

Pitchers with large hands are able to throw harder than pitchers with smaller hands and they don’t need as much arm speed to do so. If you watch a pitcher with a somewhat strange motion, little leg drive and pedestrian noticeable arm speed and they’re putting up a radar gun reading of 95 mph, there’s a great chance that they have larger than normal hands and long fingers. Jose Valverde of the Tigers regularly pops the gun at 94 mph+ without the powerful motion of a Tom Seaver or the clear leverage of Randy Johnson. He must have enormous hands to do it.

How does pine tar come into the equation to help a pitcher?

Pitchers sweat and their hands grow moist. No amount of wiping and resin is going to eliminate the underlying moisture that might compromise their grip on the ball. Pine tar is an inherently sticky substance that batters use to reinforce their grip on the bat, but it works for pitchers as well. The problem for pitchers is that it’s illegal.

Arm speed creates velocity, but the seams on the ball are where a pitcher makes the ball move. The more secure a pitcher’s fingers are on the seams, the greater rotation he’s going to get when he releases the ball. Because of this the movement is increased.

The seams are what’s responsible for the rise in a rising fastball; the cut in a cutter; the slide in a slider; and the break in a curveball. If a pitcher doesn’t have the seams, no amount of arm/wrist break is going to give him the movement he’ll get from the seams.

Pine tar increases the adhesion of finger to ball and with that, the spin.

As we saw this week with Joel Peralta of the Rays and in the past with Jay Howell when he was pitching for the Dodgers in 1988—both called out by manager Davey Johnson—pitchers place pine tar in their glove or somewhere on their body to use at their leisure. Other pitchers have been accused of doing it as well as we saw with Tigers’ pitcher Kenny Rogers in the 2006 post-season. It’s not a remote occurrence and while certain pitchers are brazen enough to stick it in their gloves where it can be easily found, others are more canny about it and place it surreptitiously on their neck; in their dip can; in some secret place that is easily hidden but accessible when they need it.

Any hitter can catch up to any fastball if it’s straight. If a pitch is moving, it’s harder to hit. Pine tar helps the movement on a pitch.

It’s a customary practice. Johnson found out about Peralta doing it and used that information to his advantage. But it happens all the time. Peralta just got caught.

//

Lincecum’s Mechanics Are Off (Video)

All Star Game, Ballparks, CBA, Cy Young Award, Draft, Fantasy/Roto, Free Agents, Games, Hall Of Fame, History, Hot Stove, Management, Media, MiLB, MLB Trade Deadline, MLB Waiver Trades, Movies, Paul Lebowitz's 2012 Baseball Guide, Players, Playoffs, Prospects, Spring Training, Stats, Trade Rumors, World Series

Tim Lincecum’s mechanics are off.

That’s the problem that is causing his lack of control and probably his diminished velocity as well. Why the Giants, Dave Righetti, Bruce Bochy or Lincecum’s increasingly irritable and defensive father Chris (Yahoo Story) haven’t taken steps to correct what he’s doing wrong is a mystery to me. I’d be stunned if they haven’t studied the video of when Lincecum was at his best and what he is now.

If you look at the video clip below from the 2010 World Series, there are subtle differences between what he was doing then and what he’s doing now.

Back then, he went into his simplified motion, kicked his leg and hesitated for a split second giving his hand time to get the ball out of his glove and hang down in the dangled position before launching himself toward the hitter with a posture and release point befitting someone who was 3 or so inches taller than Lincecum’s listed (and questionable) height of 5’11”.

He’s compact and his glove is leading the way toward the plate so his entire focus and direction is heading in that direction. He’s turning his back to the hitter in a much more pronounced fashion than he is now and his leg is tighter in relation to his body.

Now look at the video from this season.

Lincecum is not hesitating as much. He’s rushing. His arm is dragging behind and he’s getting too low in what looks like an old David Cone-style drop-and-drive when Lincecum—in spite of his long stride that was indicative of an automatic drop-and-drive style pitcher—was a pitcher who stood up straight and tall.

He’s flying off toward first base rather than going straight toward the plate.

His release point is technically the same, but since his body is lower, he’s lower and he’s too open in his leg lift so he’ll be too open when he releases the ball. Hitters might be getting a better view of it coming out of his hand. His ball is flattening out, he no longer has his control and as a result of these mechanical flaws, he’s losing confidence and there’s been talk of skipped starts, demotions to the bullpen and even sending him down to the minor leagues.

These are correctable issues and Lincecum’s muscle memory would speed up the process. I’m not sure why they haven’t fixed what he’s doing wrong. It’s not hard to see.

At least it shouldn’t be for the professional pitching coach, manager who’s a former catcher and the dad who honed and perfected his son’s unique motion.

//

Kay’s and ESPN’s Radio Ratings Conundrum

Ballparks, College Football, Fantasy/Roto, Football, Management, Media, Paul Lebowitz's 2012 Baseball Guide, Players, Playoffs, Politics, Stats, Trade Rumors

Michael Kay’s shtick is deigned for a Yankees’ loving audience. It works on the YES Network because that’s what the YES Network wants, but it isn’t going to work on a radio show.

Therefore it shouldn’t come as a surprise that Kay’s poor ratings are now attracting notice since ESPN added an FM signal by taking over 98.7 in New York.

You can read the reports of Kay’s low ratings here on BobsBlitz.com.

Prior to the ESPN NY shift to FM, there were viable excuses for Kay not to have the ratings of Mike Francesa on WFAN. The station was hard to find if you weren’t looking for it; the signal for 1050 AM was weak.

Now that he’s on FM and ESPN is trying desperately to establish a foothold in the New York radio market, it comes down to the bottom line and the bottom line for Kay is he has to get ratings for the station. If he doesn’t do that, he’s going to be replaced. What makes the situation all the more untenable for Kay is the vulnerability of Francesa as a solo act. ESPN has to be asking itself where they’d be if they had a host who could attract those disenfranchised Francesa listeners who don’t want to hear him talk about horseracing or golf.

Kay worships the Yankees and says utterly idiotic things in fulfilling the mandate of the YES Network of selling the club above all notions of objectivity. That extended to his ESPN show and unless you’re a masochistic Mets’ fan or a sycophantic Yankees’ fan seeking validation, it’s not something to willingly listen to.

If Kay claims his persona on the YES broadcasts is an act taken to its logical extreme, that isn’t going to assuage the irritation of the fans who don’t want to hear his voice interjecting itself into their enjoyment with a pre-prepared, poorly written and narcissistic narration of such moments as Derek Jeter’s 3000th hit or Mariano Rivera’s record-breaking save; of omnipotent declarations that the 2010 ALCS was “over” after the Rangers blew game 1; of his statements that he “protected” Joe Torre while he was managing the team as if that was part of his job.

You can’t go from being a Yankees’ shill to an objective analyst.

Yankees’ fans don’t want to hear him, so what chance does he have attracting an audience for a radio show when fans have a choice they don’t have during the games on YES?

His ratings are weak because of him, not because of the signal and not because of other issues. I don’t see any possible way for him to stem the tide that will end in him being replaced with someone more marketable to a wider-ranging New York audience.

The ratings in the time slot wouldn’t be worse if ESPN NY had a syndicated national show that was just as likely to talk about the BCS and Alabama’s, Michigan’s or LSU’s chances at a National Championship than they are now with Kay talking about the Yankees.

That’s a clearer signal than you’d get on AM, FM or if you were being screamed at in your own home.

It says in the above-linked piece that he has the football season to get it right, but I don’t think he has that long. When the baseball season is over, so might be his show.

//