Archive for the ‘World Baseball Classic’ Category

The WBC And The Affects On Pitching Part 2..

May 18, 2009

Back in January, I wrote a post title “The World Baseball Classic And The Affects On Starting Pitching.” I wrote the post to show that most pitchers who pitched in the WBC in 2006 had a worse era that season than they did in 2005. Now that we are over 30 games into the season and the WBC is well behind us, I think is now a good time to see how some of the WBC pitchers are fairing this season.

Cueto is off to a good start

Cueto is off to a good start

Pitcher-Record-ERA

Jose Arredono – 1-0 5.51 era

Johnny Cueto – 4-1 1.93 era

Felix Hernandez – 4-2 3.53 era

Ubaldo Jimenez – 3-4 4.73 era

Rafael Perez – 0-1 15.19 era. Optioned to Triple A in May.

Daisuke Matsuzaka – 0-1 12.79 era. On the DL since April with Shoulder Fatigue.

Ian Snell – 1-5 4.93 era

Roy Oswalt – 1-2 4.50 era

Ted Lilly – 5-2 3.27 era

Jonathon Sanchez – 1-3 5.06 era

Jake Peavy – 2-5 4.30 era

Jeremy Guthrie – 3-3 5.21 era

Scot Shields – 1-3 7.90 era

JJ Putz – 1-2 3.86. Is currently pitching with a bone spur in his right elbow.

Joakim Soria – 1-0 2.08 era and 7/7 in saves. Currently on the 15 Day DL because of a sore shoulder. Royals GM, Dayton Moore wonders if the WBC led to Soria’s issue.  “I don’t think it helps,” Moore told the Kansas City Star. “We couldn’t control his work. If you can’t control a pitcher’s workload and you can’t script their preparation during spring training, it’s a problem.”

JP Howell – 0-2 2.81 era

Joel Hanrahan – 0-1 5.51 era and 3/6 in saves

Jonathon Broxton – 4-0 1.50 era and 9/11 in saves

Matt Lindstrom – 1-1 5.40 era and 7/9 in saves

Heath Bell – 1-0 0.00 era and 9/9 in saves

LaTroy Hawkins – 1-1 2.70 era and 5/7 in saves

Brad Ziegler – 0-0 3.86 era 4/5 in saves

Perez is having a terrible 2009

Perez is having a terrible 2009

John Grabow – 1-0 5.29 era

Oliver Perez – 1-2 9.97 era. Placed on the 15 Day DL because of a knee injury. In reality it was because he is terrible.

So that is 24 pitchers with a combined 37-41 record on a 5.08 era. Now can all these poor starts be solely attributed to the WBC? Absolutely not. That wouldn’t be fair saying that was the case. However, I do believe there is some connection between these poor starts and pitching in the WBC. Out of those 24 pitchers, it seems only Johnny Cueto, Heath Bell and Jonathon Broxton have pitched in the WBC and have pitched exceptionally well in 2009.

There is no evidence to suggest that the WBC is going away any time soon.  So when the next WBC comes around and if you see a pitcher on your favorite team on the roster, don’t expect a good year out of him.

*Please note all stats were calculated prior to Sunday’s games.

Fixing Team USA….

March 23, 2009

With Team USA losing in last nights semi-final game in the WBC to Japan 9-4, it marked the 2nd time in 2 WBCtournaments they failed to even make the finals. So what is wrong with USA baseball? Why can’t they win a game that they invented? It’s time to take a look at the 4 things that can be done to fix Team USA for the next WBC.

1. No All-Star Team. If you watched other countries play throughout the tournament, you probably noticed there was very little substituting going on amongst position players. When it came to Team USA, players were treated like they were playing in an All-Star game. Constant substitutions, pinch hitters everywhere and players starting one game and sitting the bench the next. When you have an All-Star roster, a manager has to try to appease everyone which is hard to do. This strategy of a roster full of All Stars has not worked in 2 tournaments.

Here is my fix and Steve Phillips brought this up last night during the telecast. Pick 9 All-Star starters, pick 1 star reserve catcher (Iannetta was perfect this year) and then pick 3 lesser known utility players. Since utility players don’t demand ab’s, this will allow the 9 stars to get their ab’s in throughout the tournament. The more ab’s your stars get, the more likely they will get better throughout the tournament. Pick 1 guy who can play all 3 OF positions, 1 guy who can play SS/2B and1 guy who can play 1B/3B. A guy like Craig Counsell would be a great example of someone who would fill this type of role.  

Starting Pitching. Now that there is a plan for the position players, it’s now time to fix the starting rotation. This has been Team USA’s biggest issue in the last 2 tournaments. Other countries have their best starting pitchers pitching in this tournament and if they are not pitching, it’s only because of injury (Johan Santana & Carlos Zambrano come to mind). In these tournaments, USA has started Dontrelle Willis, Ted Lilly and Jeremy Guthrie. No disrespect to those guys, but if they are USA’s best starting pitchers then we as a country are in serious trouble.

Sabathia needs to pitch for USA

Sabathia needs to pitch for USA

Not to beat a head horse but I did say if USA didn’t win the WBC it would be because of their starting pitching. Their 4 starters of Peavy, Oswalt, Guthrie and Lilly had a combined era of 10.09. That is just not going to cut it. I am not sure if there is an easy fix to this issue as you can’t force people to play. But there has to be a way for USA officials to be able to convince pitchers like Sabathia, Webb, Lincecum, Beckett, Halladay, Lackey and Lester to pitch. Without these types of pitchers, we will be hard pressed to win.

Spring Training. One of the reasons Team USA has not won in 2 tries is because they are not as game ready as the other countries. Countries like Japan, Cuba and Korea are in mid-season form, while USA is still working out the kinks in early March.

Here is my fix. Have a Spring Training camp just for Team USA players. Other countries can do this as well but for the USA this is vital. It doesn’t make sense to me that pitchers and catchers report to there MLB team on Feb 14th and then 2 weeks later join Team USA. Why not just join Team USA from the beginning. In a WBC year, announce the rosters a month earlier (in the middle of Feb is to late) and have all pitchers and catchers on the WBC roster report to the USA Spring Training Camp on Jan 14th, followed by position players a week later.

This would allow all players to get there work in, build chemistry with their new teammates and set their time table to the WBC schedule, not their team’s schedule. By the time the WBC starts, we will have almost 2 months of Spring Training under out belts. Roy Oswalt started his training earlier because he knew was going to pitch in the WBC. Now it is time to formalize that training with the rest of the team.

The Manager. Team USA has had a tendency to bring managers out of retirement to coach the team. Buck Martinez who last managed a team in 2002 was asked to be the manager in 2006 and Davey johnson who last managed the Dodgers back in 2000 was asked to manage the 2009 team. This has to stop.

As Jim Caple pointed out in his article today on ESPN.com, Davey Johnson had a rough night last night and overall had a very tough WBC. Davey Johnson seemed out of touch with his players, wanted to appease everyone andhandled his pitching staff about as poorly as you can. I understand he is “Derek Jeter” but there is no way on earth that if you are actually trying to win last night that Jeter starts at SS over Jimmy Rollins. That decision was a killer and it came back to haunt Johnson as a Jeter error in the 8th opened up the flood gates for Japan.

Here is my fix. Since you can’t hire a current Major League manager, hire the previous year’s Baseball America Minor League Manager of the Year to manage the team. If that manager is not American, then you ask the guy who came in 2nd.  Last year’s winner was Rocket Wheeler from the Atlanta Braves organization. Here is a list of past winners:

1989: Buck Showalter, Albany (Yankees)
1990: Kevin Kennedy, Albuquerque (Dodgers)
1991: Butch Hobson, Pawtucket (Red Sox)
1992: Grady Little, Greenville (Braves)
1993: Terry Francona, Birmingham (White Sox)
1994: Tim Ireland, El Paso (Brewers)
1995: Marc Bombard, Indianapolis (Reds)
1996: Carlos Tosca, Portland (Marlins)
1997: Gary Jones, Edmonton (Athletics)
1998: Terry Kennedy, Iowa (Cubs)
1999: John Mizerock, Wichita (Royals)
2000: Joel Skinner, Buffalo (Indians)
2001: Jackie Moore, Round Rock (Astros)
2002: John Russell, Edmonton (Twins)
2003: Dave Brundage, San Antonio (Mariners)
2004: Marty Brown, Buffalo (Indians)
2005: Ken Oberkfell, Norfolk (Mets)
2006: Todd Claus, Portland (Red Sox)
2007: Matt Walbeck, Erie (Tigers)
2008: Rocket Wheeler; Myrtle Beach (Braves)

As you can see, there some pretty impressive names on that list. Minor League managers are highly respected because of the work they do developing younger players so there would be no problem gaining the players respect. They are in touch with today’s game and player and due to one of my fixes, they wouldn’t have to worry about appeasing an All-Star laden roster. This would also give the manager and opportunity to showcase himself in front of the world. If he gets rave reviews from players, it might lead to a Major League job. If baseball wants to use the WBC to showcase baseball globally, why can’t baseball use the WBC to showcase some of the best managing talent nationally?

Those are my 4 fixes to help Team USA finally capture the WBC title. Will they listen? Who knows. But what I do know is that in the country where baseball was invented, we are letting other countries walk all over us in this tournament and it needs to stop.

Team USA Adds Longoria….

March 21, 2009

Team USA announced that Tampa Rays 3B, Evan Longoria will replace Chipper Jones on their roster. To get a player of Longoria’s caliber this late in the tournament, I think is a huge upgrade for Team USA.

I hope Longoria gets the chance to start (perhaps at DH instead of Jeter) in Team USA’s Semi-Final game against Japan on Sunday. Though this late in the tournament I am not so sure that is going to happen. Unfortunately, Longoria will probably serve as a pinch-hitter late in the game if Team USA needs one.

In other Team USA news, there has been no replacement named yet for Kevin Youkilis. It looks like Mark DeRosa will start at 1B on Sunday.

USA vs Netherlands…

March 16, 2009

I would like to introduce a new category on The Ghost of Moonlight Graham called Inside The Lines. I am going to a do a running blog during select games and the idea is to give analysis of a game or games as they happen.

Since tonight is an elimination game for Team USA, I thought I would start the category off with tonight’s USA vs Netherlands tilt.

Starting Lineups

Netherlands

1. Kingsale, CF

2. Decaster, 2B

3. Simon, 1B

4. De Jong, DH

5. Engelhardt, LF

6, Rooi, 3B

7. Van’t Klooster, RF

8. Jansen, C

9. Schoop, SS

Van Den Hurk, P

USA

1. Rollins, SS

2. Roberts, 2B

3. Jeter, DH

4. Youkilis, 1B

5. Wright, 3B

6. Dunn, RF

7. Braun, LF

8. Iannetta, C

9. Granderson, CF

Oswalt, P

Top 1st

Oswalt comes out firing with 4 straight fastballs and K’s Kingsale to lead off the game. Solid start for Oswalt. Oswalt looks to have good velocity as all 4 pitches were in the mid-90’s.

Oswalt gets the Netherlands 1-2-3 as Braun makes a sliding catch to rob Simon of a base hit to end the first.

Bottom 1st

Not sure I get USA’s lineup. Jeter batting 3rd? Braun batting 7th? It appears Davey Johnson had to adjust his lineup due to a Chipper Jones injury. Jones will miss the rest of the WBC with an oblique strain.

After a Jimmy Rollins pop-up, the new man on the team, Brian Roberts ropes a single to right. With Jeter up maybe a hit and run right here.

Jeter walks, runners on 1st and 2nd with 1 out for Youkilis. No hit and run which is not surprising since Davey Johnson is a wait for the 3 run HR manager. Van Den Hurk was clearly rattled by the threat of Roberts stealing 2nd. Van Den Hurk right now is all over the place. 2-0 to Youkilis and already up to 22 pitches for the inning. Van Den Hurk walks Youkilis. Bases loaded and 1 out for Wright.

On the first pitch Wright gets a sac fly to right. Roberts scores to make it 1-0 USA. Though Wright got a sac fly, I disagree with his approach. Van Den Hurk just walked 2 guys in a row and Wright goes up there and swings at the 1st pitch. A little baffling.

Dunn goes down swinging to end the 1st. Good 1st inning for Team USA.

Top 2nd

De Jong singles up the middle to get the inning started. Oh man what a great play by Rollins to start the double play. Dives to his left, backhand flips to Roberts and Roberts fired to Youkilis to turn the double play.

On the very next pitch, Dunn tracks a ball down and runs into the bullpen wall to make the catch. USA flashing some leather in the 2nd. Through 2 innings Oswalt has thrown less than 20 pitches. Looking good.

Bottom 2nd

Braun starts off the inning with a solid single to left. ESPN just showed the crowd at Dolphin Stadium. It looks like there is maybe 10,000 in the stands. Pretty disappointing crowd. Besides the obvious answer of weather, I question why baseball would put games in Miami? The Marlins don’t draw so why would the WBC?

Braun gets gunned down trying to steal 2nd on a rediculous throw by Jansen. He threw out Braun from his knees. Great throw.

After an Iannetta strike out, Van’t Klooster misplays a ball in right and Granderson ends up on 2nd. Good hustle by Granderson.

Rollins just crushes one to right field. 3-0 USA. Van Den Hurk threw a mediocre 2-1 fastball down the middle and Rollins crushed it.

Roberts hits a frozen rope down the right field line. So far the addition of Roberts is paying off as he is 2-2.  Jeter grounds out to SS to end the inning.

3-0 USA after 2.

Top 3rd

Oswalt just made Van’t Klooster look really silly. Struck him out on 3 pitches. 1st an error in right and now a K on 3 pitches. Rough night so far for Van’t Klooster.

Netherlands SS, Schoop is 0-18 in the WBC. Do they not have a backup? Make it 0-19 as he strikes out on a nasty curve ball from Oswalt.

Kingsale singles and now it is 1st and 2nd with 2 outs for the Netherlands. Decaster singles sharply to right and now the bases are loaded with 2 outs.

Randall Simon is swinging out of his shoes right now. He is either going to hit one 450 ft or K. He does neither and pops up to Rollins. With the Netherlands offense struggling, that might have been their best opportunity to score.

Bottom 3rd

Juan Carlos Sulbaran replaces Van Den Hurk. This kid is 19 and will be facing Youkilis, Wright and Dunn. When I was 19, I was barely passing an accounting class.

After a Youkilis ground out, Wright rips a single to left. It looks like Wright has got his stroke down. Has hit the ball solid twice tonight.

Dunn hits a rare ground ball but is able to beat out the double play with some nice hustle. Dunn is proving JP Ricciardi wrong by the game.

Braun flies out to center and it is still 3-0 USA after 3.

Top 4th

De Jong hits a soft grounder to 3rd but for some reason Wright nonchalantly throws to first and throws the ball into the ground. Not sure why Wright did that…E5.

A little dribbler in front of home plate and Iannetta throw a pea to first to nail Engelhardt. De Jong advances to 2nd.

Van’t Klooster hits a squibber between 3rd and SS and beats out the throw from Wright. Runners on 1st and 3rd with 2 out. For the second straight inning the Netherlands is threatening. Oswalt is already up to 68 pitches, so if anything, at least they are making Oswalt work.

Oswalt throws a nasty curve to strike out Jansen to get out of the inning. Hawkins was warming up so I am wondering if Oswalt is done for the night. At 70 pitches, I am sure the Astros are hoping that Oswalt doesn’t push himself.

Bottom 4th

I love this Tim Lincecum commercial for 2K9 Baseball. Very well done.

Iannetta starts off the inning with a walk. He is slowly becoming one of my favorite players in the game.

Rollins is hitting the cover off the baseball as he triples to the gap in CF. Kingsale played that pretty poorly but none the less, a rocket by Rollins scores Iannetta. 4-0 USA. Rollins now has a triple and a HR, the 2 hardest parts of a cycle. I am just sayin.

Netherlands has the infield in with Roberts at the plate, who has hit 2 ropes tonight. Good luck with that Mr. Infielder. With the infield in, Roberts decides to hit over everyone with a 400 ft shot off the wall in CF. Roberts triple scores Rollins. 5-0 USA. Roberts now has a triple, double and a single. He needs a HR for the cycle. I am just sayin.

The Netherlands is going to the pen and it looks like the clock is going to strike midnight for this cinderella story. Michiel Van Kampen is now in for the Netherlands. This guy might have the most hurky-jerky delivery I have ever scene. He reminds me a little of Oakland A’s and Team USA pitcher, Brad Ziegler.

After a Jeter walk, Youkilis hits a soft grounder to SS but the Netherlands can’t turn two as Youkilis hustles down the line. Roberts comes in to score and it is 6-0 USA.

Wright grounds out to end the inning and after 4 it is 6-0 USA. USA is playing with a sense of urgency that I have not seen them play with before in this WBC.

Top 5th

LaTroy Hawkins comes in and replaces Oswalt. Good effort from Oswalt who grinded out 4 innings without his best stuff.

ESPN is interviewing Bert Blyleven who is the Netherlands pitching coach. I am sure at some point during this interview Blyleven is going to complain about not getting into the Hall of Fame.

Hawkins sets the Netherlands down 1-2-3. You know things are going well when Hawkins breezes through an inning.

Bottom 5th

David Bergman is now in for the Netherlands and is greeted by an Adam Dunn rope to RF.

Bergman is getting smoked as Braun rips a ball to left. My guy Iannetta bloops a single to left and now the bases are loaded. Netherlands right now is playing like they are a bunch of Triple-A players.

Just when I say that Randall Simon makes a great play to throw out Dunn at home. Simon threw the ball from his back and the ball rolled to home. The fact that he was able to get the ball to home was pretty remarkable.

Rollins hits a sac fly to CF to score Braun. 7-0 USA and Rollins now has 4 rbi on the night.

Diegomar Markwell is in for the Netherlands. Since Markwell is a lefty, that will force Roberts to turn it around and bat righty. With Roberts going for the cycle, Markwell throws 4 pitches out of the strike zone. Bases loaded with Jeter coming to the plate.

Jeter is really having a battle with Markwell. Fouling off pitch after pitch. After a long AB, Jeter grounds to 3rd and leaves the bases loaded.

7-0 USA after 5.

Top 6th

Scot Shields is in for Team USA. Dave O’Brien and Rick Sutcliffe were talking about how important Shields is to the Angels bullpen and Sufcliffe wonders who is going to close for the Angels now that Krod left. Umm memo to Sutcliffe, the Angels signed Brian Fuentes in the offseason.

Shields is getting roped. After 2 hard hit singles, Wright makes a diving play at 3rd and throws out the runner at 1st. That play probably saved a run.

2 outs now with runners on 1st and 2nd.

Shields is able to get out of the jam and the Netherlands can’t score again. You can start to see the look of defeat on the faces of Team Netherlands.

Bottom 6th

Leon Boyd is in the game for the Netherlands. He has been the Netherlands closer throughout the tournament but with the Netherlands down 7-0, there is no reason to save him for the 9th.

Adam Dunn is a horse!!! Dunn hits a big-fly over the CF fence to make it 8-0 USA. Man is Dunn strong. He just flicked his wrists and the ball went 400 ft.

Other than the Dunn moon shot, USA went down pretty quietly against Boyd. 8-0 USA after 6.

Top 7th

Brad Ziegler becomes the 4th pitcher for Team USA. Ziegler doesn’t throw hard (1st pitch 74 mph) but his sidearm delivery makes for a deceptive motion.

After getting the 1st out, Ziegler allows back to back singles. It seems like the Netherlands has gotten runners on every inning but has not been able to push anything through. Maybe they can push one through in this inning.

Decaster smacks a double to RF and the Netherlands finally pushes across a run. 8-1 now USA. Runners now on 2nd and 3rd with 1 out. Ziegler just doesn’t look right out there. It almost seems like he is trying to push the ball instead of throw it.

Ziegler gets out of the inning without further damage due to the nice recovery by Rollins to throw out de Jong at 1st. Rollins bobbled the ball, stuck with it and fired a rocket to get the out. Nice play.

8-1 USA headed into the bottom of the 7th.

Bottom 7th

19 year old Dennis Neuman is in for the Netherlands. Neuman is property of the Boston Red Sox and seems to have a pretty live arm. For a kid in rookie ball, this must be a pretty amazing experience for Neuman.

With Granderson at 1st and 2 outs, Brian Roberts is coming to the plate with a chance to hit for the cycle. This will probably be his last chance. Roberts didn’t get anything he liked and took a walk. What a great night for Roberts, 3-3 with 2 walks, 2 runs scored and 1 rbi. Not a bad debut.

Jeter grounds to 3rd and after 7 it is 8-1 USA

Top 8th

Marlins pitcher, Matt Lindstrom is now in for Team USA and is promtly greeted by a HR by Engelhardt. 8-2 now USA.

WOW!! Lindstrom just threw one at 95 mph behind Rooi. The Netherlands is hot!!! That pitch was definetly on purpose.  I guess Lindstrom didn’t like the way Engelhardt admired his HR from home plate. I like this from the Netherlands. They won’t be bullied around by the USA and they won’t go down without a fight.

Both benches were warned which is a pretty dumb thing umpires do. I believe the team who is being thrown at should have a chance to retaliate with no repercussions. With a warning, that opportunity is taken away.

Lindstrom has really incited the Netherlands. They are all up on the bench and it wouldn’t surprise me if despite the warning, someone in the USA lineup gets plunked.

The Netherlands pushes across another run to make 8-3. All of a sudden, the Netherlands is learning how to hit.

Uh oh, Davey Johnson and the trainer come to the mound to check on Lindstrom. Apparently there is an injury. Such a weird outing for Lindstrom. He gives up a bomb, throws behind someone, gives up another run and now is being taken out of the game because of injury. 

John Grabow comes on to replace Lindstrom with 2 outs and a runner on 2nd. Grabow comes in and walks Kingsale. You are up by 5 runs, stop putzing around and just throw the ball down the middle.

Grabow gets out of the inning without further damage and after an eventful top of the 8th, USA leads 8-3.

Bottom 8th

Berry Van Driel is now pitching for the Netherlands. Let’s see if he throws at someone. It would shock me if he didn’t because right now he looks like a man possessed.

He didn’t throw at Youkilis, instead he threw 4 pitches nowhere near inside and walked him.

McCann pinch hitting for Braun doubles off the wall and scores Youkilis. 9-3 USA. Iannetta flies out to right and leaves McCann at 2nd.

So nobody was thrown at and we go to the top of the 9th with USA leading 9-3.

Bottom 9

Apparently Team USA is short of LF’s, so Brian McCann will stay in the game and play LF. According to Dave O’Brien, McCann has never played LF in either the minors or majors. I am sure the Braves are beyond thrilled McCann is doing this.

Jonathon Broxton is on to close the game for Team USA. Broxton is throwing heat. His last pitch was 98 mph. Another pitch at 99 mph. Another pitch at 99 mph. This is silly.

Broxton gets Engelhardt to ground to SS to end the game and Team USA wins 9-3 and stays off elimination for at least 1 more game.

Koudos to the Netherlands who nobody believed would make it this far. Outside of tonight, they pitched well, fielded well and really impressed me with how they played the game. The goal of this tournament is to increase the popularity of baseball across the world and in the Netherlands, the sport of baseball has never been more popular.

Team USA Humiliated….

March 15, 2009

The team that was representing the country where baseball was invented was humiliated last night at the World Baseball Classic. Team USA was mercy ruled in a 11-1 loss to Puerto Rico last night. The last time I was witness to the mercy rule was when I was coaching Little League back in 2000.

This game was a disaster for USA on all levels. They made the remarkably average Javier Vazquez look like Tom Seaver for 5 innings (5 IP, 4 H, 1 R, 2 K), Jake Peavy and Matt Thornton were throwing batting practice and their 1-5 hitters went a combined 1-15.

In my “Looking At Team USA’s Roster For The WBC” post, I wrote that “If Team USA doesn’t win the WBC, the starting rotation will be the reason.” Well, unfortunately that prediction so far seems to be holding water. Team USA’s starting rotation of Peavy, Oswalt, Lilly and Guthrie have a combined era of 10.69. That is not going to cut it when you are playing against some of the best players in the world.

Oswalt needs to step up tonight

Oswalt needs to step up tonight

Roy Oswalt gets the first crack at turning things around tonight in an elimination game against the Netherlands. If there is a team that can cure USA’s pitching problems, it’s the Netherlands. In 5 games so far in the WBC, the Netherlands has only scored 7 runs. 

If Oswalt and the rest of Team USA can’t turn it around against the Netherlands, it will be another WBC disappointment for the country that invented the game all the way back in 1846.

In other Team USA News

Orioles 2B, Brian Roberts will replace Dustin Pedroia for the rest of the WBC. Pedroia will miss the rest of the WBC because of a strained oblique muscle. While Roberts is a more than capable replacement, losing Pedroia is another blow to USA’s chances of winning the WBC. Since the original USA roster was announced, they have lost Sizemore, Nathan, Hawpe, Ryan and now Pedroia. That is a lot of talent to lose.

Marmol Fails First Test…

March 14, 2009

Carlos Marmol got his first big test as a closer in the Dominican Republic vs. Netherlands elimination game in the World Baseball Classic and if I was a Cubs fan watching this game, I would be very nervous headed into the season.

In my “Looking At Fantasy Closers In 2009”, I had Carlos Marmol as question mark. Meaning either he is going to be the next Francisco Rodriguez or the next Armando Benitez. I know it is only 1 game but after Tuesday nights blown save in a 2-1 loss against the Netherlands, I am going to say he is the later. Here are some Benitez-like qualities that Marmol displayed on Tuesday night:

1.It looked like he drank 12 Red Bulls before he took the mound. Man was this guy wired. Classic Benitez moment. He lets the moment dictate him, instead of him dictating and controlling the moment.

2.He was trying to throw the ball 200 mph. When a pitcher overthrows and is hyped up his fastball becomes straight. That is what Marmol threw Sidney de Jong…a straight fastball. Hence, a double off of the wall.

3.After he gave up the game-tying single to Gene Kingsale, Marmol started screaming to himself. This is never a good sign for a closer. There is a difference between being intense and being out of your mind. Jonathon Paplebon is intense. Mario Rivera is intense. What I saw from Marmol, he was out of his mind on Tuesday.

4.Marmol was all over the place. In 26 pitches, he only threw 14 strikes. When a closer’s ball/strike ratio is 1 to 1 that usually means there is a blown save on the horizon. Benitez in many of his famous blown saves was all over the place.

Marmol had a Benitez-like meltdown on Tuesday

Marmol had a Benitez-like meltdown on Tuesday

As you can see Marmol has some classic Benitez moments on Tuesday night. Now some of you might be saying Benitez wasn’t all that bad. And you are right. From 1999 – 2004, Benitez had a 2.46 era, averaged 35 saves a year, made 2 All-Star games and won the 2001 NL Rolaids Relief award. I think any team would take those numbers from their closer over a 6 year period. But ask any Orioles, Mets and Giants fan about Benitez and they will roll their eyes and cringe like you wouldn’t believe. Why? Because every time Benitez was put in a pressure situation he came up short.

For fantasy purposes, Marmol is not so bad. Who would complain about the Benitez’s numbers above? To get 30+ saves and a 2.45 era from your fantasy closer is something every fantasy owner is looking for. But I am getting the feeling that Cubs fans will have the same experience with Marmol that other teams have had with Benitez.  He will get his saves but when the Cubs need Marmol the most, he will let them down.

WBC Weekend Recap….

March 10, 2009

The World Baseball Classic was in full swing this weekend with upsets, great performances and had 1 game that was as intense as any playoff game. Let’s take a look at what has happened so far in the WBC.

Moving On

Japan, Korea & USA

Going Home

Chinese Taipei & China

No surprises here. All 3 teams were expected to advance and all 3 looked strong. Korea, led by Tae Kyun Kim and Hyun-Soo Kim look especially strong. Though they only have one major league player on their roster (Shin-soo Choo), this team can run, hit and field with anyone in the tournament.

Top Performers

Jose Lopez – Ven. 6-7, 4 runs, 11 total bases and a healthy .857 avg. in 2 games

Adam Dunn – USA. 3-4, 2 hr, 3 rbi, 5 runs, 4 bb, .750 avg. and a ridiculous 2.250 slugging percentage in 2 wins for the USA.

Trent Oeltjen – Aus. 4-5, 1 BB, 2 SB, .800 avg. and was the catalyst in Australia’s upset over Mexico

Jung Keun Bong – Kor. 1-0, 5 hits, 0 bb, 0.00 era in 8.1 innings pitched

Yu Darvish – Jap. 1-0, 1 hit, 2 bb, 6 K, 0.00 era in 5 innings. Darvish, with a good performance in the WBC can earn himself a major league contract if he chooses to come over. Should be interesting when he faces Team USA. Looking forward to it

Norge Vera – Cub. 1-0, 2 hits, 1 bb, 6 K, 0.00 era in 6 innings pitched for Cuba

The Upsets

Australia 17 – Mexico 7. It was good to see Mets LHP Oliver Perez in mid-season form. Perez in 2 innings threw 63 pitches, only 38 strikes and gave up 7 hits and 4 runs. He has to be the most frustrating pitcher to watch in baseball. The star of this game believe it or not, was the Australia bullpen. 6 hits, 1 run and 6 K’s in 7 innings pitched. Not too shabby. By the way, this game was actually played in Mexico

Netherland 3 – Domican Republic 2. The biggest upset of the weekend and maybe one of the biggest upsets in baseball history. I watched this whole game and what surprised me the most was how uninspired the Dominican team was. They were so sloppy in first inning when the Netherlands scored 3 unearned runs that it almost looked like they had no interested in being there. After the first inning, the Dominicans settled down and played well but just couldn’t push any runs across. They left an astounding 21 men on base. There is no way this team should lose to a team who’s 2 best players are Randall Simon and Sidney Ponson. Yes, Sidney Ponson.

The Auditions

Martinez pitched like it was 1999

Martinez pitched like it was 1999

Pedro Martinez – Dom. I will always have a soft spot for Pedro and I was really glad to see him pitch well on Saturday. Pedro had the same look in his eye that he had when he strolled out of the bullpen in Game 5 of the 1999 NLDS against Cleveland. That “It doesn’t matter who is up there, they will not hit me today” look. Pedro, in 3 innings gave 1 hit and struck out 4.

Ivan Rodriguez – PR. After Rodriguez flopped with the Yankees last year (.219/2/3 in 33 games), I thought he looked more washed up than Mickey Rouke at the end of The Wrestler. But playing for a contract has inspired Rodriguez, at least for 1 game. Rodriguez really put on a show in front of the home crowd. “Pudge” went 4-4 with 2 hr, 4 rbi and 3 runs scored.

Why MLB Teams Hate The WBC Moment

Roy Oswalt – USA. Roy Oswalt has been the Astros best pitcher since 2002 and been one of the best pitchers in all of baseball during that period as well. So I am sure the Astros front office was thrilled when after looking spent after 3 innings of work, Oswalt was inexcusably sent out to the mound to start the 4th. Oswalt threw 65 pitches last night and the last 25 he looked like he had thrown 125. It will be interesting to see if this affects Oswalt during the season.

Game Of The Weekend

USA 6 – Canada 5. This game offered one of the rare moments when watching a sporting event on TV. You could feel the electricity of the stadium and the intensity of the players through the TV. That is very rare. Maybe you get that from a Duke/UNC basketball game at Cameron Indoor or a Red Sox/Yankee game at Fenway in September, but not from a baseball exhibition game in March.

The 42,000+ Canadian fans were into the game from the very first pitch and you could see the look of intensity on the players faces which only ended after Jason Bay flew out to Shane Victorino to end the game. Brian McCann hugged JJ Putz like they had just won the Word Series together, Adam Dunn could finally relax (more on him in a bit) and Team USA got over it’s initial hurdle after the 2006 disaster. What a great game.

I wanted to wrap this up by saying something about Adam Dunn. Last year Toronto Blue Jays, GM JP Ricciardi made some unpleasant remarks about Dunn on his radio show. In a nutshell, Ricciardi said that Dunn didn’t have a passion for the game of baseball. After watching Dunn this weekend, I can honestly say Ricciardi was dead wrong. Dunn has been Team USA’s best player so far in this tournament. He has hustled and played with a passion and intensity that has been unmatched.

When evaluating talent a GM will look at arm strength, speed, power and other physical tools. But what separates a great GM from your average GM is the ability to look into a players heart. The ability to look at a player and see whether or not he is a gamer, a winner, a guy who will get his uniform dirty. The tools that can’t be measured by a computer. Clearly, JP Ricciardi has not mastered this ability yet.

Predictions For The WBC….

March 5, 2009

With the 1st game of the World Baseball Classic slated to start at 4:30 AM est tomorrow morning (yes, you read that correctly) with China vs Japan, it’s time to make some predictions for the tournament.

First Round – Double elimination and 2 countries advance in each of the 4 pools.

Pool A

Countries – China, Chinese Taipei, Korea, Japan

Pool Winners – Korea & Japan

Pool B

Counties – Australia, Cuba, Mexico, South Africa

Pool Winners – Cuba & Mexico

Pool C

Countries – Canada, Italy, USA, Venezuela

Pool Winners – USA & Venezuela

Pool D

Counties – Dominican Republic, Netherlands, Panama, Puerto Rico

Pool Winners – Dominican Republic & Puerto Rico

Round 2 – Double elimination and 2 countries advance in each of the 2 pools.

Pool 1

Countries – Korea, Japan, Cuba, Mexico

Pool Winners – Japan & Cuba

Pool 2

Countries – USA, Venezuela, Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico

Pool Winners – USA & Dominican Republic

Semi-finals & Finals – Single elimination & 2 countries advance to the finals.

Semi-Finals

Countries – Japan, Cuba, USA, Dominican Republic

Winners – Japan & Dominican Republic

Finals

Countries – Japan & Dominican Republic

Winner – Dominican Republic

Ortiz will power the Domincan Republic to a WBC win

Ortiz will power the Domincan Republic

Led by David Ortiz, Hanley Ramirez, Miguel Tejada, Jose Reyes and Jose Guillen, the Dominican Republic has more than enough offense even without Albert Pujols and perhaps Alex Rodriguez. There pitching staff isn’t too shabby either. Cincinnati Reds young guns Edison Volquez and Johnny Cueto head up the starting rotation while Juan Cruz and Jose Arredondo cover the back end of the staff.

Those are some of the reasons why I believe the Dominican Republic will win the 2nd annual World Baseball Classic. As for team USA, at the end of the day I think all the players they lost will eventually come back to haunt them in the semi-finals.

Enjoy the games everyone!

Team USA Adds Grabow and Bell…

March 3, 2009

Team USA’s roster has had more changes to it in the last 72 hours than the Red Sox have made to their roster all winter. My goodness.

According to MLB.com, Pirates lefty John Grabow will replace Brian Fuentes for the 1st round of the WBC. Because Grabow plays for the Pirates he is one of the more underrated relief pitchers in the game. Grabow had a 2.84 era with 62 K’s in 76 IP with the Pirates last season. Fuentes will miss the 1st round due to “family issues.”

In other Team USA news, it was announced that Heath Bell was added to the roster as well. I am assuming Team USA had a roster spot open because Victorino replaced Sizemore, Dunn replaced Hawpe, Hawkins replaced Nathan and Hanrahan replaced Ryan. Who does Bell replace?

Either way, Bell since joining the Padres has been one of the best set-up guys in baseball and a much more valuable addition than LaTroy Hawkins.

Team USA Adds Hawkins And Hanrahan…

March 2, 2009

In a follow up to my Team USA Losses Nathan post, it was announced today that Astros reliever LaTroy Hawkins will replace Nathan on the roster.

There is something I never thought I would write. “LaTroy Hawkins replaces Joe Nathan.” I understand Hawkins had a 0.43 era with the Astros last year but LaTroy Hawkins? Really? Team USA must be at the bottom of the barrel for available players.

Hawkins replaces Nathan on Team USA

Hawkins replaces Nathan on Team USA

I don’t see why Team USA felt the need to add another set-up guy to the roster when they already have Howell, Putz, Shields, Ziegler, Lindstrom and Thornton on the roster. I would have used Nathan’s spot on a starting pitcher. How about asking that Halladay guy if he would like to pitch?

In other Team USA news, Washington Nationals Closer Joel Hanrahan will replace BJ Ryan on the roster. Ryan pulled out of the WBC because he felt his “mechanics” weren’t right.

With Brian Fuentes missing the first round of the WBC because of “family issues” and with Joe Nathan and BJ Ryan out of the WBC, look for Team USA to use Jonathon Broxton as the closer throughout the tournament.