April 30, 2003

65K and counting...

At the end of each of the last several months I have given an update on the "visitor totals" for this blog. So, now that April is in the books, I would like to announce that the visitor totals for this blog have gone up for the 8th straight month. I started the site back in August and got 2,800 visitors that first month. The total has gone up every single month since, which is really awesome.

Here are the month-by-month visitor totals:

Month         Visitors

August 2,800
September 3,200
October 4,200
November 4,400
December 6,600
January 7,800
February 10,100
March 11,500
April 14,900
TOTAL 65,500

Basically, this blog is spreading like a virus - and I couldn't be happier about it. The idea that, over the course of 30 days, there were 15,000 times that a person went to this site is mind-boggling to me. As is the the fact that the "counter" now has a number on it that is higher than 65,000!

My newest goal is a 20,000-visitor month and, since May has 31 days and the site seems to be picking up speed, I figure there is at least a chance of it happening this month.

My other goal, which I made back when I started to realize quite a few people were actually coming here, probably in October, is to reach 100,000 total visitors by the site's 1st anniversary, which is on August 1st. At the time, the goal was a pretty far-fetched one, but now I really do think it can happen.

Once again, I want to thank all of you so much for coming here and so many of you for telling your friends about the site. I also want to thank everyone who sends me email and all the other bloggers out there that mention stuff I have written on their sites. Take a stroll through the links on the side of this page, there are some awesome websites out there that you may not have found yet.

It has come to my attention that some "famous" baseball writers may be readers of this blog (if you are wondering "is he talking about me?" - yes, I am!). I'm not going to name names, mostly because I am not 100% sure in some cases and also because I would never "out" someone like that without their permission. However, if you are a baseball writer and you check out this blog once in a while and enjoy it, I really would appreciate a "plug." A mention on a much more well-known website or publication would really mean a tremendous amount to me and this website, so, if you feel like being charitable or giving a "break" to a poor college kid that likes to write about baseball, give me a quick mention on your website or in one of your articles sometime. Okay, enough begging (at least for plugs)...

The other day I gave a link to Rob Neyer's new book over at Amazon.com and said the following:

This is Rob's third book and I really enjoyed the first two ("Baseball Dynasties" and "Feeding the Green Monster")

As long as Rob keeps writing books, I will keep buying them. And I would strongly suggest everyone else does too. He's one of the best baseball writers out there and, although I haven't seen the new book yet, I am very confident that we will all enjoy it.

I just bought my copy from Amazon.com yesterday. The book is a real bargain. It's only $11.20 if you get it from Amazon (30% off the cover-price) and you should have it within a couple days of ordering.

If you want to get a copy for yourself, click on the following link:



cover


Amazon.com - "Rob Neyer's Big Book of Baseball Lineups"

The cool thing about clicking on the above link is that you can not only buy Rob's book for only $11 and get it by next week, you can also send a little cash my way! I have an "account" set up with Amazon, so that I get a 5% commission on any referrals I send them via this blog.

Don't worry, it doesn't cost you anything extra. Amazon just gives me 5% whenever you click on a link provided here and buy something from them.

So, if you go buy Rob's book for $11.20, I get a massive $0.56! That might not sound like a whole lot, but if I can get 20 of you to click on the link I provided and buy the book, I would get enough commission for me to pay for my own copy, which would be pretty cool.

No pressure though, I am not asking for handouts (although I will certainly accept them!). If you think you are going to buy Rob's book at some point and you wouldn't be completely opposed to me getting 56 cents, click on the link above and you'll get a great book and I'll get enough money to buy half a taco at Taco John's. It's really a win-win situation.

Well, I came pretty close to "selling" the 20 books I needed to get enough money ($11.20) to pay for my own copy. 13 of you clicked on the link and purchased Rob's new book, which netted me a grand total of $7.28. That means if 7 more of you would be so kind as to click on the link and pay $11 for what I think will be a really great book, I will get the additional $3.92 that I need to pay for my own copy. Plus, you'll get a good book and also support Rob Neyer too!

Okay, let me see if I have covered all the things I wanted to discuss today...

Brag about visitor totals - CHECK

Beg for plugs from better-known baseball writers - CHECK

Beg for people to spend money so I can get $3.92 to spend on a book - CHECK

Yep, that basically covers all the bases. What? You wanted to me to actually talk about baseball? Oh...

It is a transaction that I am sure about 8 people in the entire world noticed, but the Blue Jays picked up Doug Davis off waivers from the Rangers yesterday. Davis can be a good major league starting pitcher and this is just another of many "small" moves that the Blue Jays have made recently that have impressed me.

Davis was bad in the only appearance he made for the Rangers this season, but check out his major league numbers from 2001 and 2002, combined:

 IP     ERA     SO    BB    HR    K/9    W/9    HR/9

246 4.58 143 91 21 5.2 3.33 0.76

Okay, so he doesn't strike out a whole lot of guys and his control isn't great, but he's left-handed and he keeps the ball in the ballpark. Plus, he did half of that pitching in The Ballpark in Arlington, which is a severe hitter's park. His ERA of 4.58 looks bad, but when you adjust for ballparks, it is just slightly worse than league-average (4.48) during the span.

He's 27, he's cheap, he throws left-handed, he has shown the ability to be a league-average starting pitcher, and his minor league numbers are very solid (3.22 career Triple-A ERA in 299 innings).

The idea that a team in need of pitching as desperately as the Rangers could afford to lose Doug Davis for absolutely nothing is crazy. The Blue Jays have quite a few very good, young offensive players, but they are definitely in need of starting pitching, so they happily snatched Davis up and may have themselves a quality left-handed starting pitcher for the next few years.

Nice move for J.P. Ricciardi and the boys in the Toronto front office. They continue to do the little things that go unnoticed, but help build successful organizations.

The Twins placed utility infielder Denny Hocking on the 15-day DL with a sore elbow and called up first baseman Todd Sears from Triple-A.

Sears is yet another example of the Twins' ridiculous organizational depth at 1B/LF/RF/DH. He's not great, but he's a left-handed hitter that has always posted very good batting averages and doubles-power in the minor leagues, and he plays good defense at first base. Basically, he's Doug Mientkiewicz, without all the extra letters.

Hocking may end up needing surgery on the elbow, which would (presumably) keep him on the DL for quite a while. I like Denny, but him being out and Sears being in is the best thing that could happen to the Twins. They have Chris Gomez, who is a very capable backup infielder at second base, shortstop and third base, and Michael Cuddyer can fill-in at third base too. So Denny really isn't all that needed, whereas Sears is.

Prior to Hocking's injury, the Twins' usual bench consisted of Hocking, Gomez, Dustan Mohr, Tom Prince and whichever one of Bobby Kielty, Matthew LeCroy or Cuddyer didn't start that day.

Hocking is a switch-"hitter" but really doesn't do all that much hitting, which means the only other guy in that group capable of hitting from the left side of the plate was Kielty. Bobby has finally (FINALLY!) convinced the team that he deserves to play everyday, so he's no longer much of a bench option. Which leaves Gomez, Prince, Mohr and either Cuddyer or LeCroy - all right-handed hitters.

That's where Sears comes in. He can play first base or DH and I'm sure he could stand out in left or right field for a game or two also. And, as I said, he hits left-handed - and actually hits left-handed.

Here is what I wrote about Todd Sears in my season-preview of the Twins for Baseball Primer:

The Twins could swap Sears for Mientkiewicz at first base and not lose much, if anything.

Sears’ MLE for last year at AAA was .292/.364/.478, which looks an awful lot like Mientkiewicz’s 2001 season. However, his MLE for 2001 at AAA was only .294/.355/.438, which looks an awful lot like Mientkiewicz’s 2002 season.

Defensively, he is not as good as Dougie, but Sears is certainly well above-average. That said, is swapping your current 28 year old good-OBP/bad-power first baseman that has been a starter for the last two years for a new 27 year old good-OBP/bad-power first baseman worth the possible trouble and/or unknown? I doubt it.

If Mientkiewicz gets expensive this off-season (and he’s arbitration eligible, so it’s possible), I wouldn’t be surprised if Sears steps in at first base in 2004. In the long-run though, the best Sears can hope for is to be the guy that Justin Morneau takes over for when he is ready to become Minnesota’s first baseman for the next 10 years or so, and I think the Twins would just as soon have it be Mientkiewicz that hands over the first base duties to Morneau.

Mientkiewicz is off to a very bad start this season and, combined with his bad 2002 season and bad second-half of 2001, that means he hasn't hit in almost 2 years. If Sears stays on the team for a while, I wouldn't be shocked if he starts to gradually steal at bats from Mientkiewicz at first base. Even if he doesn't, I think he'd be a great guy to have off the bench.

The domino-effect of the Twins calling Sears up is that Justin Morneau was promoted from Double-A to Triple-A, to take Sears' spot as Triple-A Rochester's first baseman. Morneau is perhaps the Twins' top prospect (I personally have Joe Mauer rated slightly higher) and is one of the best first base prospects in all of baseball, so promoting him to Triple-A is an interesting decision.

On one hand, they obviously had a hole in their Triple-A lineup after calling up Todd Sears, which needed to be filled by someone. On the other hand, they have plenty of guys at Triple-A who could easily fill-in at first base for a while.

So, the decision to promote Morneau has me thinking two things...

1) They expect Sears to be in the big leagues for a while.

If they only expected Sears to be filling in for Hocking for a week or so, they probably would have left Morneau at Double-A.

2) Morneau is a lot closer to being the Twins' first baseman (or DH) than a lot of people, including myself, thought.

I don't think they would promote one of their best prospects to Triple-A based solely on a temporary need to have a player play first base for their Triple-A team. So, they must feel as though Morneau is deserving of the promotion, which in turn means that they feel he is awfully close to being big league-ready. I just don't see them sending Morneau back down to Double-A if/when Sears is sent back to Triple-A.

What this means for Mientkiewicz (and also Sears) is uncertain. However, what I am sure of is that, when the time comes that the Twins feel Morneau is ready to play in the majors, I can assure you that the futures of Doug Mientkiewicz and Todd Sears will have no bearing on what happens to Morneau. He is too good to let a couple of mediocre first basemen affect him at all.

Here is what I said about Morneau in my "Top 50 Prospects" article for Baseball Primer:

#11) Justin Morneau

Minnesota Twins

Age: 21

Pos: 1B

Bats: Left

Justin Morneau began his pro career as a catcher, but was quickly switched to first base, partly because of his defensive deficiencies and partly because of the hope that he would develop into an offensive force once he was out from behind the plate.

Lots of scouts have projected big power numbers for Morneau in the future, based on his sweet left-handed swing and good size, but so far the power isn’t quite there. After hitting .402 in his pro debut in rookie-ball and .356 in low-A in 2001, Morneau’s average has dropped into the .295 zone during his last 700 at bats, between A and AA.

Although he doesn’t walk a lot, he has always had a pretty nice K/BB ratio, although it deteriorated a little bit last year, when he struck out 88 times while only drawing 42 walks. Morneau’s defense is steadily improving, but there is still a lot of work to be done there.

Right now he looks like John Olerud, minus about 50 walks a year and the Gold Glove defense. If the power comes, watch out. He’ll make Twins fans forget all about Doug Mientkiewicz’s glove.

So far this year, it appears as though the power has arrived. Before his promotion to Triple-A yesterday, Morneau was hitting .329/.384/.620 with 6 homers, 3 doubles and a triple in 79 Double-A at bats.

Basically, this whole Hocking/Sears development is pretty great in my opinion. It gives Sears a chance to play, which he deserves. It improves the Twins' bench, which they need. And it allows Justin Morneau to move one step closer to being the Twins' everyday first baseman, which excites the heck out of me.

Today's picks:

Milwaukee (Franklin) +135 over Montreal (Day)

Chicago (Prior) -140 over San Francisco (Moss)

San Diego (Peavy) -110 over Pittsburgh (Wells)

Atlanta (Reynolds) -100 over Houston (Robertson)

Boston (Fossum) -190 over Kansas City (Snyder)

Total to date: + $1,145

W/L record: 53-50 (1-1 with one rainout yesterday)

*****Comments? Questions? Email me!*****

April 29, 2003

And on the third day, Aaron stopped talking about it

Previous entries on A.J. Burnett's injury:

Monday's entry ("Okay, now I'm pissed)

Tuesday's entry ("The Day After")

I know I have been talking about the A.J. Burnett thing for the last couple days now, so I will put an end to it. But before I do, I just want to mention one final thing. Burnett underwent "Tommy John Surgery" yesterday, as expected, and is likely out for 12-18 months.

Here's the first sentence from the ESPN.com story:

"MIAMI -- Florida Marlins right-hander A.J. Burnett won't pitch again this year, and he might miss next season, too."

Great. Just great.

A little bit further down in the story:

"[Dr. James Andrews] marveled at A.J.'s toughness and pain threshold," Braunecker [Burnett's agent] said. "He said it was probably one of the more remarkable things he's seen in medicine -- A.J. throwing as hard as he was with a completely torn ligament in his elbow."

Great. Just great.

Here's a little piece of advice for all the youngsters out there: When you feel something strange in your arm, like possible something that has completely torn, don't try to throw the ball harder.

Modern medicine is an amazing thing and the treatment of baseball and specifically pitcher injuries are certainly miles ahead of where they were just a couple decades ago. That said, A.J. Burnett has an incredibly tough road ahead of him and the best-case scenario is a return to the mound about a year from now, which I'm sure is a tough reality for Burnett to deal with right now. Hopefully the Marlins with have a manager with a fully-functional brain by then.

Okay, that's it for the Burnett-talk on this blog for a while, I promise.

If you want to read my more detailed discussion of the Burnett-situation from the past two days, here are the links to get you to those entries:

Monday's entry ("Okay, now I'm pissed")

Tuesday's entry ("The Day After")

I want to thank everyone that sent emails about my comments on Burnett. I was even able to strike up a little email conversation with Will Carroll, Baseball Prospectus' injury guru, and I took the opportunity to ask him about my own team's injured starting pitcher, Eric Milton...

Aaron Gleeman: I was wondering if you've heard anything new on Eric Milton's knee and his recovery/rehab?

Will Carroll: Milton is continuing his rehab, but a lot depends on his recovery from the surgery. There should be some new images taken at various intervals after the surgery, but the best case scenario is still three months (he's on the 60 day, so late May is his first eligibility to boot.) The problem is that the cartilage (meniscus) was so destroyed that the bone on bone friction caused damage, inflammation, and (quite probably) arthritis. He's going to have that bone on bone for the rest of his life and will likely need a complete knee replacement at some point. Can he continue to pitch? Probably. Sid Fernandez pitched that way for years - it depends on pain tolerance and his desire to pitch.

Geez, that does not sound good at all. Just hearing "bone on bone friction" makes me cringe and I can't even imagine having to actually pitch with it, particularly for someone with as violent a landing as Milton has in his follow-through. My completely unscientific and uninformed opinion is that Milton landing so hard on his leg after every single pitch probably did a lot to cause the knee injury.

I guess an interesting question is which guy do you feel worse for?

A.J. Burnett, who was used and abused and now faces 12+ months of rehab on his elbow? Or Eric Milton, who was generally handled pretty well and who has had zero arm problems, but now faces a major career obstacle because of an injury that has absolutely nothing to with his arm or elbow or shoulder or anything like that?

At least A.J. can maybe deal with the reason for his not being able to pitch being the actual thing (his arm/elbow) that he relies upon to throw a baseball. Whereas Milton, if the knee injury wipes away a lot of his career, will have to deal with not being able to pitch, but having a completely healthy left arm.

Of course, Milton should be back long before 12-18 months, but his injury strikes me as more likely to affect him down the road, as strange as that sounds when talking about "Tommy John Surgery" as the other option. I guess that's how far the ability to deal with pitching injuries have come.

Either way, good luck to both pitchers. I am a big A.J. Burnett fan (although he will no longer be the ace of my Diamond-Mind staff!) and I feel sorry for the way he has been treated, abused and likely manipulated. I hope he has a safe recovery and is not pressured to do things at a quick pace. As for Milton, I'd love to see him make a few starts down the stretch for the Twins, although, the way they're playing, there might not be a "down the stretch" for them...

The Twins did manage to beat the Devil Rays last night, but they certainly made it "interesting."

The good news is that the Twins managed to hit 2 homers (one each by Koskie and Hunter) after having only 18 homers through their first 24 games. They also got a very good performance from Kenny Rogers and the bullpen did a nice job too.

The bad news, as always, is that they continued to not take a lot of pitches and they drew only 2 walks off of a pitcher, Jorge Sosa, who came into the game averaging 5.4 walks per 9 innings this season and 5.0/9 over his entire career. And, despite banging out 9 hits (and the two walks), the Twins saw a total of 114 pitches in the game (3.3 per plate appearance).

Through their first 25 games, the Twins have drawn 64 walks, which works out to 1 walk for every 13.2 at bats. Last year they drew 472 walks, which was 1 per 11.8 ABs. That may seem insignificant, but if you project their current numbers over the course of 162 games they would end up walking 414 times, which is 58 total walks and 14% fewer than last year.

The amazing thing about it is that Torii Hunter, who walked a grand total of 35 times in 604 plate appearances in 2002 and 29 times in 603 PAs in 2001, already has 10 walks this season, none of which are intentional.

Torii is on pace for about 65 walks this year, which isn't in Barry Bonds-territory, but is more than he had in the past 2 years combined and would definitely make me awfully happy. The only other guys with a walk/at bat ratio better than a 1/10 thus far are Corey Koskie and, of course, Bobby Kielty (who doubled and walked last night).

Doug Mientkiewicz was one of the most disciplined hitters in the AL last season, but he has only 5 walks thus far, which works out to a 33 walk pace (he had 74 in only 143 games last year). After talking all off-season about being more selective at the plate, Jacque Jones is back to his hacking ways and has only 3 walks in nearly 100 PAs. Cristian Guzman, who last showed signs of knowing that taking a fourth ball in an at bat results in being allowed to go to first base in 2000, has 4 walks in 21 games.

And, last and certainly least, Luis Rivas has 1 stinking walk in 20 games. He also has 14 strikeouts and a .194 batting average. But hey, he's young and lots of people say he looks good on the field, so...nevermind.

As a team, the Twins are 29th out of the 30 MLB teams in walks, ahead of only Tampa Bay (and just barely, 64-57).

On the other end of the spectrum, the Yankees have 131 walks, the Phillies have 116 and the Mariners have 111. Coincidently, all of those teams are currently in 1st place.

The Twins are not a team that is ever going to lead the league in walks, but there is no way a team with as many quality hitters as Minnesota has should be 29th in major league baseball in walks, surrounded by teams like Tampa Bay and Detroit.

In other games yesterday...

Two former Twins pitchers continued their great starts.

Matt Kinney pitched 8 innings and allowed only 2 runs in a no-decision against the Expos. His season ERA is now 2.48 in 29 innings pitched, and he has 26 Ks.

Former Minnesota first-round draft pick Mark Redman pitched 7 innings of shutout baseball for the Marlins yesterday, lowering his ERA to 2.72. The most amazing thing about Redman's season thus far is his strikeout rate.

Check out these numbers:

Year     IP      K    K/9

2000 151 117 6.9
2001 58 33 5.1
2002 203 109 4.8

And now this year:

Year     IP      K    K/9

2003 40 38 8.6

I really don't know how to begin to explain that, so if anyone has any ideas, I'd love to hear them.

Already this season Redman has games of 11, 10 and 7 Ks. He made 30 starts last season and didn't reach double-digits Ks in any of them, topping out at 8 Ks. He made 11 starts in 2001 and the highest K total was 6!

So, in his previous 41 starts he had a high of 8 Ks and averaged 4.9 per 9 innings during that stretch. And then he goes out and strikes out 10 guys in his very first start this season and follows that up with 11 in a game last week!

You know, maybe in addition to ruining the arms and elbows of talented young pitchers, the Florida Marlins are very good at increasing the strikeout rates of veteran lefties who used to pitch for the Twins?

I'll be surprised if either Kinney or Redman finish with an ERA under 4.00

The Tigers got whooped again yesterday, losing 11-3 to Baltimore.

Take a look at the batting averages of the 9 guys that started the game for Detroit:

.200

.224

.213

.173

.174

.119

.167

.158

.203

What the heck is .203 doing batting 9th?! That's their problem, I think. They gotta move him up to the cleanup spot and take advantage of his ability to get a hit every 5 at bats!

I am actually starting to root for the Tigers to do badly, simply because their historic offensive ineptitude is keeping the attention off of the Twins regular offensive ineptitude.

After watching the Yankees put a 15-spot on the Twins a few games back, I would have thought it impossible, but the Seattle Mariners shutout the Yankees last night, winning 6-0.

Gil Meche (who looks awfully good thus far) went 7 2/3 and was followed by the always-awesome Arthur Rhodes and Shigetoshi Hasegawa.

Even "The FoN" went 0-4!

The Rangers won a 16-11 slugfest over the Blue Jays. Alex Rodriguez went 4-6 with a double, a homer, 3 runs scored and 3 batted in. He is now 9 for his last 11 with a homer, 3 doubles and 9 RBI.

ARod is hitting .347/.441/.683 on the season and my only question is which player is going rip him off and win an undeserving AL MVP Award this season? It probably won't be last year's guy, because he is hitting .157/.229/.287...

Greg Maddux appears to be back. Maddux pitched 7 innings last night against Houston, allowing only 1 run off 5 hits and striking out 5 without a walk. His first few starts this season were so brutal that it is going to take quite a while to get his ERA back down to Maddux-territory, but his last two starts have been very good (14 innings and only 1 run, with 0 walks).

Today's picks:

Boston (Lowe) -190 over Kansas City (May)

Detroit (Maroth) +135 over Baltimore (Lopez)

Tampa Bay (McClung) +200 over Minnesota (Radke)

Total to date: + $1,145

W/L record: 52-49 (3-2 yesterday, putting me back over the $1,000-mark)

*****Comments? Questions? Email me!*****

April 28, 2003

The day after

Yesterday's entry about A.J. Burnett's injury resulted in one of the highest visitor-counts this blog has seen so far. I also got a ton of really good emails from readers, the entry got linked to from a bunch of really good websites and basically a lot of people were interested in the Burnett-situation.

Today being the next day, I feel like I should have some brilliant follow-up of some kind. Unfortunately, I don't. I'm still just as angry, I still think Jeff Torborg is just as big of an idiot, I still feel incredibly bad for A.J. Burnett and I am still very frustrated by the entire thing.

There is, however, some news on the situation...

According to ESPN.com:

"Florida Marlins right-hander A.J. Burnett will undergo elbow surgery Tuesday to repair a torn ligament, and it's not yet known how long he'll be sidelined."

This is obviously just about as bad as the news could have been, although I did say yesterday that surgery and a very long stint on the DL were both what I expected to happen. Still, the reality of it stinks just the same.

I got a lot of emails, including one from "Mr. Injury" himself, Will Carroll of Baseball Prospectus, wondering how it felt to correctly predict a serious physical injury for someone.

Will has experience in this area because he correctly predicted a serious injury for Phil Nevin before the season started. Actually, it's more impressive than that. On March 4th Will wrote the "Team Health Report" for the Padres, just as he did for the other 29 teams.

In it, he said the following:

"I'll either look like a genius or moron with this, but I expect Nevin to have some sort of season-ending injury in the early stages of the season."

Just 3 days later (yes, 3 days!), Phil Nevin dove for a fly ball during a spring training game and separated his shoulder. He is out for the entire 2003 season.

My prediction isn't that dramatic or impressive as Will's. I first mentioned being worried about Burnett's future in August and the two most recent entries about him, in which I predicted bad things for his right arm, came on March 31st and April 15th. Burnett was officially "injured" on April 26th, I believe.

Still, in a weird way, I feel somewhat proud that I "got it right." As Will Carroll puts it, you feel "kinda good, kinda sick inside."

I have said quite a few times that A.J. Burnett has been abused by Jeff Torborg and the Marlins and I got quite a few emails yesterday from people wondering where exactly I draw the line for a pitcher being abused. In other words, let's assume A.J. Burnett was abused, but someone like Barry Zito has not been. What is the line that Burnett has crossed that Zito hasn't?

To be honest, I really don't know, and that's what makes this entire thing so frustrating. If someone knew the line and could show evidence to prove it, I bet even Jeff Torborg would pay attention. That's a big statement, but if someone had evidence that showed that when a 24 year old pitcher throws 120+ pitches in more than 20% of his starts he suffers a major injury 52% of the time, don't you think even Torborg would pay attention?

Unfortunately, such evidence doesn't exist yet, and may never. That said, I am confident that a rational person can figure out a point to draw the line with pitch-counts for young pitchers.

Personally, I would rarely, if ever, allow a young pitcher under the age of 25 or 26 to throw more than about 115 pitches in a game. I would also never allow them to throw over 110 pitches in back-to-back appearances.

My general feeling on pitch-counts and pitcher injuries is that it is not the "average" number that hurts a pitcher and it is not the amount of innings that hurts a pitcher.

I talked yesterday about how the average number of pitches is misleading and useless and, with reagrd to the innings, I would have no problem with a young pitcher being used (correctly) in a 4-man rotation, so obviously throwing 200+ innings doesn't bother me.

No, I think it all comes down to how often a pitcher throws what I would consider a dangerous amount of pitches.

A guy who averages 105 pitches per game, but rarely goes over 110 and almost never goes over 120 is at a much lower risk (in my opinion) than a guy that frequently throws 120+ pitches in a game and often goes multiple starts in a row with 120 or 125 pitches thrown in each game.

Take Barry Zito, for example. Last year Zito won the Cy Young Award, pitched 229 innings and averaged 105.4 pitches per game. Meanwhile, Burnett averaged 109.5 pitches per game. So, looking at just averages, is 4.1 pitches per game really that big of a deal? No, but how they got to those averages is.

Burnett threw 110+ pitches in 63.0% of his starts.

Zito threw 110+ pitches in 37.1% of his starts.

Burnett threw 120+ pitches in 37.0% of his starts.

Zito threw 120+ pitches in 2.8% of his starts.

Burnett threw 125+ pitches in 25.9% of his starts.

Zito threw 125+ pitches in 0.0% of his starts.

One averaged 105.4 and one averaged 109.5. The huge difference comes from the fact that Burnett was constantly (63% of the time) throwing at least 110 pitches in a start, while Zito reached that number about once every 3 starts or so. The more telling fact is that Burnett reached 120+ pitches in 37.0% of his starts, which is the same percentage of starts that Zito reached 110 pitches in.

Meanwhile, Zito reached the 120 pitch mark exactly 1 time in 35 starts and never got to 125 or above, while Burnett was at 37.0% and 25.9% for both those numbers.

Like I said, there is no formula for keeping pitchers healthy and there isn't a set line that will keep them healthy if they don't cross it. That said, I will continue to believe that a pitcher throwing 120-135 pitches in 35-40% of his starts is at a serious risk for injury and I will continue to think and say that a manager that allows that to happen is a complete idiot.

Okay, enough with Burnett for a while. Talking about it is just making me angrier and angrier!

"The Official Pitcher of Aaron's Baseball Blog," Johan Santana, finally proved to be human over the weekend, allowing 2 runs off of a homer to Magglio Ordonez in the 8th inning of the Twins' 7-4 loss to the White Sox on Saturday. Johan's ERA is now 1.08 and he has struck out 23 batters in 16 2/3 innings (or 12.4/9 IP), which is even higher than his K rate from last year!

While Johan is still trapped in the bullpen, it appears as though "The Official Hitter of Aaron's Baseball Blog," Bobby Kielty, has finally been freed. Bobby has now started 11 straight games. He is hitting .339/.431/.613, so I think it is probably safe to say he is in the starting lineup for good now, which pleases me a great deal. As soon as he reaches 15 consecutive starts I think I'll take down the "Bobby Kielty Liberation Watch," at which point Johan will be the only Twins prisoner worth tracking.

Finally...

As many of you know, Rob Neyer is one of the biggest reasons why I am such a baseball nut and I admire him a great deal and love his writing. Along with his work for ESPN.com, Rob has been maintaining RobNeyer.com for quite a while now, although lately it hasn't had very much as far as new content goes.

Rob recently completely remodeled the website, updating the whole design and adding a lot of new content. In addition to that, he is coming out with a new book, "Rob Neyer's Big Book of Baseball Lineups."

This is Rob's third book and I really enjoyed the first two ("Baseball Dynasties" and "Feeding the Green Monster")

As long as Rob keeps writing books, I will keep buying them. And I would strongly suggest everyone else does too. He's one of the best baseball writers out there and, although I haven't seen the new book yet, I am very confident that we will all enjoy it.

I just bought my copy from Amazon.com yesterday. The book is a real bargain. It's only $11.20 if you get it from Amazon (30% off the cover-price) and you should have it within a couple days of ordering.

If you want to get a copy for yourself, click on the following link:



cover


Amazon.com - "Rob Neyer's Big Book of Baseball Lineups"

The cool thing about clicking on the above link is that you can not only buy Rob's book for only $11 and get it by next week, you can also send a little cash my way! I have an "account" set up with Amazon, so that I get a 5% commission on any referrals I send them via this blog.

Don't worry, it doesn't cost you anything extra. Amazon just gives me 5% whenever you click on a link provided here and buy something from them.

So, if you go buy Rob's book for $11.20, I get a massive $0.56! That might not sound like a whole lot, but if I can get 20 of you to click on the link I provided and buy the book, I would get enough commission for me to pay for my own copy, which would be pretty cool.

No pressure though, I am not asking for handouts (although I will certainly accept them!). If you think you are going to buy Rob's book at some point and you wouldn't be completely opposed to me getting 56 cents, click on the link above and you'll get a great book and I'l get enough money to buy half a taco at Taco John's. It's really a win-win situation.

Today's picks:

Florida (Redman) +150 over Arizona (Kim)

Philadelphia (Wolf) +130 over Los Angeles (Brown)

Chicago (Wood) -110 over San Francisco (Rueter)

Boston (Wakefield) -155 over Kansas City (George)

Tampa Bay (Sosa) +210 over Minnesota (Rogers)

Total to date: + $995

W/L record: 49-47 (I didn't make any picks yesterday, I am still 2 games above .500 and up a total of $995 on the season)

*****Comments? Questions? Email me!*****

April 27, 2003

Okay, now I'm pissed

In the very first entry in the history of this blog, all the way back on August 1st, I said the following:

"Burnett has been great this year and he looks like he will be a stud for years to come. But the way he is being treated makes me think he is in line for some arm troubles. I hope I am wrong."

Just a couple weeks after I said that, A.J. Burnett went on the disabled list with elbow problems and missed significant time, before returning to pitch at the very end of last season. Then this spring Burnett was once again on the DL, but was scheduled to come off it after missing only one start and then be healthy for the entire season.

I made my season predictions before the season started, back in March, and among them was the following:

"A.J. Burnett will suffer a serious injury at some point and Jeff Torborg will have no idea why."

Then, on April 15th, after Torborg allowed Burnett to throw 113 pitches in his second start since coming off the DL, I said the following:

"A.J. Burnett has pitched well this year (so far) and he has tremendous stuff and unlimited potential, but if he pitches more than 100 innings this season I'll be shocked and I wouldn't bet on his career lasting very long."

Okay, I think you get the point. I have some other examples, but I will spare you.

Anyway, A.J. Burnett went back on the disabled list over the weekend and is likely facing major elbow surgery and is probably out for the season - at least.

According to the ESPN.com story:

"MIAMI -- Florida Marlins ace A.J. Burnett is headed back to the disabled list -- and he could be there a while.

Burnett had pain, inflammation and a lack of flexibility in his right elbow following Friday night's start against the St. Louis Cardinals, the third time in eight months he has had similar problems with his throwing arm."

Then I saw this quote, from Marlins' General Manager (and #2 idiot behind Torborg) Larry Beinfest:

"To me, there is no indicator that the amount of pitches could have caused this. You're talking about a good, strong athlete here. Unfortunately he had the injury, but I can't put anything on pitch counts."

That quote may be dumb, but it's got nothing on the gem that came out of Jeff Torborg's mouth back when Burnett went on the DL the first time:

"We would never do anything to hurt him. With the future this guy's got, no way."

Okay enough with the quotes, I'm ready to vent...

What the Florida Marlins have done to the right arm of A.J. Burnett is criminal.

Let's start from the top...

As a 25 year old starting pitcher, A.J. Burnett was asked to be the "workhorse" of the team. He pitched extremely well last season and was basically allowed to throw as many innings and pitches as possible during his starts. Here are some of his pitch-counts during last season:

132

128

128

128

127

125

125

124

123

121

117

117

116

116

115

112

110

106

105

103

That is all before he went on the disabled list. In 27 pre-DL starts last year:

100+ pitches - 20 times (74.0% of his starts)

110+ pitches - 17 times (63.0%)

120+ pitches - 10 times (37.0%)

125+ pitches - 7 times (25.9%)

The Marlins and Jeff Torborg abused the living daylights out of this young pitcher's arm, letting him throwing 100+ pitches in three-fourths of his starts. They let him throw 125+ pitches, which is usually the amount that makes someone go "wow, that's a lot of pitches," in more than 25% of his starts.

So, predictably (and seriously predictably, not just "predictably" like I say most times), Burnett went on the DL after a 123-pitch outing. At the time, the Marlins said they would "never do anything to hurt him" and expressed shock that such a "young, strong, workhorse" would get injured.

After a month of the DL, the team that would never hurt him, rushed him back off the DL and allowed him to go back on the mound and started his post-injury career by allowing him and his injured elbow to throw 35 pitches twice in the span of a few days (out of the bullpen). Then they were so careful with him that they put him back into the rotation so he could throw even more pitches for a team that was 20+ games back in the standings by that point.

Then, during this past spring training, Burnett again complained of elbow soreness and was put back on the DL to start the year. The Marlins once again got him off the DL and back onto the mound as soon as possible and, after limiting his pitch-count in his first start, allowed him to throw 113, 108 and 112 pitches in what may be his final 3 appearances for a very long time.

This entire time, while Burnett was complaining of elbow soreness and consistently throwing 125 pitches per outing, the Marlins were confused about how someone like Burnett could be injured and just couldn't understand what could have caused such problems.

They also seemed to have convinced the local Florida media, who recently wrote:

"Even before spring training, Torborg said the team planned to monitor Burnett's pitch counts as a precaution because of his health history. He has averaged 103 in the four starts after averaging 111.4 per start last season through Aug. 18."

Now, either the person who wrote that is brainwashed by Torborg and company or he is just a moron. Yes, he averaged "only" 103 pitches per outing this year, which is less than the 111.4 he averaged last year. But what the hell does his average pitch-count have to do with anything?

If Torborg lets him throw 200 pitches in one game and Burnett blows out his arm after 2 pitches in the following game, his "average" pitch-count is only 101, which is way less than last year! That 2003 average is skewed because the Marlins were actually careful with him during his first start off the DL and let him throw only 80 pitches. If you take that one start out, he has the following pitch-counts:

113

108

112

Guess what that average is? 111.0 pitches per game, or 0.4 fewer than he averaged last season.

To recap:

The Marlins abused to hell out of A.J. Burnett's arm. Then when he came up injured they couldn't figure out why. Then after he came off the DL, they threw him back on the mound ASAP and let him throw with only a couple days between appearances and then let him throw nearly 100 pitches in his final start of the year.

Then his elbow started hurting again in spring training, so they put him back on the DL. As soon as humanly possible, they took him off the DL and put him back on the mound. After watching his pitch-count for exactly one day, they let him throw just as many pitches as he had been throwing the previous season, which brings us back to Burnett needing to go on the DL and back to the confusion from the Marlins organization as to how it could happen.

It's really a never-ending cycle of idiocy, with Jeff Torborg right in the middle. Actually, I take that back. It would be a never-ending cycle, except A.J. Burnett's right elbow is probably going to put an end to it at some point, and maybe already has.

A.J. Burnett was (and yes, I know I said was) one of the brighest young pitching talents in all of baseball. Yet, because the Marlins felt it necessary for their team to shred the hell out of their best pitcher's arm for the sake of a below-.500 team, Burnett's career is now in serious jeopardy and he is going to miss significant time for the second time in less than a year.

So what is going to happen in the Florida organization now? Are they going to change the way they deal with pitchers because of this? Is it a wake-up call for them? Are they going to be careful with Josh Beckett, the other young phenom on their staff? Well, no.

The Marlins are just as shocked and confused about this A.J. Burnett trip to the DL as they were the first one. And they are likely going to be just as abusive with the right arm of Josh Beckett. So far this season they have already allowed Beckett to throw 100+ pitches 3 times in his first 6 starts, including 107 and 115 in his last two outings. And Beckett is only 22, so he's way younger than even Burnett was when he first started to rack up those huge pitch-counts.

Just wait until Beckett starts pitching really well and he official becomes their "workhorse" like Burnett was. I can see the 130-pitch outings as I type this.

Get out Josh. Save yourself and that wonderful right arm. Run, hide, ask for a trade, refuse to pitch until they get a manager that answers "no" to the question "would you let a 25 year old pitcher throw 125+ pitches in 25% of his starts?"

To Jeff Torborg and the rest of the Marlins' organization, you should be ashamed of yourselves. What you have done to A.J. Burnett is despicable and the fact that you are too stupid to realize what you've done is no excuse.

To A.J. Burnett, I am sorry man. You don't realize it now, but someday, when you are sitting in a rocking chair thinking about how early your career ended and "what could have been," you are going to realize that Jeff Torborg ruined your arm. And for what? A 4th place finish in the NL East.

Go talk to Dr. James Andrews, do whatever he says you should do and please, please, PLEASE do not rush back and, whatever you do, do not listen to the advice of anyone in that entire organization.

"The sooner I get back the better."


-- A.J. Burnett, after being told he may need surgery

Today's picks:

Only two games on the schedule today and neither of the matchups jump out at me, so no picks for today.

Total to date: + $995

W/L record: 49-47 (After going 3-10 in the middle of last week, I finally bounced back and went 4-1 on Friday's games)

*****Comments? Questions? Email me!*****

April 24, 2003

The FoN(s)

Just a few quick words on the Twins because, quite frankly, they don't deserve any decent amount of words for the way they're playing right now.

After yet another anemic offensive performance through the first 8 innings of yesterday afternoon's game against the Royals, the Twins found themselves down 2-1 in the top of the 9th. Torii Hunter singled to lead off the 9th and quickly found himself on 2nd base with 0 outs, after Mike MacDougal uncorked a wild pitch.

So, they had the tying run on 2nd base with 0 outs. Yet, this team that prides itself on "doing the little things" was unable to score the tying run and ended up losing 2-1. Doug Mientkiewicz struck out and then Michael Cuddyer hit a bloop into left field, at which point Hunter just took off running and was eventually doubled off of 2nd base for the final out of the game when the ball was caught by Raul Ibanez in LF. The game wasn't on TV, so I didn't see the play, but I have a hard time imagining how the tying run gets himself doubled off of 2nd base for the 27th out of the game, but that's just me. Torii had this to say:

"I was trying too hard, just wanted to get across home plate and tie the game up, but at the same time I thought he was jammed and it was going to drop in. But it stayed up. I made a big mistake, that's all."

Ron Gardenhire also said this after the loss:

"We're trying to force things right now. We can't seem to get relaxed at the plate. We're just not a very good team right now and I can't tell you why."

The whole "we are forcing things" when a team (in any sport) is playing poorly has got to be one of the most often used cliches in sports. Is that what's really happening here? Who knows. I am sure they are putting pressure on themselves to score some runs, but is it really affecting their ability to do so? What was affecting their ability to score runs earlier in the year, before they realized they weren't scoring?

The fact that Gardy says he "can't tell you why" they are playing poorly is probably BS too. I am sure he gets stat reports and I know he's watching the same games I am watching (and more obviously).

This offense is officially doing 3 things:

1) Not hitting for power.

2) Not being patient/drawing walks

3) Not doing those little things, like scoring someone from 2nd base with 0 outs in an inning.

Brad Radke finally had a good game (8 IP, 4 hits, 2 runs) and they wasted it. And the team continued to hit incredibly poorly with runners on the bases.

They are hitting .220/.286/.322 with runners on base and .200/.262/.300 with runners in scoring position - which are both beyond awful.

The biggest culprits so far (w/RISP)?

Torii Hunter - .179/.194/.286 (28 ABs)

Corey Koskie - .238/.360/.333 (21 ABs)

Doug Mientkiewicz - .095/.136/.143 (21 ABs)

A.J. Pierzynski - .250/.368/.313 (16 ABs)

Luis Rivas - .143/.200/.214 (14 ABs)

Michael Cuddyer - .000/.083/.000 (11 ABs)

Jacque Jones - .182/.143/.182 (11 ABs)

Dustan Mohr - .000/.000/.000 (6 ABs)

Denny Hocking - .000/.167/.000 (5 ABs)

That's a sad bunch.

I was looking at his stats and wondering how the heck Torii Hunter had 13 RBI in 20 games by hitting .216 with 1 homer and I guess now I know the reason is that he has gotten 28 at bats with a runner in scoring position already!

Koskie and Pierzynski are hitting only .238 and .250 with RISP, but at least they are avoiding making an out 36.0 and 36.8% of the time. Mientkiewicz has always been the one guy I would want at the plate with 2 outs in the bottom of the 9th and the winning/tying run on 2nd base. I'm not exactly sure how to explain why I feel that way, but I always have. Meanwhile, he's hitting .095 in 21 ABs with runners in scoring position.

And then you have Cuddyer, Mohr and Hocking, who are a combined zero for 22 with RISP.

There are a few guys who are doing well with RISP:

Cristian Guzman - .267/.267/.467 (15 ABs)

Bobby Kielty - .333/.375/.467 (15 ABs)

Matthew LeCroy - .429/.467/.786 (14 ABs)

That's it. How do you know the team isn't hitting very well? When you make lists of the guys performing well with RISP and another with the ones that aren't, and the "ones that aren't" list is 3 times as long!

I'll be the first to tell you that the "ability" to hit in "clutch" situations is not really an ability, but simply random results based on a player's overall ability to hit. But still, when a whole team in goes in the crapper at one time, it isn't a whole lot of fun to watch.

One final (depressing) stat: The Twins are 2-9 with no extra base hits and no walks with the bases loaded this year (.222/.222/.222).

I am really getting frustrated with this team, so I think maybe I'll take a few days off from being a Twins fan and check back in on Monday - when hopefully a few bloop hits will have found holes with runners on base or something.

Moving on to a much more pleasant subject...

While the Twins are off to a horrible start offensively, Yankee second baseman Alfonso Soriano has picked up right where he left off after his incredible 2002 season and is hitting .379 with 8 homers, 4 doubles, 5 steals, 21 RBI and 22 runs scored - in 22 games.

I bring this up for 2 main reasons:

1) He is an incredible and incredibly unique baseball player who is off to an incredible start (wow, that's a lot of incredibles).

2) A lot of people have emailed me lately about the number of walks he has drawn so far this year.

Point number one is something that I think we can all agree upon, so I'll skip it for now and come back to it in a moment. Point number two is a little more in need of examination...

Alfonso Soriano currently has 7 walks in 22 games played, after drawing a grand total of 23 in 156 games (741 plate appearances) last season.

That 7 walks in 22 games pace would put him at 50 walks over the course of 156 games played (the amount he played in last season). 50 walks is certainly not a great number for someone that will probably get well over 700 plate appearances like Soriano will, but it would make him look like Eddie Yost compared to his walk totals in his first 2 seasons.

Before you get all excited that Soriano has finally learned a little bit of plate discipline, let me ruin everything by pointing this out: 4 of his 7 walks this season are intentional.

This is something new for Soriano, as he was intentionally walked only one time in 741 PAs last season. But this is what happens when you hit .300, slug .547 and draw only 23 walks the year before. People are scared to pitch to you in key situations AND they know they can't "pitch around" you, because you will swing at (and hit) a pitch thrown anywhere even resembling the strike zone.

Now that we know Alfonso has really only "drawn" 3 walks in 22 games, let's adjust our "pace" a little and list only his non-intentional walks...

2001 - 29 non-IBBs in 614 PAs

2002 - 22 non-IBBs in 741 PAs

2003 - 21 non-IBBs in 802 PAs (*Soriano projected for 156 games at his current pace)

So really, Soriano's patience at the plate has gone down, which brings us back to the first point - that he is an incredible and incredibly unique baseball player!

The Fons walked once every 21.2 PAs in 2001, once every 33.7 PAs last season and is currently on pace to walk once every 38.2 PAs this year.

By the way, the "802 PAs" for his projected number is not a misprint. Leadoff hitters just happen to bat a lot when their team scores like 500 runs a game.

I will admit to being one of the people who thought that there was just no way Soriano could continue to hit like he did last season while never walking and striking out in bunches. And while I will gladly admit I am wrong, I do so while still in complete and utter disbelief of what he is doing.

Here are his total numbers, projected to 156 games:

  G    PA    AVG    OBP    SLG   HR   2B   NIBB    SO   RBI   RUN   SB

156 802 .379 .434 .670 57 28 21 128 149 156 36

("NIBB" = Non-Intentional BB)

Those numbers are the numbers of someone who is nothing but a complete freak of nature - and I mean that as perhaps the highest compliment I could ever give a baseball player. I mean seriously, 21 non-intentional walks and 128 strikeouts?! You've gotta be kidding me!

Since Soriano will basically swing at and hit anything that is thrown close to the strike zone (and by "close" I mean within 5 feet on either side and from the tops of his shoes to his helmet), many people have wondered "why pitchers ever throw him strikes." I have also wondered this, particularly after seeing this stat last season...

Alfonso Soriano putting the first pitch of an at bat in play in 2002:

97 at bats

45 hits

.464 batting average

.825 slugging %

6 homers

15 doubles

Those are just about the freakiest freak numbers that ever freaked the earth.

After looking at the numbers so far in 2003, it appears as though pitchers have come to the conclusion that throwing him something decent on the first pitch of an at bat is a mistake. Last year he swung at and hit the first pitch in 13.9% of his at bats and he took the first pitch for a ball in 35.2% of his at bats.

Here are his percentages from this season (through Wednesday):

Swung at and hit the first pitch - 15.3%

Take the first pitch for a ball - 43.9%

So he's still hitting a ton of first pitches (more than last year even), but he is also being given a lot more pitches out of the strike zone on pitch #1. But guess what? I think throwing him crap at the start of ABs is actually backfiring on pitchers, because after Soriano takes ball one, they are suddenly in the hole 1-0 and then feel the need to give him something to hit anyway!

He is currently hitting .419/.500/.721 in at bats where the count reaches 1-0!

So what can a pitcher do? If you throw him anything decent on the first pitch, he hits the snot out of it. If you don't throw him something to hit on pitch #1, he takes it for a ball, gets ahead of the count and then hits the snot out of one of your next couple of pitches that are probably going to be good ones because you are now pitching from behind in the count!

I still say a guy can't walk once a month, strike out 150 times a year and hit like Soriano does. Of course, I just said "and hit like Soriano DOES," so I guess maybe I should start believing it, huh?

By the way, I think I now have 3 official nicknames for people on this blog:

Barry Bonds = Superman

Luis Rivas = Luis Oh-For-Three-Vas

Alfonso Soriano = Freak of Nature (or "FoN" for short, which goes very nicely with "Fons" too)

Am I missing any others?

Finally...

"Y'all may be a little tired Friday morning, but it was worth it."


-- Ernie Johnson, following the Wolves/Lakers game last night/this morning.

I just finished watching game 3 of the Timberwolves/Lakers series on TNT. The game went into overtime and just ended at 1:35 am. But Ernie's right, I will be tired...but it was worth it!

I thought the Wolves got fairly screwed on an awful lot of calls by the refs down the stretch and the officiating was incredibly bad overall. Danny Ainge (TNT's announcer) was complaining about them all game long and as soon as the post-game show started, Charles Barkley, never one to pull any punches, said:

"That was the worst officiated game I have seen in the NBA in a long time."

But the Wolves fought through the awful calls against them (LA shot 25 free throws in the 2nd half, to the Wolves' 6), fought through Kevin Garnett fouling out of the game on the first possession of overtime (on an incredibly bad call) and won the game 114-110. They now lead the best-of-seven series 2-1 and have taken back homecourt advantage.

KG so far in the post-season:

 MIN     PTS     REB    AST    BLK    STL     FG%

44.0 30.3 16.0 6.0 2.3 2.0 56.2

(MVP...MVP...MVP...MVP...MVP...)

Now, if you'll excuse me, I need to go to bed, because I have to wake up in about 6 hours and finish an assignment that is due at noon. For future reference, a plan that I will "work on the assignment during the Timberwolves game" is not the greatest idea in the world.

GO WOLVES!

Today's picks:

Los Angeles (Perez) -110 over Pittsburgh (Wells)

San Diego (Peavy) +105 over Cincinnati (Austin)

Milwaukee (Sheets) +175 over Atlanta (Reynolds)

Toronto (Halladay) -155 over Kansas City (May)

Chicago (Buehrle) -170 over Minnesota (Mays)

Total to date: + $685

W/L record: 45-46 (1-4 yesterday and 3-10 over the last 3 days! I am in a free fall and have dropped below .500, although I am still up $685 thanks to some good underdog picks)

*****Comments? Questions? Email me!*****

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