Friday, June 29, 2007

Reports of the Fan Club's Demise Have Been Greatly Exaggerated

The other day a buddy of mine observed that all his favorite blogs seem to die. Well, the Fan Club is not dead. I've just been really, really busy. Oh, and I'm out the country for a couple weeks starting tomorrow, so this is a one-off post until I get back and back on track for real in mid-July. But the Bulls' draft deserves a mention. . . Wait, what do you mean he wasn't talking about the Fan Club when he said "favorite blogs?"

I hate the Joakim Noah pick. I really dislike the guy. The goofy suit at the draft, the overacting after every halfway decent play, the fake thug routine in his post-game interview after Florida's second NCAA title, the HAIR -- it all annoys the shit out of me. I like quirky athletes. This guy is not quirky, he's desperate for attention and doesn't trust his performance on the court to earn that attention. And, not to knock a guy for staying in school, but he's old for a modern rookie. Other guys will have years of experience under their belts by the time they're Noah's current age. I hope we trade him. Besides, for the moment he may be duplicative of Ben Wallace on this team.

Having said all that, it's too bad he acts like a schmuck because there would be a lot to like about this pick. First, I'm not sure the Bulls need a post scorer. Luc Longley never scared anyone on the block. Second, I'm not sure Luol Deng or Tyrus Thomas can't become that post scorer. The Bulls can get easy baskets by posting up Deng and by getting transition buckets. They already play at a high pace. Noah blocks shots, rebounds, is a great outlet passer, and runs the court. He could flourish with the Bulls and really improve the team's already potent fast break attack. If this were Roy Hibbert I'd probably be exstatic. And, there are some really good signs for Noah's potential too. All those blocks and steals in college show that Noah is athletic enough and quick enough to really make it in the NBA. Maybe his play will win me over.

Monday, June 18, 2007

Mark Buehrle Trade Partners

The speculation around baseball is that Mark Buehrle will be the first major asset moved this trading season. It makes sense. Buehrle is a valuable asset, so the Sox will get a good return on him. He is a free agent at the end of the season, and by both rumor and logic (the Sox refuse to overpay for starting pitching) it seems clear he won't resign in Chicago. And the White Sox are objectively, irreversibly out of the race in the AL Central. Plus, Kenny Williams is uber-aggressive. He knows what he wants and goes and gets it. He usually moves before his colleagues in the GM fraternity.

So what does he want? Well, Williams has never been one to dress up trades with major league relievers and journeymen, the kind of names that appease fans, but cripple franchises. He'll get prospects he likes for Buehrle and Jermaine Dye, as well as Juan Uribe and Tadahito Iguchi should he choose to part ways with them. But the Sox should aim for nearly major league ready prospects. First, they're safer. Second, with the right haul, the Sox can be contenders again next season. Positionally, the Sox need to get through trades, as well as next season's market, a young starting pitcher, a short stop, a second baseman, and an outfielder. To me, the easiest positions to fill on the market will be outfield and second base (it wouldn't be the end of the world if they just resign Iguchi to man second). So, between Dye and Buehrle, the Sox should aim to produce a young shortstop and young pitcher, each of whom can start next year.

The leading name in speculation as a trade partner are the New York Mets. The Mets have need of both a starter and an outfielder. The two prospects most likely to be targeted by the Sox are Lastings Milledge, a corner outfielder, and Philip Humber, a starting pitcher. Coming into this season, PECOTA pegged Milledge as having a SuperVORP of 135.3 over the next five years, and an Upside of 140.9 (these numbers will come into perspective as we discuss more prospects, but suffice to say, this guy is an almost surefire everyday outfielder, and a potential star). Milledge has been hurt most of this season so far, and only has 42 at-bats between AAA New Orleans and the bigs. Humber, on the other hand, doesn't look like much more than a swingman, fifth starter type to PECOTA. And, after a hot start this year, he's cooled off to 7-5 with an ERA near 5.00 for New Orleans this season.

All in all, it would be a mistake to send both Buehrle and Dye, as some have speculated, to the Mets. They don't have the depth of young talent to make it worthwhile. Mike Pelfrey would be slightly better than Humber, but he's still probably a middle of the rotation guy at best. It wouldn't be a mistake to trade Buehrle and Dye for Milledge and Pelfrey, but I think they'll get more value splitting the two and picking the top of the prospect heap from two teams. So, is it worth it to send Buehrle to New York for Milledge? Milledge is a stud, and an outfield of Fields, Sweeney and Milledge next season would look pretty good, and be a major improvement. But is corner outfield too easy a position to fill through free agency? The only way to really answer that question is to see if the Sox could get a top short stop prospect for Buehrle.

Whether or not its the Mets, the speculation is that one of the rich, competitive, but flawed teams in the NL East will strike first in the trade market. Baseball Prospectus has hypothesized about the Atlanta Braves. The Braves have two shortstop prospects. Yuni Escobar, who PECOTA sees as an almost certain big league starter, and almost certainly not a star. His SuperVORP ove the next five seasons is 39.7, and his Upside is 37.5. This year, Escobar has continued a career long trend of hitting for a good average, but doing it without much power or drawing many walks. On the positive side, he almost never strikes out. The same cannot be said for Brent Lillibridge, the Braves' prospect at AA Mississippi. Nevertheless, he is BY FAR the more interesting prospect. While his projected SuperVORP of 123.9 is lower than Milledge's, his Upside of 149.1. With his strikeout rate, there's a maybe 20% chance this kid never makes it, but his ceiling is high. PECOTA's comparables include Julio Lugo, Orlando Cabrera, and Michael Young, but it also includes Joe Jester. You get the idea.

Either way, the Sox should keep Dye out of it, and trade him to a team like the Dodgers, who are searching for offense (maybe for Chad Billingsley -- Vazquez, Garland, Danks, Billingsley and Gonzalez could be a heck of a rotation by August of next year, and then for a long time to come). Me, I'd take the chance on Lillibridge, assuming both partners are willing to dance, just because I'm not sure they can get a shortstop in free agency. But the Sox aren't making a mistake taking either one.

Friday, June 15, 2007

Random Musings

It's a slow day. The White Sox didn't play yesterday, so they couldn't lose. We're too far from the NBA draft or NFL training camps to say much about that. The NBA Finals themselves were uninspiring, and have been a foregone conclusion for weeks. But I do have a couple of random thoughts to share, while we're gathered here.

First, I can't stop the Mike and Mike juggernaut, not that I thought I could. They were still going on this morning about how they had once again added a word to the sports vernacular. As I discussed yesterday, there is nothing new about the word ridonculous, or its use in a sports context. I have to imagine thousands of listeners have e-mailed this fact to Mike and Mike. And, yet, they ignore this fact and continue with their self-aggrandizement. Actually, the two of them are becoming increasingly self-aggrandizing, a fact which they hide by pretending to be self-deprecating. It's irksome and pathetic. So, if you think of it, take a moment to drop the two of them a line and let them know we're on to them, at least as far as ridonculous goes.

Also, there was a great article about how the White Sox can be competitive again by next season at Baseball Prospectus. BP is a subscription site, but articles like this make it worth it. Suffice to say none of Tadahito Iguchi, Jermaine Dye, Mark Buehrle, Darrin Erstad or Juan Uribe are part of the picture. Joe Crede and Josh Fields both are, as well as Luis Castillo, Chad Billingsley, Brent Lillibridge, and some Japanese slugger. It's good stuff.

I figured I would round this column out with a smattering of interesting columns and articles from my Chicago blogging brethren. And there are some good ones out there. But we're all writing the same depressing things about how bad the Sox are. I do like Life in the Cell's zombie photo though. You can check out all of their stuff by clicking on the links to the right.

Thursday, June 14, 2007

It's Not New, You Numbnuts!

Ok, I love Mike & Mike. Call me a sucker, but their shtick amuses me. I listen every morning while getting ready for work. But, Mike, Mike, ridonculous is not a new word. You cannot copyright it, trademark it, patent it, or even debate its spelling because it already exists. Here it is in Urban Dictionary.

You see, this morning Mike and Mike attempted to establish a new word to replace "filthy" when describing a pitcher's outstanding stuff. Each of their options was flawed, but I have a solution. We'll get to that in a bit. First, there options: ridonculous, schnizzily, savage, fecalicious, and unkempt.

As mentioned, ridonculous is not a new word, which is largely what had Mike and Mike excited about it. I admit it sounds good. And that's why I, and I assume thousands of others, have been using it to describe spectacular, or "filthy," sports plays for years. In fact, here it is in sports discussion from back in '05 where a Red Sox fan inaccurately predicts the divisional playoffs: "Because we wear down pitchers like nobody's business. We drive pitch counts insanely high and have some guys with ridonculous OBP's. That being said I don't think the ChiSox can beat us in the playoffs." Point is, if the goal was to add a word to the sports lexicon, they failed. They merely discovered a word the rest of us have been using for years.

As for the others . . . Schnizzily is kind of fun, but really, it could mean anything. It doesn't even sound like it means "filthy," or outstanding. It is, as Tim Kurkjfjksgnvjkian, or someone, pointed out this morning, too soft.

Savage is nothing new. Saying a curve ball is savage is just like saying its nasty, or wicked, or any other word that means really, really mean. So to all the people who voted for savage, and nearly made it the winner: congratulations. You have voted to maintain the status quo, to uphold the dominant paradigm. America has always thrived on an aversion to new ideas and an unwillingness to embrace progress and change. So, thank you. Oy.

Fecalicious? Let's face it, almost all of us are just uncomfortable with the word fecal, and any of its iterations. First off, there's the uncomfortable association with, um, fecal matter. Then, there's the fact that the word just sounds gross, like yeast or moist. Yuck. Fecalicious just won't work.

Finally, unkempt is just too mild, too polite. Replacing filthy with unkempt is like replacing nasty with mildly unpleasant. Justin Verlander didn't strike anyone out with a mildly unpleasant curve ball. Unkempt is weak.

So, what is to be done? I have a solution. Some of you know, and some of you don't, that I'm a prosecutor at an unnamed county, state or federal agency somewhere in Chicagoland. (Actually, I'm an appellate prosecutor, hence the user name, uh, Criminal Appeal. Anywho . . .). Occasionally I have to deal with briefs, motions or petitions from actual prisoners: pro se filings. Occasionally these prisoners are insane. Recently, I had a prisoner who liked to invent words for his filings. This man has provided us with an answer to the question, how else can we describe a pitcher's filthy stuff. Ladies and gentlemen, I give you:

SUPERSEGOGATORY. A couple nights ago, Justin Verlander's stuff was just supersegogatory. You'll note that not only is supersegogatory not a word, neither is plain, old segogatory. So, it can't just mean something is extra segogatory. In fact, I have no idea what he meant. Even in context, it was just nonsense. But now, this word has purpose.

So forget filthy or nasty or even ridonculous. The new word for the sports lexicon is supersegogatory. Remember, use it three times today and you'll own it for life.

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Whose Fault is it that Donald Rumsfeld Wears White Sox?

With the White Sox sputtering through another lost series -- this time in Philadelphia, Joe Crede likely done for the year, and Jose Contreras looking every bit his 83 years' of age, I thought now would be a good time to highlight a category in which the Sox actually lead the AL: Rumsfelds.

Rumsfelds are a new Baseball Prospectus statistic. Donald Rumsfeld once famously said, "You go to war with the army you have, not necessarily the army you want." Ok, so I may be paraphrasing a little, but you get the idea. Rumsfelds measure how far the army you have is from the army you'd ideally want. A team's Rumsfeld Number is the percentage of that team's at-bats handled by players with a negative VORP, ie. a value below that of a freely available replacement player.

The Tigers grade out best in the AL at 4.2%. Less than one in 20 at-bats for the AL champs goes to a guy with a negative VORP. The White Sox? They grade out worst in the league. Their 49.6 Rumsfeld Number is the highest in the AL. Go Team! Yes, this is just one more statistic that confirms the Sox have the worst offense in baseball. Half of the team's at-bats go to guys who could theoretically be replaced by a career minor leaguer or waiver-wire pick-up, and the team would get better.

So, how do we explain this abyss? Last year the Sox were a good offensive club. This year, with the starting pitching improved, the team should be right in the thick of things. But they've fallen off a cliff offensively. Could management have seen this coming? Should they be blamed?

First, even if this disaster was predictable, and even if management should have acted to avoid it, I'm not suggesting anyone lose his job over it. This management team put together a World Series Champion. They deserve a lot of leeway. It will take much more than this to undermine their credibility.

But this year's collapse was largely predictable. Now, a chunk of the blame lies at the feet of Jermaine Dye. His 240 plate appearance represent 10% of the team's total, and his -1.8 VORP makes him the biggest contributor to that Rumsfeld Number. You can't blame the team for Dye. He was outstanding last year, and has been good his whole career. This year, he's an offensive black hole into which rallies are sucked, their light forever extinguished.

Many of the team's other black holes were all to obvious. Juan Uribe and Rob Mackowiak have each collected more than 100 plate appearances with sub-zero VORPs. Pablo Ozuna and Alex Cintron also have below replacement-level numbers and just under 100 PAs. The offensive ineffectiveness of all four of these Rumsfeld contributors is hardly shocking, and the team never should have committed to a plan in which each received major playing time. When the team's big boppers were playing their best, the ineffectiveness of the rest of the line up didn't derail the offense as a whole. But the shallowness of the lineup made it very vulnerable to slumps by the team's offensive forces. With Dye and Paul Konerko struggling, the team has been sucked into a quagmire of easy outs that team management should have seen coming.

Ok, so the team though Scott Podsednik would be the everyday left fielder, not Rob Mackowiak. But that points to another problem. They also expected Darrin Erstad to play every day, rather than sub-zeros Brian Anderson, Ryan Sweeney, and Jerry Owens. And, they expected Joe Crede to play every day, rather than sub-zero youngster Josh Fields. But the team should have realized that aging, injury-prone, (overrated) players like Erstad, Podsednik and Crede were a risk to spend substantial time on the injured list. Not only did the team have too many weak hitters, it had too many question marks at other spots in the order.

Speaking of Crede, he has struggled to play through his ailing back. It's a valiant effort, but he did contribute 178 negative VORP plate appearances before finally succumbing. And, I wouldn't rush to get Erstad back. He's only .5 VORP from adding his 200-plus at-bats to the Rumsfeld Number and driving the team above 60%.

So, yes, management could have largely seen this coming. A shallow line up with too many weak spots and injury risks was asking for this kind of collapse. But now that the team has fallen out of the race, I don't think they should worry about their Rumsfeld Number creeping even higher. As mentioned, right now guys like Fields, Sweeney, Owens and Anderson are contributing to the Rumsfeld Number. These guys need all the at-bats they can get now, so that the team knows whether they can be a part of the next contender. Hopefully, their VORPS will climb above zero, and they'll cut into the Rumsfeld Number, but if they get a bunch of at-bats, don't find success, and that Number creeps even higher, it doesn't necessarily mean the team has done something wrong. Alex Gordon, the Royals best prospect has contributed 9.4 to that teams Rumsfeld Number of 29.8. First, it's depressing how much higher the Sox' Number is, but second, can you fault the Royals for giving Gordon every chance to prove he's the real deal? Of course not. And no matter how it plays out, the Sox should give their young guys the same opportunity.

So, yes, it is Sox' management's fault that Donald Rumsfeld wears White Sox, but they shouldn't worry too much about continuing to allow him to do so. The team's Rumsfeld Number at the end of the year will tell us less about management's decisions the rest of the way, than who contributes to it. If it's Erstad, Uribe, and Mackowiak, for example, then they should be criticized for wasting at-bats on aging, ineffective players. If it's Sweeney, Fields and Owens, on the other hand, then at least they began evaluating their assets moving forward.

Friday, June 08, 2007

No Surrender

It's not a white flag when there's nothing left of your season to surrender. With the MLB draft underway, Josh Fields getting his first extended taste of the bigs, and another lost week at Comiscular dragging the '07 Sox deeper into the depths, it's time for this team, and this blog, to look to the future.

I know it's still relatively early; we're only about a third of the way through the season. But let's face it, the White Sox are playing terrible baseball. They're 26-30, nine games behind the Indians in the division and 6.5 behind the wild card leading Tigers. And, when you look at the Sox stats -- be it runs scored and allowed, or the peripherals that lead to runs scored and allowed -- you see that the Sox deserve to be three of four games worse than that. When Baseball Prospectus ran the rest of the season a million times, the Sox made the playoffs 1.2% of the time. If they adjust player performance for pre-season predictions of production, the Sox make it only .4% of the time. This season is over.

What does that mean? Well, first the Sox should deal any future free agents whom they won't resign. That includes Mark Buehrle, Jermaine Dye, and even Tadahito Iguchi if they don't plan to keep him (Iguchi is the only one of the three who they probably should keep based on performance and likely market rates). They should also move any overrated veterans behind whom they have a young replacement. Fields, Brian Anderson, Ryan Sweeney, Jerry Owens, and Luis Terrero may or may not be the Sox answers at third base and across the outfield, but the Sox believe they are. Now's the time to find out. If guys like Scott Podsenik, Darrin Erstad and Joe Crede can get back on the field, establish that they're somewhat healthy, and seduce some other team, then the Sox should trade them now and get what they can. The same probably goes for aging pitcher Jose Contreras.

The Sox system is one of the weaker one's in baseball. Fields is a nice player, almost certain to be the team's everyday third baseman, and with a decent shot to develop into a star. But Eric Hinske is the best player on PECOTA's list of comparables for the guy. In another system, he wouldn't stand out so much. The Sox need to restock, especially offensively. Use the value in current players to do so now. The window on this group is closed. We got our World Series win while it was open. That's the best thing to happen to Chicago baseball in nearly a century, but let's not set the franchise back by clinging to that core now that it's time is gone.

The Sox have built up some depth of talent on the mound. It's not great, but it's better than their offensive prospects. Lance Broadway, Charlie Haeger, Heath Phillips, Gavin Floyd, Adam Russell, Gio Gonzalez, Jack Egbert, Kyle McCulloch, and Clayton Richard are all prospects who may someday start for the Sox. Few of them have top of the rotation potential though, even if they reach their ceilings. So, even here the Sox have work to do.

They resumed that work yesterday, on day one of the MLB draft. Aaron Poreda was exactly what the Sox needed. He's a high upside guy. While his development has been slow, he has the frame and stuff to end up being outstanding. After overly safe picks like Broadway and McCulloch, the Sox needed to take a bit of a risk, and get a guy who might someday be an ace. Plus, Poreda was allegedly atop Oakland's board, as well, and they've shown a penchant for finding good young pitching, so that's a good sign, right? And, Nevin Griffith is another upside guy (although awfully scrawny at this point) who Bryan Smith thought would go much higher. There's no right way to draft anymore, but it's important for a system to have balance between reliably producing average players and occasionally producing busts and stars. The Sox helped balance their system yesterday, and that's a good thing for the future.

The Sox face the Astros tonight at Comiscular. It's hard, therefore, not to think about the fact that this same group of guys basically won a World Series against these same Astros less than two years ago. But teams age. Injuries take their toll. This group won't reach that summit again. The goal of every team should be to win a championship, and the fastest way for the Sox to reach that goal is to clean house now. And there's no need to wave a white flag when doing so. You can't surrender when you're not even part of the fight.

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

Night At The Ballpark

Well, there was no Roger Clemens, but it was still an interesting night at the ballpark, nevertheless. Without Clemens around, attention returned to the two proud, but struggling, franchises on the field. Ozzie Guillen expressed his dismay, jokingly one assumes, towards the Yankees for failing to come through on their promised distraction.

He was probably doubly irritated that Clemens wasn't there to take the heat (as my buddy Scalia's Gavel observed, Clemens is such a prima donna that he didn't even give us a chance to make fun of him in person for being a prima donna) in the ninth inning. With the Sox leading 6-1, one on, one out, Ozzie emerged from the dugout to pull starter Jon Garland. At that moment, despite the five run lead, every ounce of frustration built up this season came forth. Thirty-thousand plus fans let Ozzie know they didn't approve of the decision. Now, part of that was fear of the bullpen, and part of it was frustration on Garland's behalf. But the decision was somewhat defensible -- Garland had thrown 120 or so pitches -- and regardless, this time a year ago people would not have booed Ozzie. It's that simple. Whether or not he's lost the team, Ozzie has lost the Sox' fan base, and that's remarkable given that he delivered the city's first World Series championship in nearly a century.

Speaking of the bullpen, Matt Thornton was one of the few guys on the team actually getting people out. Now he's getting lit up? Can we not catch a break out there? I think Bret Prinz has proven that he can be a league average reliever, which is a heck of a lot better than what we have had, and Ryan Bukvich is a former prospect who throws very hard, but the pressure on these guys to come through is immense. While we're making short observations: the woman behind me brought a sign to get ESPN's attention. She was the only female along with a few guys -- some Yankees fans, some Sox fans -- and she was so proud of her sign. The she opened it up and realized that it read: Hey Yanks, prepare for an Especially Serious Poundig Now!" Yes, I mean for that to read "Poundig." She forgot the "n." Sox fans make me so proud. Also, to the guy sitting in front of me: making fun of her lisp was probably not the best way to pick up the chick sitting next to you.

Anyway, returning to our scheduled blog: last night also brought together two players often mentioned in trade rumors together. Rumors swirl that the Sox and Yanks may deal Jermaine Dye and Bobby Abreu straight up for one another. I'm skeptical, but if it's for real, I like the deal for the Sox. Dye is 33 years old. For the moment, he has a remarkably reasonable contract. He is making $7 million this season, while PECOTA projects his value at $14.5 million for 2007. But this is the last year he'll be a value. After this year he'll be a free agent, and probably cost more than the $9 million a year that PECOTA says he'll be worth over the next three seasons. Abreu, on the other hand, is making a robust $15.6 million this season. He too is 33, and his salary is also not out of line. PECOTA projects his value at $16 million this year. PECOTA projects that Abreu will be worth $11 million a year for the next three seasons. Obviously, one thing you can take from this is that PECOTA thinks Abreu will be more valuable over the next three years. In fact, PECOTA says Abreu will have a SuperVORP (think of it as total value) of 42.8 from 2008-2010, as opposed to 39.7 for Dye. It projects comparable value for this season. Next year, Abreu will still be under contract at $16 million, when PECOTA projects his value at around $14 million. Still, not crazy. And, as mentioned, as a free agent, Dye will probably command far more than the $11.5 million PECOTA says he'll be worth in 2008.

Still, all in all, this is a fairly close match-up. So, is it just moving pieces for the sake of moving pieces? Well, having the option to lock Abreu up for 2008 at a reasonable price gives Abreu slightly more value. The likely slower decline to Abreu's skills gives him another edge. Abreu's skill set is one that typically serves a player much later into his career. PECOTA sees a remarkable resemblance between a 2007 Dye and a 1991 Dave Henderson. Henderson was out of baseball 1994, never played 110 games in a season after '91, and hit a grand total of 25 home runs over the last three years of his career. In '91 Henderson was a year younger than Dye is now. And the comparison is not unique. Other comparables for Dye -- relatively nonathletic, pull-hitting sluggers -- include the rapidly fading 2006 version of Cliff Floyd, and the washed-up 1986 version of Jim Rice. There are exceptions. Dye also looks like a 1985 Dave Winfield to PECOTA. Winfield played until he was 43 and hit 186 home runs from 1986 on.

In contrast, Abreu's comparables include still in their primes 2000 Kenny Lofton, 1972 Carl Yastrzemski, and 1992 Ricky Henderson. Abreu's speed and patience generally bode well for a long, relatively successful twilight to his career. On the other hand, there are no guarantees. His top two comparables are a 1994 John Kruk and a 1991 Von Hayes. Neither was in baseball two years down the road.

So what does all of this add up to? I guess this: Bobby Abreu and Jermain Dye have comparable value, but Abreu is a little more valuable, more likely to have a long, productive tail end of his career, and locked up for 2008. Plus, we have pieces that duplicate Dye's power. We lack pieces that can duplicate Abreu's on-base prowess. So, if the Yankees really asked about a straight swap, then I say do it. But no one should think that move alone will drastically change the team's fortunes this year.

And, as I saw last night, those fortunes, bleak as they appear, are starting to wear on the patience of Sox fans. And, on their spelling.

Monday, June 04, 2007

Throw Me A Bone Here!

It is developing to be a long, slow summer for Chicago baseball fans. Another series, another team, another country, same stupid results for the White Sox this weekend. Well, at least I get to see Roger Clemens return tonight. Huh, what was that?

A couple of weeks ago I was reading an article about how many minor league starts Clemens wanted to make. I started counting forward starts and realized that he might very well make his first big league start at US Comiscular. So I bought a couple tickets (my season tix are weekend-only). I got them a face value. Then, it was confirmed that he would indeed debut tonight, and prices at the club's ticket exchange doubled. I would have re-sold for a profit, but I was too excited to finally see something exciting at a Sox game this season.

Then, in the third inning of yesterday's Yankees-Red Sox game, Roger Clemens called Brian Cashman to inform him that he would have to miss his start Monday because of a fatigued groin. WHAT?!? Who the heck calls the GM during a game to have this discussion? And, did Clemens self-diagnose; why was he making this call and not a team doctor? And, what the hell is a fatigued groin anyway? Does the Rocket need a fluffer? Viagra? The Yanks have a minor league deal with Clemens. They can cut bait right now without owing another cent. They'll save 28 million dollars; Clemens can't save this season anyway; and he's apparently becoming an ever-increasing prima donna. Plus, if I don't get to see his debut, no one should.

Anyway, instead, I'll be off to see Matt DeSalvo take on the Sox tonight. It's ok. I enjoy going to see the Sox under almost any conditions, so I'm still looking forward to it. Of course, it's probably going to rain, so I won't even get the booby prize. Like I said: it's shaping up to be a long, slow summer.

Friday, June 01, 2007

He Gone?

The White Sox have now lost five games in a row, slipped below .500, and appear headed down the slippery slope so many of us feared before the season even began. The Sox are hardly out of it -- the Twins, for example, were in much more dire straits (Brothers in Arms is now stuck in my head) last year at this point -- but the situation is grim. The Indians are really good. They've opened a seven game lead on the Sox. And, perhaps most disturbing, there are two other teams who seem better equipped to contend with the Tribe than the Sox are.

So, naturally, speculation is beginning that Ozzie Guillen may not be long for his job. Normally, I don't take that stuff too seriously. I'll think about when it actually happens. But when the Great Peter Gammons says it may be coming, as he did on the radio this morning, I take notice.

So, should Ozzie be fired? Well, on the one hand, Ozzie is obnoxious, arrogant, homophobic, and a dinosaur when it comes to offensive baseball. I don't think managers have too much of an effect on a team's performance, so all things being equal, I'd rather have the team be managed by someone I respect as a person -- *cough* Harold Baines *cough* -- than someone I don't like. I don't like Ozzie. Plus, he really is in the dark ages offensively. Last night, for example, the Sox ran themselves into out after out in an effort to manufacture runs. I thought we had crossed that threshold where everyone realized that outs were the most precious commodity in baseball. You don't give them away.

On the other hand, as Gammons said, Ozzie only gets fired if the team believes that their performance is not matching up to their talent. He's not sure that's the case. He's not sure the team thinks that's the case. I'm almost certain that's not the case. This is a .500 team. In fact, they've won more than their fair share of games this year. They're 24-25, but based on peripheral stats, they look more like a 21-28 team according to Baseball Prospectus. That's starting to look an awful lot like the 72-90 team PECOTA thought the Sox would be before the season started. Based on performance so far, BP says the Sox have about a 4% chance of making the play-offs. But if you adjust performance the rest of the year for what PECOTA expected of guys before the season started, they have a 1.6% chance. In other words, any way you slice it, the Sox are over-achieving this year. Yikes.

And, as archaic as Ozzie's offensive attitudes are, he's pretty creative in player usage, finding ways to get the guys he believes are his best players on the field. I may not always agree with his analysis of who to get on the field, but getting his guys out there is a skill. And Ozzie is usually pretty good at managing his pitching staff. He has certainly demonstrated a willingness at times to use his best pitchers in the highest leverage situations, even when "The Book" might suggest something different. And, as I mentioned, I'm not sure that any manager has much of an impact on team performance, so what exactly do the Sox accomplish by firing Ozzie?

I don't like Guillen. I'm tired of his act. But, truthfully, I think it's unlikely he'll be fired. Even with Gammons's speculation, I'll believe it when I see it. And even if it does happen, I don't expect it to make any difference in the Sox slide into temporary irrelevance in the AL Central.