Friday, June 13, 2003

Six Astros = Nine Goose Eggs

Such is the nature of the baseball season (and my time limitations) that when you actually get a chance to sit down and write about a particular game, the next one has either already taken place or is just a few hours away. But I can’t let the opportunity pass to at least mention what was an odd night at Yankee Stadium on Wednesday.

I didn’t pick up the game until the 8th, just in time to see Octavio Dotel pick up his fourth strikeout of the inning. Considering the Yanks’ inability to do much against lesser pitchers, I didn’t think they had a chance against Billy Wagner. It was even more of a mismatch than I thought.

Wagner had one of the more dominating innings I’ve ever seen a pitcher have, based on velocity alone. I was switching back and forth between YES and ESPN, and both flashed the pitch speeds. Wagner hit 100 mph at least four times, and YES even showed him hit 101 on a pitch to Bubba Trammell. This brings me to my main point in mentioning this:

Has there even been a team in the history of baseball that had less of a chance to break up a no-hitter in their final at-bat than the Yankees did on Wed.?

Usually, no-hitters are thrown by one pitcher, who, by the time he gets to the 9th, is probably in the vicinity of 90-100 pitches. I doubt that a team has had to break-up a no-hitter against a guy hitting 100 on the gun multiple times. I know Ryan was probably still bringing it the 9th the seven times he had a no-no, but I can’t imagine his stuff, or anyone who has been in that spot, was as sharp as Wagner’s was on Wednesday.

Classic at the Fens
I had a blast watching the last few innings of that Sox-Cards game last night. I actually wrote a real-time report of the game as it was going on, and was planning on sharing it here. But I got tripped by the “Copy” and “Paste” functions in my e-mail box, and copied when I should’ve pasted, zigged when I should have zagged. And so my enthusiastic take on the game was flushed into the Dead Letter Office that resides in Cyberspace.

A couple of things that stick out:

 Nomar had one hell of a finish to the game. He hit a game-tying triple in the 9th; a game-tying single in the 10th; and even threw out the go-ahead run in the 11th on a ball that he had to charge and throw off-balance.

 When the Red Sox were down two runs in the 13th, I didn’t like the fact that they had Mueller bunting. The situation was 1st and 3rd with no outs. Mueller has been one of the best hitters in the league this season. I thought it was crazy to give himself up when he’s a guy who could have actually driven in the run. It turned out to be a mute point, as he grounded into a DP with two strikes on him.

 The move to walk Pujols to pitch to Edmonds in the 13th is the one that’s getting the most scrutiny in the Nation. It’s a tough call. Pujols was 0-5 on the night. They probably figured his chances of going 0-6 weren’t great, and the made the move with that in mind, even though Mendoza/Pujols is righty vs. righty, while Mendoza/Edmonds is not. But however you cut it, that’s a tough intentional walk. I don’t think you’re gaining much of an advantage at all.

 Was one of the best baseball atmospheres I’ve seen this year. Crowd was great, both teams were fired up (was great seeing LaRussa explode after Nomar tied the game again in the 10th) and it definitely had a post-season tinge to it.

Quick Hits

I'm sure it won't be the last time I mention it around these parts, but do yourself a favor and pick up Moneyball. Finished it on the weekend, and the second half was just as good as the first half. If you have an interest in more of the hoopla surrounding the book check out Slate Magazine . They posted a new interview with Bill James earlier this week. And last week Rob Neyer had a three-part Q&A with one of their writers. Good stuff, and you get an idea of just how over the top these guys are about this book.

Watching Baseball Tonight, it strikes me that they have the stage set up perfectly to fit with the analysts idealogies: on one spectrum you have Harold Reynolds (ex-player mentality) sitting far left, on the other you have Peter Gammons (objective, journalistic mentality) sitting on the right, and in the middle is Bobby Valentine (ex-manager, can play both sides of the fence). It's fairly entertaining as Reynolds and Gammons seem to clash on a lot of points, and they're not afraid to let that show.

Reynolds assertion this week that he would still take Derek Jeter over any other SS (yes, over A-Rod and Nomar and Tejeda and Renteria) in baseball caused Gammons to nearly choke.

Interleague play has become much more interesting with the move to rotate divisions. It's added some intriguing match-ups that you never would've thought of, or never would've had the chance to see (A's/Braves, Cubs/Yanks, Sox/Cards, Phillies/Mariners). It'll keep the concept fresh, because with the division rotation and alternating home-fields, you'll see the Cubs/Yanks every three years, but see the Yanks at Wrigley every six years. And that's a long time between trips to specific parks.

Odd things that I've seen more of this year than at any other time: 1) Misplays on pop-ups in the area of the pitcher's mound (have seen it at least 4 or 5 times); 2) Umpires getting absolutely creamed with a ball. I've seen a couple cross-ups where the catcher has just plumb missed the ball, and then there was that strange play in Houston last week where an ump got his nose smashed from an errant throw from the pitcher on a play at the plate. Weird.

Toronto is 67 games in and Carlos Delgado has 74 RBI. What's the total we're looking at? 155? 160?

Stat I thought would be a lot lower: With Alfonso Soriano’s batting average now dipped below .300, I would’ve guessed his OBP wouldn’t be higher than .315-.320. Coming into today it sits at .352. Not spectacular for a lead-off hitter, but better than I thought.

A new favorite player: Eric Byrnes, Oakland. He kind of comes across as a little flaky, as in Mark “The Bird” Fydrich flaky. But plays at full-tilt in the mode of Charlie Hustle. And he can do basically everything on the field. His numbers: .330 .398 .533, 5 HR, 27 RBI, 6 SB

When I saw Oakland play at Yankee Stadium in early May, one of my favorite things was watching Byrnes throw the ball back into the infield from left on the couple hits the Yanks sent his way.

In full “Who cares” mode: Roger Clemens’ pursuit for 300 wins. Would’ve been fitting for him to get it against the Red Sox; would’ve been classical to get it against the Cubs in Wrigley; now it’s just getting boring.

Had to make a mention of this week's plug for Baseball Writing. Thanks to Sean Forman for putting my link up onto one of the best baseball sites on the Net: Basball Primer. Check it out.

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?