Thursday, May 22, 2008

The Light in the Piazza: The Baseball Quarterly Report

When last Friday Night's Mets game got rained out... it was time for the schedule makers to pull out their Palm Pilots (or Blackberries or BlackJack IIs) to try to figure out how to reschedule the game. Despite the teams close living arrangements, it is apparently tough to find an open date when both the Mets and Yanks are in town. In the old days they just played a regular old doubleheader the next day. But nowadays with so many sellouts on the calendar, the teams don't want to give up a home date so that means its time for one of those wacky day night seperate admission doubleheaders. With the Mets and Yanks... it means a 2 stadium double header... There have been 2 of them held in past years... the first ever was on July 8, 2000 and I was at both of those games!

The second game was rather notorious when Yankee starter Roger Clemens beaned Mike Piazza right in the head and knocked him out of the game. Fans at the game that night were buzzing.. we didn't have cell phones with internet access back then... and there was concern that Piazza might be out for quite awhile. As it turned out, he bounced back quickly from that beaning and that little Clemens-Piazza rivarly took a bizarre twist in the World Series later that year when Clemens threw a peice of Piazza's broken bat at him! Back then we thought that this was a tiff between 2 future Hall of Famers.. but now 8 years later... just days after Piazza retired, we have a situation where fans debate if Mike will wear a Dodger or Mets hat to the Hall.... while wishing Clemens would just go away. Clemens' involvement in the steroid debacle along with his alleged lies topped off with the recent revelation that he was involved in an extra marital affair with a jailbait country singer put us in a situation where the retired Piazza is looked at with great admiration, while the retired Clemens is looked at as an embarrasment to the game.

And Piazza is not only going to be remembered for his excellent hitting skills.. He has more homers than any other catcher in baseball history... a heckuva lot better than what the Mets had during the Junior Ortiz era... Piazza's dramatic home run in the 8th inning of the Brave game on September 21, 2001 the first game back after 9/11 finally gave New Yorkers something to be happy about again! And.... even though most of us Met fans have bad memories of the Yankees celebrating at Shea after winning the World Series... it was Piazza who came up with the tying run on base and hit a ball so hard that many thought that last out was actually about to be game tying home run.

And that leads us to today's Baseball Quarterly Report as we have passed the 40 game mark. Yep, even though Opening Day seems like it was just yesterday.. we are at the quarter point of the season..... The strike ruined TV season is over... American Idol has a new winner, and all 3 CSIs have cliffhangers involving key characters in deep doo doo. (By the way, if Caruso's character was saved by his sunglasses stopping the bullet,.. I declare the show has jumped the shark!). Lost still has another episode left where if we apply the Time Loop logic that a person can be in 2 places at the same "time", our rescued Losties are actually home AND still on the island. Anyway, Memorial Day and the official start of summer is just around the corner... Last weekend marked the beginning of interleague play... and the Sunday Night ESPN Met Yankee game which means we got to hear Jon Miller refer to the Mets outfielder as Carlos Beltraaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaan...

The Met Yankee interleague series is one of those things that generates a ton o' excitement in the NY Metro Area but just a collective shrug in other areas. And while there are other regional rivalries that generate a lot of buzz, locally, none is as exciting as the Met Yankee games and even that is a bit anti climactic after that 2000 World Series. You kind of miss George Steinbrenner... it seems like the natural aging process has taken over The Boss now that he has reached his late 70s.... considering he rarely speaks publicly anymore. (And has anybody heard any word on Yankee PA Announcer Bob Shepherd who has gotta be pushing 100... I know Neil Best interviewed him on his Watchdog blog back in March) If The Boss was his old feisty self, Kyle Farnsworth and Russ Ohlendorf would have been cut moments after their outings last weekend when the Mets exposed the Yankee bullpen as being extremely weak. They even scored a run off Joba Chamberlain!

So far there have been some interesting developments in the 2008 campaign. I have noticed through my rotiserrie team and those of others in my league that there are a lot of pitchers off to excellent starts and a lot of hitters who have just looked absolutely lost at the plate. The ERAs are sinking as are the Batting Averages. (My fantasy pitching staff has an ERA of 3.26 - a full run lower than it usually has in May). I have always noticed that pitchers are always on top of their game in the beginning of the season, but as the weather starts to get hotter, the pitchers tend to fall off the pace a bit and the hitters tend to take over and more runs start scoring. Perhaps that might be the reason that the hot weather based Florida and Texas teams are playing a lot better than expected. We are all quite surprised so far by The Tampa Bay Rays and the Florida Marlins while the giant payroll NY teams have been floundering around .500.

Amazingly enough, the two worst teams right now in the American League were expected to be contenders in '08 - Seatlle, Detroit and The Yankees. And when it comes to Detroit and The Bombers, both teams have terrific hitting, but their weak pitching has been exposed as a glaring issue for those teams and it shows by their disappointing 1st quarters. And while the Tampa Bay Rays have dropped the word Devil from their team name, the slumping Tigers closed business on Thursday with pitchers Kenny Rogers and Zach Miner sporting identical ERAs of 6.66!

Speaking of ERA.. if I was the commisioner of baseball I would make a change to the way relievers stats are kept. Forget that silly hold stat.. that is just a dopey stat used by agents to get big bucks for middle relievers. ERA can tell you something about a starter but in an incredibly misleading stat for a reliever.. What they should do is also post the average inning per outing.. (thats an oxymoron) so you can see the relativity of his ERA... Who cares about how many runs he gives up in 9 innings if he never pitches 9 innings? But if he has an ERA of 3.00 and he typically pitches 1 inning every time out... wouldn't you get a better grasp of his success by seeing that he typically gives up a run every third appearance??

In the early season, some young players have gotten off to terrific starts. Ryan Ludwick has been showing some power helping the Cardinals off to a decent start. Over in the American League, Josh Hamilton has lived up to his potential and has turned into a run producing machine. But the biggest overall surprise is how well some small market teams have performed... and oddly enough my preseason picks have not been too far off... except for the aforementioned Mariners and Tigers. who decided to go with a hitting team in a year where pitchers are dominating. Let's take a look back at my preseason picks from March to see how close I was to predicting the season.

In the National League... the Mets have been quite mediocre in '08... and Ryan Church who has made many of us forget Lastings Milledge now has his 2nd concussion which makes one worry about his ability to come back. Jim Edmonds has not been the same since his concussions, and Corey Koskie had to retire after suffering 2 of those tricky head injuries.

My surprise team - The Astros have played pretty well this season... and they along with the unexpectedly good Cardinals are giving the Cubbies a run for their money in the AL Central. Looking back at my NL Picks.... Philly, Chicago, Arizona and The Mets as a Wild Card.. its really too early to say that these teams won't be there. The Braves looked disappointing but after clobbering the Mets this week, they look pretty good even though their rotation will not have John Smoltz and Mike Hampton's comeback continues to look like a dream. One surprise so far.... has been the lousy performances in the NL West. The fact that the Padres and NL Champ Rockies are lower in the standings than the Giants shows that those 2 teams have fallen far since their marathon 1 game extra inning playoff thriller last year. Injuries to starting pitchers Jake Peavy and Chris Young might make this a very long season in San Diego. The Dodgers have played pretty well... their offense has some good young players in Matt Kemp and Blake DeWitt who are also on my fantasy team which by the way sucks again this year. They also have a rookie infielder named Luis Maza... no relation to local singing legend Avi Maza. Speaking of fantasy baseball, last year's 2nd place team was named Havana Gila in honor of my 2 Cuban players.. This year's Cuban less team took on a Hockey Legend angle when I named it Havana Guy La Fleur. .

Looking back my AL picks were not too spectacular although I did predict the good year Shaun Marcum was going to have. He has only allowed 36 hits in 64 innings. His bizarre outing on Sunday... 1 inning and out of the game after a lengthy rain delay makes some managers look very good who hold out starters on a rainy day so that a reliever starts... the rains come.. and then the starter comes in and tosses more innings after a rain delay. Nowadays, with day night doubleheaders and the unbalanced schedule, some teams make only 1 visit to certain cities so a lot of games get started in yucky weather... plus the Parking Lot Attendants make a few shekels off the fans who pay high stadium parking fees when they drive out to a game that later gets called due to rain.

I picked Boston, Detroit and Seattle as Division Winners with the Indians being The Wild Card. Oddly enough despite their slow starts, I wouldn't quite write off either Detroit or Seattle. The AL West is not that good... The A's got off to a good start, but the Angels seem to be the class of the Division. Their young catcher Mike Napoli is turning out to be quite the hitter... it brings back memories of a young California catcher named... Mike Piazza...


I have been meaning to comment on the Sue Simmons hullaballoo.. but the blogging schedule has been off lately since I started a new job last week. Nonetheless, I always thought that those promos are taped and that somebody might have played the wrong news tease tape. Whatever the case may be, I think the best all time live news snafu was this old Good Day NY Clip when Anchorman Jim Ryan and Reporter Dick Oliver engaged in this lively discussion.... the type of talk you never see among co workers.... It seems like Dick Oliver was half asleep during the interview and Ryan was not too thrilled....


Are the SNL writers Match Game fans too??

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