Thursday, June 30, 2005

I need a hero

Preferrably one who specializes in pitching in the 7th, 8th, or 9th innings. I'm looking over pitchers the Braves could try to acquire; the situation is grim. With few sellers and many buyers, the Braves might be forced to relinquish a prospect like Anthony Lerew or worse Chuck James to get a guy who isn't even a closer.

Last nights game was painful - we should have walked away with a win, though I'm not crazy about another 100+ pitch outing from Davies (who was so-so, not great, but admirably pitched out of some trouble). Andruw still very nearly rescued the Braves, but with this bullpen sometimes defeat seems inevitable.

Culprits:

Reitsma - he's having a solid statistical season. No homers, few walks. I'm just not sure if he's suited to close; he's blown a couple of games now. I'd like to track down some of his closing numbers.

Bernero - the BB/K ratio is good (33/11), and he hasn't given up many homers (just over 1 per nine innings). The problem seem sto be his whip; 53 hits allowed for a 1.5+ ratio. He gets hit too often - and runners are scoring. He was pitching well for awhile but has been shaky since, occasionally decent in spurts.

Vasquez - hge's young, and possibly not fully ready. Not much to say here.

I think the problem is that different guys seem to pitch well during differnet stretches, and there always seem to be a couple of guys struggling. Ideally we could go get a couple of guys and figure something out at closer. We don't *have* to deal for a closer -there are guys out there who might be able to get the job done. I'll try to write about them later today.

As of right now, I think youngsters Franceur, Johnson, Betemit, Marte, McCann, and probably Langerhans are safe. If the Braves decide Furcal is the way to go next year, Betemit might not be. I'm not sure any of the pitchers are safe, and while it would pain me to lose a guy like James, Schuerholtz' track record seems to indicate that it might mean we think he lacks something. We've missed on a few (Schmidt, for example), but the Braves have been pretty good predicting who will and won't succeed at this level. Scott Thorman and James Jurries are having solid years, and both play 1B. LaRoche is doing well, and I like him, but they could all move with the Braves eyeing the spot for one of Marte/Betemit/Chipper down the road. I think Langerhans is safe because his defense is good and the bat potential, but I'm not sure hne's quite in a class with the rest of those guys.

I any case, last night was one game and the Braves have a 2-1 series lead. No need to panic, but I've wanted some bullpen moves for some time, and everything the Braves have done thusfar has been mixed (Boyer has been decent, but the other minor leaguers have strugglerd; too early to say with Brower, but my hopes are not up). A win tonight would take the series - and I'll take a 3-1 down in Flordia every day of the weak and twice on Sunday.

Wednesday, June 29, 2005

We're getting slower, as a species

. . .Possibly accounting for Andrew Bogut highlight footage from the NBA draft. How do I know we are getting slower? It's all anecdotal, but bear with me.

If you follow recurring and aren't a raving lunatic (by my count there's about 15 of us), and you're a fan of the Georgia Bulldogs, and you subscribe to UGAsports.com, and you checked it recently - pause and breath, if you need to - you were recently treated to a blurb about Florida highschooler Tony Wilson. Wilson, a CB/DB, lists the Dawgs as his favorite. Fantastic - recruiting rankings are an ugly, inexact guessing game, but recruiting is important. He is listed as having run a 4.47 40-yard dash, the over-used speed metric. He ran it at a Nike combine, third fastest at the camp.

Nike is Nike - I don't know when or why they started doing these things. But they're not affiliated with any college or high school. That's sort of important - follow along please.

Am I crazy, or would that time have been something the raving lunatic recruiting fans mocked openly 4 years ago (of course, they're probably mocking it now)? Am I crazy, or are we seeing far fewer 4.3s and 4.4s than we used to? Something in the water? Space-time distortion? People running in pools?

Or maybe it's because we're no longer seeing 40 times reported by the kids high schools. And maybe, just maybe, those highschool coaches weren't exactly using the best methods to determine 40 times, whether through lack of means or understanding of how to properly do it? Note: I am not, nor will I, suggest coaches would ever inflate such a thing. That would never happen. And the guy who was QB at my highschool during my time really did run a 4.19, I swear on all that is good and pure in my life: my niece and. . .well that's it on the good and pure front. While the Nike camps might be providing the whole circus with something it doesn't need - more coverage and attention - perhaps they are to be thanked for producing numbers that don't violate the laws of physics?

Look - it isn't like these coaches are out to screw someone and lie to people. Chances are, they wanted their kid to look as favorable as possible. And honestly, who among us hasn't stretched a tale during the telling for effect, at least twice (once trying to score points with the boys, and once again with the ladies)?

So, have we really witnessed a change in the recruiting landscape? Are we going to be getting better numbers on kids now? I feel like this is something that should get discussed more.
Or maybe I'm crazy as batsh*t. To me, it seems things have changed significantly over the past 4-5 years.

Of course, we still seem to be getting 40-yard dash worship. That's a topic for another time, though.

More on the Hawks

Mark Bradley says the Williams pick could work out, but that the Hawks needed a 1 or a 5 and made a mistake not to get that. I, in a move pundits are calling "predictable", do not agree.

Firstly, the notion of a traditional center is antiquated. Look, I love bruising 7-footers who can dunk with their eyebrows and eat concreit. Perhaps you haven't noticed - there's just not many of those guys around. What you do need, however, is a physical inside presence who must, if nothing else, play defense and rebound. See the former world champs, the Detroit Pistons. Wallace is a 4. And Wallace, when he's afro'd in any case, is as fearsome as anyone we've seen as some time when he patrols the paint. He rebounds. He blocks shots. He changes offenses. And he even has some offensive ability. To me, the real question is "did the 2005 NBA draft feature any players like that?"

I didn't see any. Bogut looked too easy to push around in the NCAA tournament to me. Also, all of his draft highlights looked like they were in slow-motion, except I don't think that they were. He'll probably be a good pro and I'm probably wrong in questioning that he will be. I'm glad the Hawks don't have him though. There were some noted defenders in the draft, but I don't see any of them excelling at the next level in that area. Perhaps Ike Digou will. Perhaps Fry will toughen up and do so. But perhaps they won't.

Now we absolutely, postively, no question about it need a 1. However, that doesn't mean he have to draft one. See, one things the Hawks need more than a 5, or a 1, or a 63.7 is talent. The Hawks were better than their record indicated last year (no, really!). I think I read a stat claiming 43 of their losses were by 10 points or less. And they played good at times down the stretch - usually failing to do it for four straight quarters. Does anyone actually think "well, they're close on the talent front, they should take a 1 or a 5 no matter what"? I don't.

Also, I think that the roster is not set in stone. Somebody may get traded sooner rather than later. If we can a package Harrington for a good point guard, fantastic. If we can package him for anything useful, I'll be just as happy. Nothing against Harrington, but I'm not crazy about him.

The Hawks aren't as forward-jammed as some think. Childress - can we please stop calling the man 6-8? - is really a 2 I think. Though he's not there yet - he needs a consistent 18-20 footer to pull that off. He'll probably see some forward minutes, but I think as is the position is primarily shred by 3 players for 2 spots. Not too bad.

I don't think Stoudamire is in any way qualified to run the point, nor should he be expected too. I hope the Hawks are wiser than that. Elkon is right to worry about his attitude (whenever he gets around to doing just that), but that was a better pick that some Croatian who will never make it.

I don't know if Williams will live up to that "potential", but I live the movie. We need a big time scorer. We may have gotten one.

Hooray for Tuesday

I'm still buzzed. Draft day for the three major sports and voting day affect me the same way. Nothing I do or say actually matters on each day. And yet my experiencing them gives me this wonderful little high, as if something I do does matter.

Thoughts. . .

1) My friend Dave and I had to pull out every trick in the book to coax Saleem Stoudamire to fall to 31 (jinxes, reverse jinxes, several consecutive "just accept it, he's a good fit here" moments. The run on foreign players we had been prediction since pick 20 hit late, but it hit. That was enough. Stoudamire celebrated being drafted by the hawks by cleaning his bathroom 11 times*.

He's a good fit. He can make it from 3 states over. There's talk of him playing point, which I don't see. I could see him doing the Steve Kerr thing off the bench. I really like the pick.

2) I love Marvin at 2. I'll admit I was very moved by the USA Today fluff piece yesterday. He's just a likeable guy. I like having likeable, root-for-him, guys. That he's got Tremendous Potential, Huge Upside, and Long only helps.

The Hawks took a turk at 59. He's a guard, which we do need. If nothing else, perhaps he can tell us why it's Istambul, not Constantinople. . .

It's impossible to say how this draft was until we see the kids play. However, I like it. Marvin was the right pick because he's got talent (Tremendous Upside, in fact), he can shoot, and he's a very grounded kid who is a hard worker. Dickie V is wrong about this one - Paul wasn't the pick (Deron may have been). Williams was. Yes, the Hawks have other needs. I hope Williams proves to be too good to have passed up on. I was kind of hoping the Hawks would move up to get Jarret Jack. Oh well.

3) If the Sports Guy does not dedicate 5000 words on Jay Bilas' cyborg replacement going off the depend with the whole length thing last night, I will riot. This has to replace Hubie Brown's Tremendouse Upsides. Bilas took the whole wingspan thing to an entirely new level by arbitrarily changing the definition of wingspawn every time a new player was taken. The only two players he didn't mention wingspawn on were Chris Paul and I think Jarred Jack. I could even see him scribbling calculations every time someone was drafted.

"What do you think Jay?"

Jay muttering "hmm, forgot to carry the two on the last guy. . .err what?"

"What do you think of the Mephis Pick?"

"Tremendous. I love him. He's got a. . ." *checks calculations* "Eleventy Seven foot wingspawn. I love his upside. Also, I think he bends space-time."

So it's an obvious joke that at least 6000 people who write better than me will make. But good lord. By pick 11, every time he mentioned wingspawn or length I found myself giggling uncontrollably. I could feel my sanity slipping.

4) Louis Williams goes 45 to Philly, likely costing a number of people who wagered he wouldn't get drafted. I wish him luck.

I don't really know enough about him to say for sure, but it seems to me he was sorely lacking a grounded presence. He may have been lucky to get drafted at all - why are you in the draft if you're a debateable second round pick? How is going to college and playing for a few years not going to improve you? If it isn't - perhaps you need a new career?

Williams was a star before he was done with highschool, hanging out with rappers and even appearing on a Celebrity Cribs with Little Bow Wow (I think that's who it was). He's never done anything noteworthy. I think it's a shame he was pronounced a star before he'd gotten a chance to begin to earn the lable. Remember when some were suggesting he'd be a lotterly pick? That seems like a long time ago. I'm not bitter because he isn't coming to Georgia - Felton understood which way the wind was blowing and Georgia found someone worthy of the scholarship thankfully.

It just looks like he could have used some advice he wasn't getting. Again, good luck to him.

5) Was I the only person who kept expecting Steven A Smith to start busting out rhymes mid-commentary? He was seriously channeling this Darrel Hammond doing the Reverand thing last night. I was heart broken than he never did it while I watched.

6) The Knicks taking Channing Frye at 8 was too perfect. A frail, "finese", post player is just what the doctor ordered. I had been hoping they'd take a foreigner, though, for sheer comedy value.

7) Was that sound I heard when the Lakers took a highschool project at 10 Kobie's head exploding, or Phil's head exploding? Everyone is on board for this my ass.

*totally forgot to add - I shouldn't poke fun at Stoudamire's OCD and I truly am happy he is a Hawk. I promise this is the last time I will do it. Unlike Tom Cruise and Scientology, I don't blindly hate the entire mental health pofession and then advocate a treatment method - vitamins - that fundmentally does the same thing as the one they scorn - drugs. It's all putting chemicals into your body, guys.

This asterisk was sponsored by Alanis Morrisette, resident of the 51st US state.

Tuesday, June 28, 2005

Like a kid in a candy store

Yes, that's me on draft day. I'm still pining for Deron Williams, though I can find a way to live with Marvin (it will be difficult). I've seen some intersting commentary and a fair bit of critique for Marvin of late.

1) People have question his toughness (both of them). Huh? Supposedly he's a very hard worker, and he didn't lament playing on the bench (more on that in a second). Now, he might not be able to physically hack post play in the NBA, sure. But he's got desire and a work ethic. And he seems so grounded. I don't get it.

2) Some have questioned his atheleticism. He's supposed to have it in spades. Is it because he never Shawn Kemps over people in games? Or doesn't dunk like Mike did? Is it the lack of reboundins grabbed above the rim? I guess we'll see, either way.

3) The "He couldn't even start in college!" argument is ridiculous. He joined a team with a coach that, while he has played freshman at times in the past, does not give jobs away. Period. If he has an established starting five, you're going to have to do something crazy, and one of them might still need to screw up to boot, for you to take a job. Roy doesn't care about your talent. You earn your way with him, and then you wait anyway in some circumstances. I don't think it would be fair to categorize this as inability on Williams' part. It could be, but we can't know without practice tape from all of Carolina's practices last year. And something to read Roy's mind.

Now, I definately agree with the growing meme that we're too obsessed with potential/upside. And I can understand being skittish about him for that reason. Potential doesn't mean squat. His purpotedly good work ethic is something I see as a big plus here, though.

4) He showed nerves in the title game. Hey, that must mean he'll do that in every big moment, for ever and ever.

The Hawks have all kinds of picks, and the chance to get some really good players. I'll disagree with Elkon (see top link to the left) - I'm not crazy abotu Morris but only because I think his decision to come out was very questionable - I don't see him being ready.

But I think the Hawks have a good chance to get a couple of guys to help them here. And I think Billy Knight generally has a clue. And I readily admit Smith and Childress far surprassed my expectations. Are we on the road back to the mid 80s, where the Omni rocked and the Hawks might have been one playoff series from greatness - the classic semis matchup against the Basketball Jesus and the Celtics? That's a stretch, right now. But you know, after watching the Hawks some during the second half of last year, and finally becoming an avid scoreboard watcher for the first time since Deke's prime, the air does taste just a little sweater. They have a long way to go, but forgive me my moment of unbridled hope (it is terribly out of character).

I had to say this

So, I'm definitely not one to get my panties in a twist when someone says something less than glowing about my beloved Bulldawgs. Still, I found this prediction of the Boise State vs UGA opener amusing. What I don't like is when people make bizarre suppositions that do not follow from any factual evidence - or from evidence that does not fit the outcome. So I'm forced to comment, here (I'll try to avoid sounding like most - note, not all, of the UGA fans commenting there).

The author takes the time to point out how awesome Boise's offenses are (PPG average somewhere between 35 and eighty billion over the past 4-5 years), and how average Georgia's are: roughly 28ppg over the last 4 years. And holds this up as one reason Boise will beat Georgia. Huh? The two stats aren't comparable. The teams faced different competition. And despite what the author suggests - Georgia was playing far better talent and defenses in the SEC. I am not an SEC homer (I didn't have a problem with Auburn getting the shaft last year, outside of a general "it sucks to go undefeated in a major conference and get the shaft"; the conference was not strong enough last year to warrant an extra push to get them into the top 2 imo). But Georgia was playing better defenses, consistently, over that time. No reasonable person would suggest otherwise.

Also, the analysis completely ignores certain issues. 4 years ago, Georgia was forced to reply on a true freshman quarterback. Two years ago, it was a predominately freshman/sophomore offensive-line. These things can be problematic in NCAA Division 1 football - for Georgia they were on both occasions. Georgia did not run the Offense it ran the last three years during Greene's first year. Play calling was far more conservative, with far less play action (something Greene was known for). Not that I'd expect things like logic to creep into the discussion. It has become cliche to knock teams who play in "mid level" conferences like the WAC (or the Pac-10; oooh, rimshot!) because nobody plays defense. Methinks one of the real culprits here is that certain teams have been able to get better talent on average - and that makes a difference.

And guess what - the Dawgs have a significant talent edge.

The article makes a lame attempt to dismiss Georgia's "struggles" against Georgia Southern and Marshall. The Thundering Heard were down last year but they've been a tough team since moving to division 1. And The score there did not reflect the game - a game in which Georgia routinely marched past the 50 only to bog down, and the Thundering heard barely mustered up any offense. As for Southern - it's unlike Georgia will face an offence that is significantly "higher tech" (more on that nonsense in a moment) than Southerns. The layperson might describe a running offense as anything but high tech. That's not the case, though. In fact, Georgia Southern's offense is fairly complicated, and incredibly difficult to stop. The author makes a big deal about people not knowing about Boise - well, people don't know about Southern either. See, if they wanted to, Southern could make the D1 leap (they easily surpass the attendance requirements). And they'd be competitive in many small and some mid level conferences. Right now. If they could recruit - and the state they reside in is an underrated talent bed - they could do better. When Southern plays d1 teams it routinely piles up big rushing numbers. It's hung 300 yard+ days on the likes of Florida and Auburn in the past. They've been running this offense for years there. It's a difficult one to defend against.

Of course, Georgia beat Southern by 20 and hung 58(!) points on the board. Methinks the author is enamored by their being a 1AA school, and doesn't understand Southern's true football prowess (wait. . .was that. . .irony? Nah).

Now, as for offense tech levels. . .his contention that Georgia has not seen a "high tech" offense is absurd. He's only just gotten back (and methinks, he's back for a rougher time than some realize), but SOS' Fun-and-Gun offense single-handedly modernized the SEC, and played a part in the role of shifting greater college football philosophies. Hal Mumme ran some crazy ones at Kentucky. LSU's offense was hardly chopped liver. Georgia has faced offenses quarterbacked by the likes of Rex Grossman, Eli Manning, and Peyton Manning (not to mention some of the bowl opponents. Hi Drew Brees and Kyle Orton. Oh, and high Travis Dorsch!). Those things (that talent crap I was rambling about earlier) tend to matter more than how l33t the offensive system is. An example offered up is how Oklahoma failed to cover people out of the backfield against USC in the title game. Yes, Boise uses a similar offensive system to USC (or so I am told). My question: so? What does that have to do with Georgia v Boise State? Not much. Sure - sometimes teams fail to make adjustments. Georgia may well fail to (it's happened before. See the Ronnie Daniels Massacre). That Oklahoma failed to make adjustments against the most talented team in college football says nothing about a game being played the next season by two different teams.

It's funny, because the author mostly ignores the other side of the ball - UGA offense versus the Central Fellowship, I'm sorry I mean Boise State, defense. Louisville ran wild on Boise last year. One of Georgia's strengths should be the running game (but we shall see).

Not that I don't think Boise St won't be a tough opponent - Georgia lost a number of key players (Messrs Pollock, Davis, Brown, Greene). Georgia's LB depth has taken a small blow and it isn't even august. The secondary has serious questions (it wasn't that good last year with Davis, though Demario Minter is underrated). Van Gorder is gone, and while I suspect Marinez will be a better hire than many suspect it will be impossible not to miss him (here's a stat for you: go look up how many games Georgia allowed an opponent to score over 30 points under Van Gorder's 4 year tenure). Boise is good, no question about it. They may well beat Georgia. But it likely won't have to do with any of the non-analysis offered up by the article. Ill save my thoughts on that game for another time.

So did we learn anything? I don't know, and I don't care. Except that I'm much better at selecting song titles to tie into blog headers. Though I should point out I am biased.

Friday, June 24, 2005

More on the Marlins

An interesting stat tossed out by Mark Bradley this morning about the Marlins. Their team average of .273 (good for 3rd in the NL) is 19 points higher than the Brave's anemic .254. However, they have scored 27 fewer runs (I do not know if this reflects last night), admittedly in 3 fewer games. Good for third from the bottom in the NL. Atrocious. The Braves 333 runs put them a respectable 6th. They have a higher team OB% (.338 versus .321 - 3 games shouldn't account for this; I haven't looked at sacrifices though) but 18 less walks. Their team OPS is 14 points higher than the braves (.754). The Braves have a tiny slugging league - 3points.

That last is a misleading statistic - SLG has never really measured power as traditionally purported. The Marlins closeness is thanks to the batting average. The Braves have outslugged the Marlins. 2 more doubles and a triple ( trivial), but 20 more homeruns. They've hit less, true, but they've made it count more. A decent year from Mike Lowell would radically change this, but you can hardly put all the blame on him.

Juan Pierre is definately a problem - the 2-4 hitters (Castillo, Cabrera, Delgado) are having big years. he should be leading the Galaxy in runs scored. You can't do that when you don't get on base. Baseball persona often eschew the sabermetric talk, and often point to guys with low OB% and good (90-100+) run seasons as successful because of speed. Poppycock. Someone like Tony Womack has had that sort of "success" before (I think he scored 111 runs for Arizona in 99 with like 70 steals). However, you could put an aging but still cagey Rickey Henderson (who could post .400 OB%s in his late years regardless of his other stats) at the top of such a linuep and the guy would score 130.

It's unfair to just trash Pierre - he has a .355 career OB% which is far from horrible, and he's had some good years. Still, if I'm McKeon I'm dropping him in the order until he gets it figured out. The Marlins' season is far from over, but either Pierre needs to start hitting or McKeon will have to do something.

Right Bobby?

Tim Duncan Saves His legacy

. . .and other absurdities.

With a strong 4th period, Tim Duncan had 27 points and 11 rebounds to help push the Spurs to their third NBA title. He also helped erase growing doubts about his ability to get it done under pressure and against a top llight opponent (as if the Lakers 2 years ago where chopped liver). Ducan struggled at times throughout the series as the Spurs bungled a 2-0 series lead, often looking worse than the Pistons did in games 1&2. Articles started appearing all over, naturally, about Duncan and his woes. I wonder. . .why?

If you watched game 7, it appeared that Duncan is not physically 100%. He lacked explosiveness, and at times appeared he had a vertical leap that mine dwarfs. Not much was made of Duncan's physical condition coming into this series, except that he was supposed to be "ready". One would ahve expected that coming out of the Spurs camp. So why haven't more people written about his foot woes, as they did constantly for the rest of the playoffs. Did the world forget he's not been 100% for some time? All of the rest the Spurs got probably helped tremendously, but methinks it wouldn't have allowed him to get to 100% (and possibly not even 90%). I found the whole thing rather strange, to be honest.

Anyway, congrats to the Spurs. Have the Pistons started complaining about the refs yet?

Thursday, June 23, 2005

Don't call it a hot streak

But the Braves are 5-1 with two straight series wins. A nice win last night, tainted slightly by Horacio Ramirez having to leave the game afdter 5 pretty good innings.

Andruw hit one of the deepest game home runs I have ever seen at the Ted. 432 feet my rear end. I think the Braves are one of the teams who computer distance as where the ball hits, not projecting the trajectory as many places do. But I could be mistaken.

Kelley Johnson is now officially on the list of people it is acceptable to have a man-crush on. He hit three absolute ropes last night. I actually beat the announcers by a few pitches in thinking that he has done a couple of things to his batting standce, and I hadn't really taken time to notice. He's far more open now - much similar to Chipper than when he came up. And his hands are down. I just love that swing. I believe it was hit #3 that was a very easy and compact swing, and he just tatooed the ball. Yes, it's a hot streak for him. But the more I watch him play, the more I like him.

Giles had a nice game despite being up and down of late. 2 BBs may bode well. I'm not sure if Pierre gets to that ball if he doesn't lose it, I think it would be close (it's hard not to give him the out with that speed, but it landed deeper than I realized on replay). Furcal had a l.400 night - and I'd take a .250 average if he was going to walk that often. I think pitchers are figuring out Betemit - it generally happens to a rookie at some point. His BB/K was 12/8 some weeks ago and it's gone 2/12 since. How he handles the coming weeks will be telling. I really liked how Blaine Boyer was throwing.

Sighting: Brian Jordan's power was spotted scaping tickets before the game.

Wednesday, June 22, 2005

I screw a lot better when we're winning

Especially against divsional foes. That felt good, I'd be lying if I said otherwise. Thoughts:

1) Nice game from Smoltzie, but I don't like his throwing that many pitches this early in the season. The danger of him running out of gas is significant - he hasn't throw alot of innings in years. Conserve early, hit the gas down the stretch. Though that is one way to get the bullpen some rest.

2) Four walks from the braves versus 4 ks was nice. And against a pretty good starter to boot. The braves only had 2 extra base hits but they counted.

3) Kelley Johnson continues his tear with a double and a walk. I think I'm starting to dream about him. Andruw's homer was nice, but so was the walk. If he's walking, he's seeing the ball. If he's seeing the ball, he's blasting homeruns. I don't have any math to back it up, but that's generally a good thing.

4) Pete Orr made two errors, but had two hits to raise his average to .329. He has only 4 walks versus 10ks in 79 ABs, but he has been a nice sparkplug thusfar. Cox has a pleasant quandry right now, I think. All of the rookies have shown promise. Be it with the glove, or the bat, or both. There really aren't enough ABs to go around. This team gets increasingly fun to watch, even when we lose. I can't wait to see who makes a big play next.

5) Wilson with a BB. I feel you, dawg.

Word has it the Braves might be interested in Aubrey Huff, who is not having that good of a season. Still, he's put up pretty good numbers the previous two years. I think he's a pretty good player. I'm not sure how I feel about trading for him. I think I'd prefer relief help right now. Ask me again in a month.

Thursday, June 09, 2005

The sleeper has awakened

The US victory of Panama last night might seem, at a glance, of little consequence. Sure, it moves them one step closer to Germany (a very large step, perhaps). Who among the casual soccer fans in Amercia (all 15 of them) doesn't expect the team to be in Germany? Qualifying is likely assumed.

The US won 3-0 on the road last night. Playing on the road anywhere, with a couple of exceptions (Andorra perhaps), is difficult. Teams are often happy to tie and come away with a point. So a win, and what appears to be a convincing one, is all the more impressive. Even against lowly Panama, who has not faired well in qualifying thus far. They had not lost at home, though, and that's something.

There is a ways to go yet, and the US isn't done improving as a squad (witness the awe of England in a recent friendly, and some struggles in the previous round of qualifying). Many people who will probably play key roles in Germany aren't healthy right now (Eddie Johnson, John O'Brien, to name two). Still, the US is starting to play some pretty good soccer. It's hard not to get excited.

Wednesday, June 08, 2005

I just need a little fuel

I still haven't seen a live action replay of Erstad's hit on Estrada. It does look like, on a series of pictures I glimpsed, he is coming in a bit high. I wouldn't call it dirty at this time though - it;s part of baseball.

That said, I'm not sorry Ramirez threw behind Erstad. I don't wish injury on Erstad, but heaven knows the Braves could use a little fire. So it's nice to see a guesture of emotion.

And on an unrelated note - the US plays a very important qualifying match at Panama tonight at 8:30 (EST). A tie here would be nice - taking points away from home is generally a good thing in soccer. I would like more. The US really took care of business against Costa Rica. Let's win here and put ourselves in a very comfortable position, and start preparing for the rematch with El Tricolors. I want to beat Mexico about as badly as I want the Dawgs to beat UF this fall. And that's saying something.

And Bobby shall lead them

Brian Jordan really must have felt old last night, given that the average age of the people in the lineup arround him seemed about two decades younger than him. The news of Chipper looks bad headed for worse. I'm still not sure when Estrada will be back. Thompson is out forever.

So why not just turn it over to the kids? Marte was doing fairly well at Richmond, and of all the young guys he and Davies are probably the most deserving of the label of "the future" (not that the rest of them don't deserve it). Early returns weren't bad. Marte had a sac fly and took one for a ride later in the game, just missing what would have been his first major league home run. He showed some nice glovework - an area he has clearly put a lot of time into.

Being in the thick of a divisional race, with a bunch of hobbling or struggling veterans and thus needing to make major contributions, is not ideal for one young guy. Let alone 5+. You couldn't ask for a better staff to do it with, though. Bobby is Bobby and I have a feeling the Braves, no matter how the injuries play out, will be in the thick of it come August. I haven't given up hope of a playoff spot either. The sad thing is, we could play as is (make a couple of moves, sure) the rest of the way out, get the wild card or win the division, and Bobby Cox probably still wouldn't be manager of the year.

He has shortcommings - some of the Braves historical October malaise can be lain at his feet. He has been too by the book in the post season, ignoring hot hitters at times for matchups. And over-relying on the same releiver he has used all year, leading to guys getting tired and then flopping. I think that you have to change your philosophy in the post season, and be a little less business-like (which works fantastic during the marathon regular season), and a little more urgent (for the Spring that is October). Still, it's only part of it, and the bottom line was the hitters generally didn't hit and the pitchers sometimes didn't pitch well.

He's had several years where he should have won and did not. My Gut says that if the East produces another playoff team, that team will probably have the manager of the year (save, perhaps, the Marlins). I think Frank Robinson is the front runner right now. People will point to the payroll disparity, to the lack of bona fide stars on a team like the Nationals, and probably be influenced by the fact that the Braves have been in the hunt for forever and a day. That Cox has 2 wins since his recent tenture with the Braves started in 1991 is impressive. But he should have more; (that Jack Mckeon won it in 1999 with the reds over Cox was criminal). Dusty Baker has 3 over that same span - but I don't think he's deserving of more than Cox.

The Braves have had resources over the past decade and a half, and that's why they've won 13 straight divisional titles. But many teams have had resources during that span and not even played .500 ball at times. Cox is part of the reason for that.

Being Steve Bedrosion

Baseball America said he is one of the most majors-ready players in the draft. USA Today thinks he will be in the Atlanta pen by the end of the year. Both bold statements, and I'm not holding my breath. That said, it's hard not to think the Braves had their current bullpen problems - even if the picture they were looking at was much bigger - when they took North Carolina State releiver Joey Devine. I think a releiver in the high rounds is generally a stretch. A guy who has started most of his life can easily go to relief. The reverse is not true. That said, maybe this was a good pick after all.

He's 5-11 205, and his delivery has been described as "between sidearmed and three-quaters". His impressive strike out numbers at NCSt (75ish in 48ish innings this past year) might be something I'd chalk up to the delivery. However, BA also claimed he throws in the mid 90s, topping out at 97. I doubt very much he'll be in Atlanta this year; it isn't impossible but it is very rare for a player to get to the majors that quickly from any level. Not counting those silly contract clauses like the one Alex Rodriguez had, that dictated he get a cup of coffee in year 1. A couple of years is a distinct possibility - he will join UGA releiver Will Startup at single A. Good luck gentlemen - we need it.

Other noteworthies from the draft nobody pays attention to - the Braves took 14 pitchers in 20 picks yesterday. they took 3 college pitchers in the top 6 picks, something of a rarity for them. Since taking Mike Kelly #1 overall in 1991, the Braves have tended to avoid college guys early. However, in recent years they've taken more. Perhaps the right player just happened to be a college guy. Perhaps there has been a slight shift in philosophy; who knows.

They also took a cuban shortstop with a supplimental pick after the first round. It will be interesting to see how he turns out.

Monday, June 06, 2005

Come back in one year

For the second straight year, the University of Georgia has denined a recruit admission due to findings by the review board. Last year, it was speedy CB Michael Grant, who it turns out had on his record an "incident". Not much detail about said indicent ever reached these ears.

This time, it was Floridian LB prospect Jamar Cheney. He was denied entrance because the second time he took the SAT, his score jumped so high that the SAT review board flagged it (chaney scored a 1260 the second time, to go along with a 2.9 gpa). Allegedly, he was told it was impossible to score a 2.9 wityh as 1260 - but I cannot verify that, and it's an absurd point anyway.

Jamar was asked to retake the test, but he didn't, because his ACT was good enough to qualify. He may have been advised that the "ACT will be enough", and by Richt no less (again, allegedly). If he takes the SAT again and scores much lower - say 980, that might have lead us to this road anyway. There is a certain special message board out there where fans are doing some frothing, but I don't think this is going to cause UGA to lose Richt. It sucks to lose a recruit like this, but it's one recruit out of many. I wish Chaney the best of luck, even if he winds up at UF. I can empathize with any dissappointment he might feelt - I didn't get into my initial college of choice and it was somewhat gutwrenching.

That doesn't make this a bad move for the UGA review board, though. I don't think there is enough information to say that this time. What I do think is unfortunate is that Chaney couldn't find out until recently - it certainly reduces his plan B options. Most schools probably don't have scholarship room for Jamar. UF apparently does (and has absolutely no problems letting him in on the ACT score it seems, or doesn't care about the SAT score beign flagged; we'll find out Wednesday). Having your college destination up in the air right now would not be much fun.

A point I would like to make: I scored higher than he did in highschool, and my GPA wasn't much better (right at a 3.1). In highschool I really wasn't that motivated - a problem many highschoolers suffer. I didn't spend that much time studying (there were far too many fun things to do - video games, books, tv, girls). I'm sure statistically it bears out there 2.9 with a 1260 is indeed very rare; just like statistically it is rare for a person with under a .5 BB/K ration to hit .300 for an entire season. Rare does not mean impossible. I was told it was next to impossible to raise one's SAT score several hundred points after the first take. I improved mine 150 over 3 tests, and had I taken it a fourth time I'd have added onto that. I took a single SAT prep course, all english focused (and mostly just analogies) - just 2 classes that were 2 hours a piece. I took it before the third test taking - and it helped. I boosted my verbal considerably (my math scores were fairly consistent; I did see some improvement from test 1 to test 2 on math, but scored identically on test 3). I should have taken something for Math - I scored well on math but I think I ultimately underpeformed and the course likely would have been an excellent refresher if nothing else.

Jamar took a prepratory course as well. While it is unlikely it could produce a several hunred point gain all by itself, I don't think this automatically means Jamar's situation is in any way shady. Unfortunately, Jamar probably needed to take the test again. A decent score would have validated his hard work.

Paging Steve Avery

Kyle Davies is off to a nice start - another young guy turning in a solid performance for a team that is otherwise floundering. However, Cox did something Saturday that made me cringe. Davies threw 119 pitches in his saturday gem. His future - which may or may not turn out to be as bright as his start - is not worth one game, nor one season.

Ron Shandler did some considerable research on the subject of pitcher burnout. I'll have to bring the materials into work tomorrow so I can give all the specifics. However he found that pitchers under the age of 25 that met certain criteria rarely ever threw that many innings agin - and never did so at a high performance level.

the main criteria were:

1. Pitcher threw 200 innings
2. Pitcher averaged over 28.5 batters faced per game
3. Pitcher saw an increase in IP of 50+ over consecutive seasons

Davies shouldn't be throwing 119 pitches. Keep him to 90, and try to limit his innings. He's young, and he may grow into dominance. I doubt he'll average 100+ pitches a game; Cox and Mazzone usually keep their pitchers in the 90 to 100 range. And it is just one game. Avery matched all of those criteria at a young age - several seasons worth. He was borderline fantastic in the early 90s, and never came close to duplicating that success. I'd hate to see Davies go down that roat. Cox and Mazzone certainly know far more about pitching than I do. I'd just as soon take extra care with Davies, though. I know the bullpen is on fire, but neither the game nor the season are worth a career.

Friday, June 03, 2005

A couple of additional notes

Dan doodie was himself victimized by further bullpen lapse. However, it's very difficult to come in and pitch with the bases juiiced like that. If memory serves, Strand rate - the percentage of inherited runners a bullpen strands - normalizes to some number I cannot forget. And lacking the proper link right now, I can't investigate it. It is an interesting stat, however. It suggests that a good bullpen matters but is limited into just how much in crisis situations. A good bullpen can outperform strand rate - but it's tough to get 5/6 guys who all do it. Gryboski has been up and down at best and did not help.

But he shouldn't have been in that position (sorry to pick on you more, Dan-o).

I mis-guestimated Betemit's projections. At his walk rate, he's projecting to a 500-550 AB full slate I think - So 120-130 walks and a 650ish Plate Appearance season. That's a pretty full slate I think. Here are some of his minors numbers :

2000 - low A - 30/37 (BB/K) 69/269 (G/AB) .81
2001 - high A - 23/71 84/318 .32
2001 - AA - 12/36 47/183 .33
2002 - AAA - 34/82 93/343 .41
2003 - AAA - 38/115 127/478 .33
2004 - AAA - 32/99 105/356 .32

I'm sensing a pattern. . .it's not that good. Though people can outperform low eye rations (see: Soriano). It genreally takes very good speed and power.

I can't recall if he gained a couple of years in the great Latino Age Purge, so his listed 24 kind of caught me off guard. It is still young - many guys don't enjoy success until later in their careers. I don't want to see the Braves bet the farm on him and have this just be a temporary thing, while the league slowly adjusts to him. But I'm happy to watch him in the mean time.

Now if only we could grab about 3 releivers. . .

The Braves covered an old phish tune last night

The song? David Bowie

The lyrics:

David Bowie
(repeat a bunch)
*jammin*

UB 40
(repeat a bunch)
*jammin*

The Braves added a verse last night:

Dan-Doodie
(repeat a bunch)
*commit Hari Kari

I'm sort of speechless right now. It was an interesting game for a number of reasons:

1) Ramirez wasn't very good; neither was he very bad. Again. Is he not 100% yet? Was his early success a flash in the pan? I don't know. 10 base runners and 3 earned runs in 7 innings is not the end of the world. But he isn't very fun to watch pitch right now. It was one of his better road outings, though, so that's something. It also isn't saying very much. Of course, thanks to Dan Doodie (second entry down), he's far and away not the worst pitcher on the team to watch.

2) Dan - I'm sorry man. I have nothing against you personally. Your job is tough - the act of pitching is a complete despoiling of your body/your temple. It's letting the barbarians in and just having their way with the place. Pitching is hard. Pitching in front of thousands of people is harder. Pitching for a team that has won 13 consecutive division titles is harder still.

You've been awful, though. It has to be said. I hope you pull out of it. I do. I hope we can find someone who will agree to take you while we pay 70% of your salary.

It isn't personal. But you are breaking my heart.

3) Wilson Betemit's rising star, thanks in part to injuries, had stalled after a meteoric rise through the organization. He's so young, still. Rigth now, he has 12 BB and 8 Ks in 45 ABs. On pace for 100 ks, full season - no surprise as it follows along with what I remember of his minor league stats. And 144 BBs. That number is incredible. And alarming - because he never did anything close to that in the minors that I can recall.

If he can show patience, work a count, and take a walk, the sky may well be the limit for this powerful looking switch hitter. I don't know where he is going to play and frankly don't much care. Let's give him a shot. Maybe he'll just be a flash in the pan as well. But the braves need juice on offense right now, and he's providing it. Wilson, study the game and improve, if you can.

4) Chipper is slumping. Injuries have slowed down what was a fabulous start, but it's not entirely unexpected. He's a .300 hitter who rarely gets into the mid/high teens - I believe he hit .323 the MVP year, which is outstanding. Still, I was hoping for one of those incredible resurgant seasons. Not that all is lost. He stands at a 33/24 BB/K ratio, which is outstanding. 4 BBs versus 1 K in his last 5-6 games, combined with the paucity of hits, leads me to believe he may be pressing a bit. He had a big AB last night with runners on and didn't produce.

I do not like Bobby having dropped him to 4th. Baseball players are very routine driven - Bobby you know more than me but he didn't like hitting cleanup the last 2 years. Leave him third and just let everyone else deal with it. I don't think it is good for the lineup when he hits fourth.

5) Five walks for the team was a welcome sight, and 5 runs should be enough to win. The bullpen letdown stung because I think we really needed that one.

Elkon is right about something else - when Jones slumps, he slumps. I think I almost seized up after watching him swing at that pitch that bounced in front of the plate, and way outside.

Chin up though; it's a long season, and Bobby will keep them in the hunt.

Wednesday, June 01, 2005

Overrated. . .Overrated. . .Overrated. . .

Not just one of the better (if generic) cheers used in all of sports, Mike Elkon links to a pretty interesting "study" of teams versus their pre-season rankings.

I use study in quotes because while it's an interesting piece, as Mike notes polls do not take into account things like scheduling. And that is reflected in this just looking at pre-season versus final rankings. It also doesn't reflect luck (good or bad - hi Colorado!) causing a season to turn one way or the other.

Still, it's intesting to look at. I think Florida being at the bottom is a tad misleading - they're pretty consistently close to their preseason rankings, and I think if a good team plays in a tougher conference you might expect them to finish below a preseason ranking more often than not, particularly when that ranking is so often a top 10 or top 5 ranking (as Florida's so often was). Big differences are also interesting - particularly when they are in the red. What it all means can vary. Often there are funny things in preason rankings - like people ranking a team based on the assumption that something that hasn't happened will. Like a line of underclassmen with little experience pulling together and playing great. Or several previously injured players returning to old form.

So a big negative doesn't necessarily prove a team is overrated; it may just prove that the people picking the rankings were at best overly optimistic or unlucky and at worst stupid. And really, that's what might ultimately be reflected here - that preseason picks aren't always made logically, and that even when they are there is a guess component and nobody can see the future. Still, it's a fun chart to look at.

I am pretty sure it's fair to call Notre Dame the most overrated team in the country. It must have been nice -back before we had electricity, cars, and the ice age - when Notre Dame was head and shoulders above other schools in national coverage. They were probably on TV more often than everyone else (I could be wrong here), and this was a big deal back then. Now? Recruiting is different, with far fewer scholarships available and so much coverage existing for schools from mid level conferences. Boise State gets on TV a couple of times a year - prime time at that. 15 years ago, they'd have been dying to get TV coverage in a bowl game. Notre Dame gets slobbered on by the national media, but they aren't relevant they way they used to be. They have excellent pagentry and tradition, yes, but so do a number of schools. I'm guessing the nation was just under exposed to everyone else for far too long.