Wednesday, October 22, 2008

The World Series at Tropicana Field.

This AP photo used without permission.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Hail the new AL East overlords.

The World Series will begin at Tropicana Field on Wednesday.

This AP photo of David Price used without permission.

Imagine how good they will be once their other 1.1 comes of age.

Fans of AL East teams not named the Rays: Steel yourselves for the next decade of serfdom.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

J. Arnold Ross didn't say that line in 'Oil.'

Danny Cepero, 'keeper for the New York Red Bulls is buying. In the 83rd minute of tonight's win over the Supporters' Shield winning Columbus Crew, Cepero sent a strike of a free kick from 81 yards out, drinking Crew 'keeper Andy Gruenebaum's milkshake.

Blame it on the Giants Stadium turf, Gruene. Will Hesmer would have stopped it.

Cepero was making the first start of his MLS career, and only because regular Bulls backstop Jon Conway was busted for using the juice and suspended for 10 games. Damnable.

(MSG has a good thing going with the British announcer, too.)

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Who kind of man attends a John McCain rally?

The man on the left has a mullet, enough said. The man on the right is wearing a Packers jersey. To a political rally. Where he'll be broadcast on national television.

Please vote on Nov. 4. Don't let idiots like these three hijack our country. Again.

Dangan Ressha.

It started with a simple query to a colleague:

Has anybody had as much success as Daisuke Matsuzaka while walking as many people as he does?

Thanks to the Play Index, we found the answer: kinda.

It's hard to say that walks are Daisuke Matsuzaka's Achilles Heel, since the Red Sox hurler just finished an 18-3 season with substantially fewer hits than innings pitched (128 hits in 167.2 IP), nearly a strikeout per inning (8.27 K/9), a 2.90 earned-run average and -- most notably -- a 158 ERA+. Had Cliff Lee not spent the last year hurling cowhide with the combined glory of Thor, Leonardo Da Vinci, Alan Thicke, and Sandy Koufax, Matsuzaka would have led the league in ERA+ and would be the odds-on favorite for the AL Denton True Young Award.

Still, even my colleague (a Red Sox fan) had to concede that Matsuzaka's propensity to walk batters (5.05 BB/9) doesn't make his success appear sustainable. A few unlucky bounces or centered balls and his stats wouldn't be so sanguine. But back to the original question: How rare was Daisuke Matsuzaka's 2008 season?

Pretty damned rare. The list of pitchers (min. 162 innings) since 1901 with a BB/9 greater than 5 and an ERA+ greater than 150:

Daisuke Matsuzaka20081585.05
Hal Newhouser19421615.59

In other words, it hasn't happened since John McCain was a spry youngster. But maybe we set the parameters too high. Specifically, maybe we asked too much of ERA+. So we reset the study, this time using a BB/9 greater than 4.75, a H/9 less than 7 and an ERA less than 3.25.

Hal Newhouser19425.596.712.45161
King Cole19104.886.531.80159
Daisuke Matsuzaka20085.056.872.90158
Nolan Ryan19776.145.962.77141
Herb Score19556.106.262.85140
Al Leiter19964.976.392.93140
Johnny Vander Meer19415.016.842.82129
Tom Cheney19625.046.963.17128
Nolan Ryan19724.985.262.28128
Bob Turley19556.466.133.06123
Nolan Ryan19745.465.982.89118
Jim Shaw19144.806.932.70104
Allie Reynolds19434.946.342.99104

Of the selected seasons, only Hal Newhouser and Nat Cole dominated like Matsuzaka did in 2008. Al Leiter was the most recent to do so in 1996. Before that, it hadn't been done since Nolan Ryan did it thrice in the roaring '70s.

Notice that Ryan's name appears on that list more than anybody's. Is Daisuke Matsuzaka the second coming to Nolan Ryan? Time will tell.

It's important to note that after 2003, Matsuzaka's age-22 season, he was never plagued with a large walk total while playing in Japan. Perhaps by this point, he had acquired enough status there to get close calls on balls and strikes, status he lost when he traveled across the Pacific. Could it be that umpires are to blame for Daisuke Matsuzaka's high walk totals?

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Fun with the AP Photo wire.

Two Titans of Tennessee who couldn't seal the deal on the largest stage chat before the Presidential debate at Belmont University:

This photo used without permission from the Associated Press.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Black is the new black.

Update/ED. Note: As per AP style, I use "black" in place of "African American." In doing so, I unwittingly created ambiguity. The post specifically concerns American-born black players.

As reported by the Associated Press at the start of the 2008 season, a study by the University of Central Florida's Institute for Diversity and Ethics in Sports indicated that the percentage of black players on Major League rosters was at a two-decade low:

Among major leaguers, though, just 8.2 percent were black players, down from 8.4 percent in 2006 and the lowest level in at least two decades.

In an article special to, Richard Lapchick, who runs the annual UCF study, presented some theories about the decline in the number of black ballplayers:

MLB has struggled with an image problem that it hasn't welcomed African-Americans into front office.

Another contributing factor, perhaps, is that Barry Bonds, arguably the biggest African-American baseball star of his generation, is one of the most vilified athletes ever -- deservedly or not -- in spite of the fact that he broke one of the most revered records in the history of Major League Baseball.

If you are a young African-American athlete trying to decide what sport to pursue, you find superstar role models far more often in the NBA and NFL who may inspire your decision. You may also struggle to figure out how and where to play baseball, if you come from an urban area where there are few fields. If your family doesn't have the resources, you might not be able to buy the equipment or pay the fees to join a youth travel team.

While Lapchick noted the efforts of Major League Baseball to include more black youths in programs at a younger age, efforts that include the Reviving Baseball in Inner Cities (RBI) program, he concluded that:

In spite of those efforts, it appears that baseball will virtually skip a generation of African-Americans. If there are to be increases, they will come in the future and not in the short term.

While the data undoubtedly still support Professor Lapchick's conclusion, I hold empirical evidence that baseball has not skipped a generation of black players: the 2008 postseason

Consider the number of black players on the eight 25-man Division Series rosters:

Chicago White Sox: Jermaine Dye, Ken Griffey Jr., Dewayne Wise, Jerry Owens

Tampa Bay Rays: David Price, Carl Crawford, BJ Upton, Cliff Floyd

Los Angeles Angels Angels of Anaheim: Darren Oliver, Chone Figgins, Howie Kendrick, Garret Anderson, Torii Hunter, Gary Matthews Jr.

Boston Red Sox: Coco Crisp

Milwaukee Brewers: CC Sabathia, Ray Durham, Prince Fielder, Rickie Weeks, Mike Cameron, Tony Gwynn Jr.

Chicago Cubs: Derrek Lee, Daryle Ward

Los Angeles Dodgers: James McDonald, James Loney, Matt Kemp, Juan Pierre

Philadelphia Phillies: Ryan Howard, Jimmy Rollins

There are 29 black players spread over the eight postseason clubs, an average of 3.6 per club, or 14.5 percent of the players participating. This rate is more than double the number of black players in the Major Leagues.

And look at who comprises this list: Should the White Sox reach the World Series, the main storyline will undoubtedly revolve around Ken Griffey trying to win his first title. You would be hard pressed to imagine a scenario in which the Phillies, Brewers, Dodgers, or Angels reach and win the World Series without their black players making significant contributions. This list even includes some of the game's biggest stars -- including the 2007 National League MVP (Rollins) and the probable 2008 NL winner (Howard).

The list also includes several alums of RBI programs, including Crawford, Crisp, Loney, Rollins and Sabathia.

Make no mistake: In no way am I trying to suggest that having black players is a key to winning. The Red Sox have one black player, a relative role player, and they are a fine bet to take the whole tournament. To win, you get the best players, regardless of race, color or creed.

Instead, what I am trying to suggest is that if Major League Baseball is serious about increasing the number of black players who pick up the sport, now is the time to market itself heavily in the black community. Think of the times in which we live -- a black man is almost assuredly going to be our next president. For the first time in American history, people are uniting across racial lines to elect a minority leader to the nation's highest office. MLB would be well served to dovetail on this momentum.

One of the explanations given by Richard Lapchick for the declining number of black Major Leaguers bears revisiting:

If you are a young African-American athlete trying to decide what sport to pursue, you find superstar role models far more often in the NBA and NFL who may inspire your decision.

Not right now. Not with the players in the 2008 postseason. There are superstars. There are marketable players. There are role models.

The iron is red hot. If the league is serious about reviving baseball in the American inner cities, now is the time to strike.