Sunday, May 17, 2009

We Will... Amaze!

"That's pretty hard to do."
-Pirates manager John Russell said of Bixler striking out in 69 percent of his plate appearances this season.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Sid: 1, me: 0

Crosby's fuzz was recognized by VS. before mine.

One guy referred to it as "his...scruff."  And then the other guy said "Well, that's one more thing you can say about his development... at least this year it's somewhat credible."

Friday, May 8, 2009

Weekly stats wrap-up

How have our bats faired since we last checked in?  Have a look:

Doumit-  (does)/(not)/(exist)--- (dead)
*Jaramillo - .295/.392/.455--- .342 BAbip
Adam L. - .240/.327/.470 --- .279 BAbip
Sanchez - .321/.353/.554 --- .363 BAbip
Wilson - .255/.314/.319 --- .286 BAbip
Andy L. - .250/.337/.369 --- .270 BAbip
Morgan - .298/.359/.351 --- .354 BAbip
McLouth - .289/.392/.458--- .308 BAbip
Moss - .195/.253/.273--- .231 BAbip

The title of this post could have just as easily been "Regression to the Mean O'clock"-- Think about that!

Anyway, if you recall, we were looking for a couple things to happen.  We thought that Adam LaRoche was getting a bit too lucky to be true (.368 BAbip two weeks ago; that's an .089 point swing in luck right there); Freddy we obviously knew would come down (he was only B-ing .429 on bip... where was the red flag?); Jack was a touch high on luck himself, and is now just a touch low relative to the league (though not his established career line); Nate had been getting robbed (.265 BAbip) and we figured he was due to see a few more drop for hits; and then there was Nyjer Morgan, who, when we last spoke, still hadn't been exposed as a fraud.  Those days are ending for the man with the Juanpierreian, 91 OPS+ and near .300 BA.

As a team, our BAbip is .301, down from the mighty and ridiculous .317.  This was expected and I think we can now expect it to normalize at this level.  Is that a problem?  Yes.  If this is our expected level of production, we're looking at a .714 team OPS in a league that is averaging .753.  Not great news.

And then there's this:  we're currently 7th in the league in strikeouts, 10th in the league in runs scored, 10th in the league in BA, 10th in the league in OBP, 11th in the league in SLG, 14th in the league in BBs, and 15th in the league in HRs.  We do lead the Senior Circuit in two-baggers, with 62, so that's kind of cool.

Let's go through this one at a time, and see where each guy is headed in the next month:

Jason Jaramillo/Robinzon Diaz - have done a hell of a job stepping in for Ryan Doumit.  I hope that somewhere out there, Jose Molina (who doesn't understand small sample sizes in this fantasy) cries every night knowing he'll never be the instant-offense replacement that these guys have been.  However, the real Jose Molina is actually quite conscious of sample size fluctuations, and just regards these guys at flash in the pan rookies, who will probably cool off with more playing time.  I'd mostly have to agree with him there, but I'll toss in a little optimism.   Jaramillo is doing everything right at the plate; he's walking, hitting line drives, not striking out swinging too much.  Everything looks fine.  But he needs to continue this over a longer period of time (51 PAs some far).  Diaz is smacking the crap out of the ball, but that's been over a course of 4 games, so let's keep watching before saying that a guy with a minor league career OPS of .730 is going to be able to maintain a 1.077 clip (for the record, Jaramillo had a career OPS of .727 in the minors).

Adam LaRoche -- Big LaPoison hasn't not disappointed, once again.  Remember how excited we were that he decided not to let the month of April dominate him like it had in the past?  That was on borrowed time.  His drop off happened before May 1, and we're only 6 games into the month, so this is a small sample size alert (!SSSA), but have a look anyway:
April/March -  .269/.352/.564 ---  .308 BAbip
May - .136/.240/.136 --- .188 BAbip
I'm not saying the change in the calendar had anything to do with it, and if I could get the splits from the moment he started sliding, I'd give you those.  All I'm proposing is that this guy is going to be streaky, and the best we can hope for him to do is show discipline at the plate.  So far, his BB% of 11.5% is still above his career mark of 9.2%; however he's striking out slightly more than normal and not hitting as many line drives.  It'll come back, and then it'll go again.  Like the seasons.  Look forward to that, Pittsburgh.

Freddy Sanchez - Is it unreasonable to think Steady Freddy can maintain a .363 BAbip?  He used a .364 BAbip to win the batting title four years ago, so we know it's not impossible.  It's probably a sure bet not to repeat, but from what I've seen out of Sanchez, he seems to be firing on all cylinders in his approach, and when all is said and done, I wouldn't be surprised by an elevated BAbip in the .330's.  As I mentioned last time, over his career, he's got a freakishly high BAbip of .323, so I expect him to continue defying the mean.  I don't see him OPSing on the sunny side of .900 in this lifetime, though.  All I can figure, without going back and easily checking, is that Freddy hit 3 HRs in one at bat on opening day, and since then his two doubles a week are the only thing between him and a .333 slugging percentage.  How about .316/.350/.480 the next time we check in on him?  Just a guess.

Jack Wilson - Oh Jack... where will you be playing baseball in August 2009?  And Neal... why didn't you pull the trigger on a trade a couple weeks ago?  Any trade, really.  We probably could have gotten some new batting tees and a rosin bag back in April.  Now we'll be lucky if  someone's willing to send us some "well-used" pogs in exchange for a $7 million shortstop with a 70 OPS+.  

Don't get me wrong, I love Jack.  He legitimately busts his ass out there, and as BP put it in one of their scouting reports, the guy would get a lot more acclaim for his fielding if he was on a team with better hitters.  However, the optimism I had in him last time has sort of faded (updated numbers in bold) :
8.5 K% in 2009, 11 K% over career
9.6 K% currently
8.5 BB% in 2009, 5.2 BB% over career
7.7 BB% currently
0.76 GB:FB in 2009, 0.79 GB:FB over career
0.82 GB:FB currently
21 LD% in 2009, 20 LD% over career
19 LD% currently
.316 BAbip in 2009, .292 BAbip over career

.286 BAbip currently
So, as you can see, my hopes that Jack had finally "unlocked" something at the ripe age of 31, were a bit dashed by two weeks of moving in all the wrong directions.  I'm not saying that we won't see a bounce back somewhere along the line, but it'll most likely be accompanied by a dip in production, and that'll translate to where we are now.  

Andy LaRoche - one of the few things we can be vaguely positive about is the slow progression of Little LaPoison.   The HR power obviously isn't there, but he's starting to squeak out a couple extra-base hits, and his LD% is up to 23% in a league that averages 19%.  Obviously we need more time to say that last stat is true to his approach, but it's certainly encouraging.  The thing that impresses me the most about his minor league numbers is that he always had a good eye.  He walked 243 times and struck out 294, with an .086 point difference between his BA and OBP.  That's pretty good discipline, and though he's not quite figured out how to consistently drive major league pitching, he does have an .087 point difference between BA and OBP thus far this year.  To look at it another way, last year he had a 9.5 BB% and this year it's up to 10.2 BB%.    Maybe... and this is where I don't have too much more to say about the guy and am just trying to be positive... maybe, he's getting a bit more confident in what he's doing, and it's just a matter of time before he makes the big step forward?  I hope.   I'll say this... I don't expect him to slump in the near future.  This level is going to be his baseline for bad, with a bit better being his standard for good.

(Pens just started.  1-0 Caps, 36 seconds into the game.  Is this my fault for bringing a Pirates related thing into the time that should be spent on hockey?)

Nyjer Morgan --- I had the craziest revelation about Morgan since that last post where I listed all the reasons why he shouldn't be able to hit for a high BAbip, and yet does.  I was walking down my street in Brooklyn and all of a sudden yelled out "Oh shit! It's because he's really fast!"  An old lady gave me a funny look.  I was too satisfied to care.

(GONCHAR SCORE!!)

Anyway...Morgan can be anemic with the bat and still prone to get hits: he's within the top speed percentile of all players.  Of course, you can't steal first base all season long, and if that was your only plan for getting on base, you're going to be SOL by May.  Which Nyjer sort of is.  What do I expect out of him in the coming month?  I don't really know, let's just look at where he's been over his career and where he is now:
NM: 0.3 HR%, MLB Average: 2.8 HR%
0.0 HR% currently
NM: 16.8 K%, MLB Average: 17.8 K%
15.5 K% currently
NM: 6.3 BB%, MLB Average: 9.6 BB%
7.8 BB% currently
NM: 6.9 XBH%, MLB Average: 8.1 XBH%
3.1 XBH% currently
NM: 20 LD%, MLB Average: 19 LD%

20 LD% currently
 So he's actually doing a little better than he normally does in terms of plate discipline.  He's also doing much worse at slugging than he has in the past (!SSSA).  I don't know.  For our part, we'll try to make you miss Nyjer when he's gone next year.

Nate McLouth - Is starting to hit.  Like we thought he would.  Stay healthy, Nate.  

(GOAL!!!!)

Future outlook: less BA/OBP, more SLG.  He's been one of the few guys taking walks well above his normal rate, and his BAbip is high for him.  This is directly due to less fly balls and more balls hit on the ground.  He's traditionally a sub-.300 BAbipper (.287 over his major league career), and that's on account of him hitting a lot of flies to the outfield.  No reason to think he won't return to that trend, and poke a few more extra-base hits in the process.

Brandon Moss - Not getting in the way of Andrew McCutchen and Jose Tabata's career plans.  Seriously, this guy has gotten worse in every way since we last looked at him.  I heard it euphemistically said that John Russell has the chance to give a lot of different guys opportunities at the big league level throughout this season.  And yes, we're probably not going to be in game 7 this year, so it's worth it to give a player like Brandon Moss one last shot at making the cut.  Hopefully he can... hopefully McCutchen will be as awesome as we think he will.

(GOAL!!!!  Oh man, it is regression to the mean o'clock for Simeon Varlamov!)

Next week, I promise I'll do a report on the pitchers.  They've definitely fallen back down to earth after that ridiculous start.  However, there are very encouraging signs coming out of that staff, and that's worth studying a bit closer.

(I'm convinced Marc-Andre Fleury talks to the disembodied spirit of Tom Barrasso every night via ouija board, re: how a mediocre goalie becomes Big Game.)

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Playoff Fuzz, part II

Well, we're into round two, with game 3 set to begin in less than two hours time.  Sid and I have both been working overtime on the beards, and here's what we got:

Crosby's puckering up in this shot to really accentuate all three hairs (note the third one coming below the lip area.)
Not bad, not bad.  A little Rogaine around the cheek areas might accelerate the process, but on the whole, this is a good start for our Captain.

While we're on the subject of hockey, I just thought I'd mention, that it's really important for Evgeni Malkin to make his presence known.  Staal's line has looked damn good, and you can't argue with the results we're getting out of the first squad.  So it's really going to be up to Geno and Sykora to make Varlamov work when his A-team isn't in front of him. 

Okay, so back to the fuzz... here's a picture of my chin, taken just today.  (Sorry to those of you who just ate.)  

As you can see, I have what's called the "mole advantage."  If nothing else works, I can fall back on the birth mark to yield a hair or two.  I think that's also a neck beard that's coming in, but as you'll remember: DOES NOT COUNT!  

Not the best hockey fuzz you'll ever see, not the worst.  We're definitely improving from last year, and as our bodies hit puberty we'll probably both be better hockey players.  

Hey, speaking of hockey players-- isn't it time for Sergei Gonchar to bury one in the net??  I'm all for this new-found possession game (it really is everything I ever wanted from these guys), but someone needs to be the one to pull the trigger after a good cycle.  

Saturday, May 2, 2009

Fond Farewells

To both Jared Retkofsky and Larry Foote.

Jared, as we all remember, saved our bacon after Greg Warren went down.  He selflessly put his career as a furniture mover on hold to pitch in on our special teams unit.  For that we thank him.  

Also: our thoughts are with him as he recovers from a motorcycle accident.  (Yinz need to learn from this by now.)

Larry Foote has been with us for the past seven years.  In that time he recorded 288 solo takedowns, and 145 assists; 14.5 sacks; 1 safety; 3 interceptions for 26 yards; 7 forced fumbles, and 5 recoveries for a total of 27 yards.  More impressive than any of those numbers is that since being drafted, he's played in every regular season game except two.  While I respect his decision to keep on moving, it's weird to lose a guy who has started the last 80 games for us.

His play was never flashy, but I think that's what was so great about him.  Just another humble piece in Dick LeBeau's dangerous system.  A brick wall against the run, and a stable personality in the locker room.  

Best of luck to both of Yinz, from all of us at FTC.

Despite Me, Vol. 2