Sunday, May 19, 2013

7 out of 9 ain't bad

That's a screenshot of some horses.    Prior to the horse race, FTC projected the following finish:

1. Oxbow
2. Itsmyluckyday
3. Mylute
4. Orb
5. Governor Charlie (INCORRECT)
6. Departing
7. Will Take Charge
8. Goldencents (INCORRECT)
9. Titletown Five

Much like our NCAA lacrosse brackets and mid-term congressional projections, we held off on publishing our predictions out of respect to the sportsmen and gamblers who cherish living in unspoiled wonder. 

One final word: if Detroit loses this game, it's because their infielders weigh more than all nine of those horses combined.  There is NO reason to keep playing Jhonny Peralta.  It was ludicrous to play both Miggy and Fielder in the field with the DH spot open last season; slightly more reasonable now that Victor Martinez is back.  But Jhonny Peralta at SS, now?  Completely unreasonable.  This lineup does not need several more HRs than average from the middle infield positions.  They need defense!  How is this allowed to happen!?  They are completely pissing away groundballer Rick Porcello, and making it incredibly difficult for DIPier guys like Doug Fister.  Man, even Verlander has to be getting sick of this shit.  That is not a thing you can allow to happen!  Get it right, dummies!

The simple problem with Jose Tabata

The problem with Jose Tabata is that he still has to wait another 19 years before he can get a senior citizen discount at the movies.

The other problem is that he's a guy without power or defense.  Right now he's hitting in the .280s, with his BAbip in the .310s.  7.3% walk rate, with his career rate being 8.1%.   Looking at these numbers, you don't cringe.  Ideally, a guy is hitting .300 with a BAbip of .300 and a walk rate of 10%, but these are pretty close.

But then you remember that it takes Jose Tabata 100 plate appearances for every home run he hits.  This year's huge upswing from a 1% HR rate to a 2.4% clip is somewhat tempered by his HR/FB rate more than doubling (i.e. he got a lucky breeze on one of his fly balls a few weeks ago).

He has also consistently chalked up numbers in the field that are well below replacement level.  We won't even begin to discuss his follies on the base paths. 

All this adds up to a guy who, at very best, profiles to hit for average and do nothing else.  The question I pose to you, dear reader, is this: how many truly valuable players can you pull out of the butt of history, who have had neither power nor defense at their disposal? 

Friday, May 17, 2013

The FTC Mayoral Endorsement

You know what it is.

When you do a side-by-side comparison of the two candidates who are in this race to win it, this becomes the easiest decision you'll ever make in a voting booth. Though I'm not fan of Jack Wagner, I don't mean that as a slight at him. Bill Peduto is the Leslie Knope of Pittsburgh City Government. Peduto works harder than anyone and he's overflowing with great ideas. That's not an exaggeration. He's been rolling out one a day in the 100 days leading up to the election. Read as many of these as you're able to. Peduto demonstrates a superior understanding of the challenges and issues Pittsburgh faces as it continues to turn the corner, and meets them with practical, well-designed solutions. Peduto is a rarity among Democrats: he's a progressive with the courage of his convictions who isn't afraid to say what he thinks.

I'm a Pittsburgher before I'm anything else -- an American, a Jew, Pirates fan, a writer, member of Gen-Y, a guy with a beard. "Pittsburgher" is the label that supersedes all others. As a Pittsburgher, I can't think of anyone I'd rather have representing my hometown than Bill Peduto.

FTC Legions: mobilize. The election is on Tuesday. Get out there and help us get the mayor our town deserves.

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Francisco Liriano, take 2

Disclaimer: I am not in favor of the Liriano contract.  I think we outbid ourselves on a dude who is way too wild to be a starter.  He's potentially a great strikeout specialist out of the pen, but he will be walking far too many dudes to be allowed to see a lineup more than once.

But he's here and he's starting, so let's talk about this optimistically.

He had a very encouraging debut a week ago.  5.1 IP, 9 K, 2 BB, 6 H, 1 ER.  That's not bad!

Let's look closer:

63% of his pitches were for strikes; nothing strange here, career norm is 62%.

First pitch strikes: also 63%.  This one is a spike.  Career norm is 55% and MLB average is 59%.

He went 3-0 on two guys, and 0-2 on six.

Average speed on the fastball was 92.8 mph, which is right around the ~93 mph he averaged last season.  This is very good to see.  It's also worth noting that almost all of his fastballs were two-seamers, which builds on a trend he got into last season.  This shows that he's no longer trying to overpower hitters (though a 93mph average could still be considered powerful), but instead aiming to sink and move the ball.  Slider and change-up both solid.

Finally, let's look at the Mets' lineup he saw...

53.3% of pitches were swung at.  That sucks, Mets!  You're helping a guy out!  Normally, batters will swing at about 45% of Liriano's pitches.  70% of the time, batters are able to hold up on pitches he throws out of the zone; the Mets only took 60% of those.  So yes, they were part of the story here.

But look, I am encouraged by the velocity, and there is no doubt a road map to success here: get ahead in the count.  If Liriano can command the sinker for a first pitch strike, he will absolutely get more swings and misses when he drops the slider out of the zone.

This is what we're going to be watching for tonight, people. 

Saturday, May 4, 2013

FTC Kentucky Derby picks

1. Normandy Invasion
2. Overanalyze
3. Revolutionary
4. Goldencents
5. Palace Malice
6. Itsmyluckyday
7. Lines of Battle
and 13 other losers. 

Friday, May 3, 2013

Friday Night with FRANCO

Hello, cruel world.  I'm back.

I want to emphasize, that as always, it's not for lack of material that I haven't posted more.  It's purely an issue of being busy and lazy.  But enough of that, let's get rolling!

I'm starting to warm up to the idea of Russell Martin.  I still don't like the idea of spending all that money on a 30 year old FA, especially when there's a first rounder who walks 10% of the time in AAA.  But hey.  Is what it is, assholes.  Let's enjoy it for what it is.

And what is it?  It's a dude who has been crushing the ball.  Hitting .274 with 6 HRs in April, after a dreadful start; love that raw power.  Hasn't exactly fixed AJ's inability to patrol the bases, but he's at a 38% CS clip on the whole, so that's pretty tremendous.  Tonight he was terrific to watch as he most certainly framed Ks for both AJ and Grilli, and led Melancon through a dicey 8th.  Those of you who know me, know that I think pitch framing is the windshield wiper fluid of automotive juices.  But listen, there are some nights when you've got a dandy of a bug on your windshield, and some nice, new wiper blades. A squirt or two of fluid can be damn satisfying.  PROVE ME WRONG.

Martin is athletic and active as a receiver.  All those times that the Cards would come to town, and we'd say of Yadi Molina "Oh, so that's what a catcher looks like"... well, we don't have that exactly, but we're a hell of a lot more competent than in the days of Barajas, Doumit, Paulino, Snyder, Jaramillo, Brown, Fryer, Pagnozzi, Toregas, Shalhoub, Kratz, Diaz, Chavez, Maldonado, Cota, etc.  So I enjoy watching that.

Of course, it's easy to say these things after watching an excellent pitching performance and a well played game.  It doesn't matter how athletic and active your catcher is when you have an asshole like J-Mac on the mound, walking 6 guys in 5 innings.  As of now, our pitchers lead the league in BBs, so it's not like we've solved the problem of our guys being bad at baseball.

Without saying too much more about why they're bad at baseball, I'll say this: they're not good enough at baseball that they shouldn't be platooning dudes even more than they are.

There is no good reason for FORT to have only played in 8 games so far.  He walks and crushes high fastballs.  He should be the designated PH for all our pitchers.

Jose Tabata shouldn't be used against pitchers.  Or in the field or on the bases.  He is very good at origami (conjecture) but not baseball.

Travis Snider and Starling Marte both have BAbips above .400; they also K ~22% of the time.  Not good! Especially not for Marte who walks in less than 6% of his PAs.  When John Wehner tells us that Marte doesn't need to walk because he's still getting better as a hitter, just remember that John Wehner is very good at horticulture (conjecture) but not baseball analysis (or baseball).

I love Mark Melancon.  He throws a nice cutter to both sides of the plate.  All of us who said he'd be the regress-back player of the year, we're looking pretty damn handsome now.

Grilli is still an overpaid strikeout specialist, but man, he's kind of fun to watch.  I was thinking while watching the game tonight, that it's hard to tell Hanrahan is even missing.  The white guy with a beard who gets Ks and isn't amazing past that is still here.  Great stuff.

On the idea of closers... I like the idea of playing entrance music, but wouldn't it be more effective to queue it up when the WPA maxes out?  Think about it.  10 run first inning, start playing Enter Sandman, put people in a good mood.  I don't know.  Think about it before writing your congresspeople.

I wish Evan Longoria played for us.

Clint Barmes' suckitude has brainwashed us.  At this point we're all completely desensitized to how awful he is that we don't flinch at an OPS in the .400s.  5.0 K:BB?? Psshaw!  That's downright respectable for Clint, compared to where he was for most of last year.  No, at this point we're looking at this asshole and thinking "Well, he's never hit below .200 in a season... maybe we'll get to see something new!"

I think FTC is moving into ownership territory on the phrase "stupid asshole."  I first used in a conversation with Nils on Pi day, 2011.  Since that time, Matt, Nils and I have uttered that phrase exactly 96,420 times.  We talk about baseball a lot.

One last thought and then I'm going to bed: Andrew McCutchen is great.  His BAbip is low, his approach is excellent.  He is terrific.  Haters gonna hate, but please don't hate on him.

That's all for this week, folks!

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

I wish the mayor left comments like this on our site.

In November of 2011, I wrote in this space that Pittsburgh Mayor Luke Ravenstahl oscillates between acting like a 20-year-old boy and a 4-year-old girl. I have to hand it to His Dudeliness — he’s done a lot of growing up since then.

Yesterday, for example, he showed the poise and maturity of a 15-year-old girl.

Yesterday, the PG’s Timothy McNulty posted a story to the paper’s website which directly linked Mayor Dudeface to a group called “Committee for a Better Pittsburgh,” which financed a citywide ad buy smearing District 8 City Councilman and mayoral candidate Bill Peduto.
Documents released Tuesday, just three weeks before the May 21 primary, show that Luke Ravenstahl is head of the secretive committee behind new TV attack ads taking on his longtime foe and Democratic mayoral candidate Bill Peduto.
Little was known about the group called "Committee for a Better Pittsburgh" financing the citywide, $53,000 ad buy that started Monday targeting the city councilman's mayoral bid. But paperwork KDKA-TV filed with the Federal Communications Commission lifted the veil: The committee chairman is the outgoing mayor.
Determined not to let this kind of unchecked aggression stand, man, Luke did what any wildly emotional teenager would do: he left a hastily written comment on the PG’s website displaying not only raging petulance, but a command of his native language that is, to be charitable, below grade-level. Then, undoubtedly proud of himself for having splattered his emotions onto a page like a his hero Emily Dickinson, but with the reckless panache of a modern-day Jackson Pollock, he cross-posted it to his own Facebook page.

They grow up so fast, don’t they?

There's just so much here, how can we not break it down?

Breaking news: One of America's (self-proclaimed) greatest newspapers actually takes the time to pull the records of an account that's been in existence for years!

Sure. That's what responsible newspaper journalists do when they have a reason to do it. They were curious as to who was behind the ad that smeared Peduto, stating that "Bill Peduto wants to be mayor of Pittsburgh, but he only seems to care about his own district."

Are you suggesting, Mayor Dudeface, that the press should have known about this account earlier, maybe because it's totally, definitely linked to other shady if not outright illegal activity? 

Congrats to Tim McNulty and the tremendous work of the entire team from David Shribman on down. You really blew the cover off of this one. Yawn…

This man is practically begging to be indicted.

Truth is no one is hiding anything, nor has attempted to. I have personally been the Chairman of this committee since its inception. In fact, its Chairman and intentions are much more transparent than your rag of a newspaper.

Man, he loves him some capitalization. Okay, Chairman Dudeface. You've personally been the head of the Committee to Have Bill Peduto Tarred, Feathered, Drawn & Quartered since its inception. That's what you're copping to here. 

At least I’m honest and truthful about my support and don’t attempt to hide behind the mantel of a “newspaper”.
You said at a press conference, like, 15 minutes ago that you weren't supporting anyone. Does this mean you're completely indifferent if it comes down to Jack Wagner and A.J. the drunken school bus monitor? Also, quote goes after the period, man.
It’s actually laughable to think that you print your newspaper everyday with a straight face.
Every day. Two words, unless in adjective form.
It doesn’t take much to see who the P-G supports and doesn’t support. -- Back to all of that in a minute… I was honored to received tremendous financial support from hundreds of donors who believe in all of the wonderful things happening in our city.
Okay, I'm just going to come right out and say it: period-two hyphens-sentence-ellipses is a combination I have never seen before. We're breaking new ground.
They (and I) want to see that continue.
Parentheses: why the fuck not?! If only there was some kind of pronoun that encompassed the sentiments felt by a group of people which included the first-person speaker! DAMN YOU, LATIN!
This effort is based on that -- and that alone. It’s 100% factual and begins to expose the real Bill Peduto. Future ads will do the same.
Again with the double hypen. Is he going for em dashes? 
Finally  – I love how the “haters” love to preach about the law and following it…..Except of course…. When it doesn’t benefit th!
Two spaces, a hyphen, one space, quotation marks around "haters," five periods, three words, four periods, a space and a dependent clause, the last word of which is missing at least two letters and at most five words. This is the man who has been running our city since 2006. And do we (THERE'S THAT PRONOUN!) even need to point out the irony of this man casting aspersions on the "haters" (i.e. no one in particular) who ignore the law when it's not to their benefit? You remember that you just had to fire your own police chief, right? You know that you're definitely going to be indicted for ignoring laws pertaining to the allocation and spending of police funds from secret accounts that your bodyguards accessed for personal use, yeah? You get the irony of your rant, right? You know what the word "irony" means? 
Let me explain, using an example you might be familiar with . It's the next fucking sentence in your little tantrum.
The facts are that this is legal in every sense of the law an nothing more than a committee expressing it’s first amendment rights. You 14th warders should love that right? 
Irony is you paying for and running an ad that slams Bill Peduto for supposedly not caring about parts of the city of which he wants to be mayor, then, with the same breath, dealing a full-strength, open-handed slap in the face to the entire East End of the city of which you are mayor. 
I don't ever recall seeing anyone say that this particular thing is illegal. Nobody is accusing you of doing anything illegal in this particular instance. They are, however, making light of something you're doing that happens to be in incredibly poor taste.  
Anyway – back to the P-G bias… The only question that remains is whether the P-G will endorse Peduto this Sunday or next. Curious about your thoughts… My guess is this Sunday -- gives their man two whole weeks to talk about it!
First of all, I'm glad we're down to standard ellipses, even if he's not using them properly. It's a pain in the ass trying to count full stops after three. 
Are you bitter that the PG never endorsed you? Does that bug you? It sounds like it does, and it sounds like you take it rather personally. But just for a second, do yourself and everyone else a favor and pretend it's not about you. Pretend that there are people who care about the city as much as you say you do, and that they're concerned about its well-being, functionality and future. Is it possible the PG never endorsed you not because of a bias, because they simply never believed you were the right guy for the job? 
I'm going to go with yes. And they're not alone in that belief. 
And while I don't really understand your criticism of 14th ward residents with regard to their great love of free speech, I can say with absolute certainty that we 14th warders love it when you exercise your right to free speech because it creates a permanent public record of what a feckless, petulant, ignorant dickhead you are. 
Keep talking, Chairman Dudeface. Never shut up.