Archive | January, 2012

Victor Martinez down and out – worse than initially expected

31 Jan

Detroit Tigers C/1B/DH Victor Martinez successfully had knee surgery and will need a second operation which will likely to miss the entire 2012 season which is bad news for Tigers fans. Martinez had microfracture surgery Friday to repair the medial and lateral meniscus in his left knee.

“I don’t want to say it was a surprise,” team president and general manager Dave Dombrowski said. “We knew it was a possibility.”

Martinez is projected to have anterior cruciate ligament reconstruction surgery on the same knee in six-to-eight weeks, the procedure that was previously expected.” according to a report from Yahoo! Sports.

While it was already expected that Martinez would miss the season, there was speculation he might make it back in time to slide onto the postseason roster – that speculation is now over as the second surgery will likely have Martinez unable to start conditioning until it is time to get ready for spring training. Further bad news is that when he does return, it is unlikely the Tigers, or any team he may play for after, will want to risk further damage using him behind the plate and losing his big bat.

While Martinez is still a premiere hitter, a big part of his value was the ability to get behind the plate. If he is unable to do that 100 games per season at least, it is unsure how the Tigers will make room for him when he does return. Best of luck to Victor on his surgery and rehab – see you in 2013.

 

How to coach baseball to children

30 Jan

Coaching children’s baseball really boils down to three things, covering the basics, being reasonable, and keeping things fun. It sounds easy for sure but anyone with kids or that works with kids knows things are rarely as easy as they seem. Your best bet for providing a good experience for the kids and yourself is to keep it fun above all else.

Over years of coaching I’ve learned that dictatorial coaches in youth baseball leagues rarely have teams where the kids seem to be having fun and I suspect everyone’s blood pressure is up a few ticks as well although I can’t back that up. When you make baseball fun for kids they play with more passion. The more passion they develop for the game the better they want to play, and they better they want to play the easier they are to teach. It really is that neat of a little circle. If kids aren’t having fun, they don’t care, they barely try, and they just don’t listen. No matter how much knowledge you have to pass on it falls on deaf ears which is a waste.

How do you keep it fun? Let kids try out all the positions, let them laugh, don’t work them out like you’re coaching the Yankees or something. This is where being reasonable comes into play. Kids like adults are going to make mistakes, in fact they are going to make boatloads of them both mentally and physically. The best thing to do is let them. You don’t harp on them, you don’t single them out in from of the team. You point out what they did right instead and slip working an area of weakness into practice instead.

Stick to teaching the fundamentals, they can learn the intricacies of the game later. Focus your energy on teaching proper techniques for catching, throwing, and hitting. It doesn’t hurt to make sure everyone knows how to run the bases either. We take for granted kids know this already but every season there are kids that hit the ball and runt to third or run over first base straight down the right field line or anything you can imagine. This is always a good place to start and a fun way to learn is by letting kids race around the bases to see who is fastest. As long as they can do those few things on a somewhat regular basis they can have fun which is the main goal when coaching kids baseball. Offer rewards to the kids like captain for the week, lead off or cleanup hitter slots, etc…Little motivators go a long way.

Kids are always going to want to win and it’s not a bad thing, but baseball is a game in which failure is the norm. That can be hard for a child to grasp so I cannot stress enough to let them know it is okay when they make outs and that errors happen. Stick to the basics, hitting, catching, throwing, and running. Don’t worry about teaching them to turn double plays, hit and run strategies, or anything like that. Finally just keep it fun, and keep it positive. When it comes to kids baseball that is what it is all about.

More playoff possibilities – Is the MLB getting a little NHL?

29 Jan

Bud Selig announced that rather than have a formula decide division ties to determine who goes to the playoffs, a one game face-off was a better idea. In many ways, I agree. A formula is a bit clunky when it comes down to choosing the better team based on their head to head record, but another part of me says if you won the season series – you earned the pass. I hate to be a cynic here – not really – but I somehow see the MLB getting more NHL or NBA when it comes to the playoffs – and spare me the crap that it’s for the fans. It’s for the revenue.

Adding in another wild card team and possible tiebreakers adds more postseason games which is premium revenue territory. Baseball didn’t give a lick about expanding playoff for the fans for what — almost 125 years? Having an LCS made sense when it was instituted even if it was unpopular. The LDS was okay, but it started to feel crowded – eventually though we all got used to it. Then the wild card came and it got a little more lotteryesque. Now we have the tie breaker and expanded wild card play coming. When does it end?

A big part of what makes baseball special is the 162 games to get to the playoffs. For a long time it was only a few teams with even a shot at the World Series – East played West and and then the WS and that was it – 4 teams played in October. Then it was 6 and soon 8. Is a pattern forming here? The league is not adding teams, no new franchises are even remotely on the horizon realistically. So why keep expanding the playoffs? Again – it’s the money! More tickets sold, more crap at the stadium sold, better TV revenue, etc… if you are a fan and think baseball is doing it for you, I have this awesome set of K-Mart baseball cards from the 80’s I can sell you for  bargain price that will be worth huge money one day.

The last thing baseball needs is to make it where say 12 teams play in October – and don’t think it isn’t headed that way. if that happens, it’s just  matter of who had a few good hot streaks, played near .500 and is healthy when the playoffs start. The season is just a glorified warmup then, not a test. I love some baseball, but damn! Stop screwing around with everything – it’s a slippery slope.

Why established closers are often bad free agent signings -including Papelbon

28 Jan

After a recent post about the Jonathan Papelbon signing possibly being a bad move by the Phillies, I took some heat. I’d love to have left a few of those comments up, but I have a three F-bomb per comment limit. There is a reason I think the Papelbon signing was not necessarily bad, but definitely overvalued – and why that is true of most relievers around his level. Stick with me here – there will be a point made.

Aside from Trevor Hoffman and Mariano Rivera, name a closer that has gone more than about 7 seasons as a lights out closer over the past 20 years – let’s call it since 1991. How many can you name?

John Wettland – 9 seasons as a closer and the last two were a bit rocky with 3.60+ ERA’s and a decent assortment of blown saves.

Rod Beck – 13 seasons as a closer – 6 dominant in the middle, the last 5 he only saved 46 games total – and was out of the game completely for a full season to boot.

Doug Jones – 18 season with 8 good ones, His “quality streak” ended in ’94 with 27 saves (22 saves in ’95) and it wasn’t until ’97 he put up a decent mark again. After that is was mop up work pretty much.

Robb Nen – 10 seasons closing, 8 quality seasons in a row, and then a torn muscle ended. Never pitched again in the bigs.

Roberto Hernandez had 10 solid seasons of closer work, then his last 5 years he picked up 8 total saves – and 4 came in 1 season.

Jeff Montgomery we’ll say 8 of 9 on and then he was done. When he was done, I mean he was over! He hung out a couple seasons, but it was just scrub duty mopping up.

John Franco was a bit of an anomaly. He had 11 quality closer seasons, but he was used so many different ways it’s tough to bag the guy. He closed, he went long – and he’d close multiple innings. he was more of a 70’s style closer than ’90’s style.

Frankie Rodriguez – yeah he was money for awhile, now he’s just glad to have a job.

Who else is there? Dibble, Aguilera, Bryan Harvey and almost 200 other guys have closed at some point the last twenty years. Maybe 10 of those guys can say they put together more than 7 quality seasons as a closer in a row, Fewer still can say ten total. It’s not easy to do. The odds are against the closer.

here is my take on why it is so hard to sustain as a closer. The first few seasons you close, guys see a particular closer so little they lose the edge. The closer owns them because no matter how much video you watch on a guy, live pitching is different. Closers evolve more when they are younger picking up an extra pitch, tweaking their delivery. They may seem small so far as changes go, but any change is big to the hitter. It’s a new adjustment to make. Then there is the issue of health – going full out like that over and over takes a big toll on an arm. Warm up fast and then deliver fast. it’s a different beast than starting. They have to maintain the closer mentality of confidence and not become complacent resting on their laurels. A lot of things have to go right to make it several years in a row of closing out games at a high level.

So when I say the odds are against the Phillies getting the type of performance out of Papelbon they are paying for, it’s not just bagging Paps. I watched the guy since he was a starter.  I can see his command getting iffy more often than it used to. I see him nibbling for the corner a lot more than he should rather than going straight into attack mode. I see behaviors in his approach that make his results less than you’d expect for his level of talent. He is at a point in his career where major rejuvenation is not the norm. I’m not saying the guy can’t do it, I’m just saying I don’t think he will.

Why signing Jonathan Papelbon was a bad deal for the Philles

28 Jan

Four years and 50 million very big, very large dollars were showered upon Jonathan Papelbon to bring his hard throwing, jig dancing self to Philly to nail down the closer role and provide a little stability that hasn’t quite been present the last two years. Philly fans will get treated to 35-40 saves, odds are they’ll see him do the dance whether they like it or not. They’ll also sit there wondering how the hell they paid $10m for they guy.

Give Papelbon a lead and he can usually protect it. That’s not the tag you hang on most $10m closers. I’ve watched Paps from AAA until now, and he was a decent starter, but he’s a better closer. For awhile he looked like he was going to be a great closer. His numbers say he’s elite – he piles up saves with a high of 41 in 2008, but he’s saved fewer each year since with only 31 last year. He’s picking up wins, by virtue of blowing leads and getting bailed out by the offense which Philly can do, but at $10m should they need to? Every year that passes, Papelbon walks a thinner tightrope – and he falters a lot. In 2010, his ERA was 3.90 which for a closer is a joke, and last year it was only a smidge under 3.00 – still not too good.

Paps may do great – I kinda hope he does just so Sox fans have to hear how good he’s doing, but for what Philly spent they could have gotten someone younger, cheaper and better. Hell, the Yankees have guys that can close littering their roster right down to AAA – they’d work a deal out. All that side, I understand the deal – Paps has been in the spotlight and done well. he’s a brand name and he can be sold to the fans buying tickets as an upgrade. he is an upgrade, but then again even Joe Nathan would be and he’s a huge question mark. They needed a name, they got the biggest available early as possible and they overpaid. Then again, they can afford to – look at what Raul Ibanez is raking in.

The Yankee DH dilemma – will a familiar face fill the role?

27 Jan

It was only a few weeks ago that Jesus Montero appeared to be the heir apparent to the Yankee DH role for 2012 and possibly the foreseeable  future but that all changed with a trade for Michael Pineda. The Yankees have no clear cut choice for DH bow, but there are some interesting possibilities. We’re not saying they are necessarily likely or even logical, but they are possible. See what makes sense to you.

1. Andruw Jones acts as primary DH with A-Rod, Jeter and Russel Martin being the players primarily rotating through the slot with Jones for half-day breaks.

The Pros: They don’t need to acquire any pieces to make this happen. Jeter and A-Rod are going to need more breaks like this to stay productive over the course of a season – A-Rod more than Jeter.

The Cons: 7 years ago, Andruw  Jones was an ideal DH Now he is a nice role player that can provide a little extra depth in the outfield (limited use) and be a decent pinch hitter. Jones is not a championship caliber option.

2. Yankees sign Hideki Matsui

The Pros: Matsui is NY tested and loved. he will leave it all on the field every time he is in the lineup. Matsui is always an “A” effort guy that is a real class act. He can still produce, better than Jones for sure.

The Cons: Matsui is brittle and losing some bat speed. His power stroke is not what it used to be and you have towonder if he can give them 400 ABs.

3. Yankees sign Johnny Damon

The Pros: Johnny Damon is available and has expressed some interest in heading back. Like Matsui, Damon is a good fit for NY from a personality perspective and he won’t crumble under pressure. He can still hit a bit though and steal when the  D gets lazy. Damon can play some OF still so that is an extra dimension to his value.Damon can still grind out an AB.

The Cons: Damon is a little older and he isn’t a defensive gem. His arm is not any stronger. It is unrealistic to expect more than a dozen dingers from Damon. He isn’t an offensive weapon anymore, and at best he is a decent OBP guy that can possibly add a different look to the bottom of the order.

4. Carlos Lee may be available for the right deal

The Pros: Lee is a guy that can rebound from less than advertised production since going to Houston. Lee can be  a big thunder bat that drives in runs and provides a lot of protection for Cano. Lee can still play the OF and possibly pick up work at first with a little practice to increase his value.

The Cons: Lee needs to be traded for and he won’t be terribly cheap. he has decent money on his deal still, his weight is always an issue and their is no real set of indicators that he is ready to become a prime offensive threat again. Lee is a huge risk/moderate potential type deal for the Yankees and his personality may not play well in NY.

5. Trade for Chase Headley

The Pros: The word on the street that Chase is available. he has a solid enough bat to do what NY needs at DH and can play third better defensively that A-Rod right now. His contract can be absorbed and he adds a lot of flexibility to the lineup.

The Cons: San Diego will hold up anyone trading for Headley to a ransom-like request – particularly a big market team.

What Cashman does is a big question mark. I wouldn’t be surprised to see NY break camp with Jones as the DH and then look to upgrade in season. A lot of what they do at the DH slot is going to depend on what AJ Burnett does. If Burnett is prodcuing, they stand pat. If he falters, they may deal him to try to grab a bat.

Jorge Posada retires – and he still isn’t Hall of Fame worthy

26 Jan

Taking heat for what you say goes with the territory. It’s possible the one thing I have said on this blog that has drawn the most ire is that Jorge Posada is not a Hall of Fame caliber player. It’s like this guy over on ESPN posting as RonBoss7 that can’t seem to accept the fact that while Jorge was nice, Jorge was not great. Jorge was not exceptional. Jorge was not the best in the game, best at his position or even the best in his lineup. Jorge was a nice complementary piece and that is about it. Before everyone goes crazy again, I’m a 35 year Yankee fan. I watched Munson, Bench, Fisk, Sundberg, Steinbach, Varitek, Dempsey, Porter, Tenace and on and on. I’ve seen good catchers and I’ve seen great catchers – Posada is okay. Just because I’m a Yankee fan doesn’t mean I can’t be objective.

Let’s face facts – Posada’s offensive numbers are pedestrian against his peers. Compare him to just the catchers to be fair and at best he is an also ran. He wasn’t the best of the 90’s because he barely played in the 90’s. 1998 was the first year he was a starter, and even in 1997, he still only got into 60 games. In ’98 and ’99 when he was the primary catcher, he still sat some 50 games a year. The reason for that wasn’t because he needed rest, it was because he was a defensive liability. There were pitchers who did not want to throw to him – Cone was noted for that as was Gooden and later on Burnett and even Sabathia did not care to throw to Posada.

Let’s be honest – Posada was a hitter that caught – not a catcher that hit.

A lot of people forget that Posada was originally signed as a second baseman back in 1990. For four years, he didn’t develop. Finally, he was given a pretty blunt choice – catch or be gone. Jorge caught. He was initially projected to be a strong hitting middle infielder – but he had no lateral moves and his arm was a bit Knoblauchish. He did have decent enough hands though, and the Yankees had no actual catching prospects, so Jorge filled the void. That is part of why it took him 7 years from his first game in the minors to land a mostly starting catching job.

By the time Posada was ready, the idea was that his offense would outweigh his defensive shortfalls until he learned the position better. It mostly did, but whether it was under Torre or Girardi (both catchers) they ALWAYS made sure they had a catcher that could actually catch a game on the bench and ready to go in any situation because Posada could not be trusted behind the plate in a close game – not in a short playoff series in particular. His offense improved, but he never improved as a defender or signal caller.

Let’s look at the claim that Posada was the catcher of last decade. To a degree, sure, if you want to play games with numbers. Posada gets that title (For offensive stats alone mind you) because aside from Ivan Rodriguez and maybe Varitek, he was the only one to play most of the decade. In the early half of the decade, Piazza and I-Rod were far superior to Posada in every aspect of the game – and that is saying something to say Piazza is the better defender. As the decade turned, Joe Mauer was obviously far better as were pretty much any of the Molina brothers – particularly Yadier. Even Russell Martin was no slouch – or lest we forget Victor Martinez kicks Posada’s butt up, down, left and right every day of the week. Posada had one thing going for him in this whole argument about best of the decade – he started all ten years of it and that was just good timing – not skill – not being the best- timing.

My final argument is that Posada was not really as valuable as everyone wants to go on about. The Yankees could win without him – they did and even in the 2009 World Series Posada made his way into the game as a pinch hitter 3 times. Jose Molina carried as much of the duties as Posada. If Posada was so indispensable, how could they limit him so much in the WS when everything was all or nothing? I won’t say Posada can’t hit, but let’s be real – he was a product of the lineup he was in. If Posada played in KC or maybe over in SD, no one would be talking about him as a 15th ballot HOF’er much less a first ballot HOF candidate.

I seriously liked the guy and enjoyed what he brought to the game, but he was not great! Get over it! If you have to start playing games like saying he had the best WAR of any switch hitting catcher between 2000-2009 that played in at least 50 games a year – you are reaching. If you have to cull Stats from Wikipedia that say he was the only catcher to do a set of several offensive accomplishments in one year while wearing pinstripes and Nike cleats – you are reaching and missing the point. The HOF is not about 1 great walk year prior to cashing in as a free agent – it is about a career. Posada had a good career. Why can’t we be content with that? Not everyone is a HOF caliber player – if they were, it would be the Hall of Everyone or the Hall of Average.