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April, 2009

Steroids. Who knew that one word could elicit such aggression, animosity, and debate when viewed in a baseball context? It’s quite interesting. A better question is, “why do fans act so aggressively towards alleged steroid users?” Is it really because they are upset that Barry Bonds has hit more home runs that Hank Aaron? Tony doesn't think so.

4/29/09: Walking Is For Losers - Through 21 games, the Seattle Mariners are leading the AL West division with a 13-8 record despite having four players fail to draw a single walk: Kenji Johjima (25 PA), Mike Sweeney (40 PA), Ichiro Suzuki (58 PA), and Yuniesly Betancourt (74 PA). The M's have drawn 50 walks as a team - one lower than have the San Francisco Giants - for the lowest total in baseball.   --KG

4/29/09: Double Plays Are for Winners - Arizona and Oakland are tied for the fewest doubles plays grounded into, which makes sense because neither team can make contact or get men on base. The Dodgers, Red Sox, and Tigers are three of the four teams with 20 or more GIDP so far, which makes sense because each of these teams gets tons of guys on base and makes tons of contact.

Enter the Seattle Mariners. The M’s are currently the fourth team with 20 or more GDIP. The Mariners, however, are the eighth worst scoring team in baseball. Failing to score runs and hitting into lots of double plays is a lethal combination, and this is reason number 507 that the Mariners hot start will not last.   -- ABC

4/28/09 - Don't Blame The Fans - Every year, knowledgeable baseball fans and analysts lament some of the All-Star selections made by the popular vote. But every year, Major League Baseball distributes All-Star ballots at major league ballparks a little earlier. This year, ballots arrived at stadiums on Monday, April 27th - barely three weeks into the regular season. Fans could be making seemingly intelligent choices based on three weeks of play, but many of those choices will seem foolish come July. If this pace continues, we will soon see All-Star voting begin to take place on opening day.

For lack of a better word, the 1970s were an interesting decade. There’s no question why author Bill Reynolds chose to chronicle Boston - satiated with tension and racial hatred during that era - in his book, '78: The Boston Red Sox, a Historic Game, and a Divided City. Reynolds brilliantly draws parallels between the Athens of America’s social dichotomy and perhaps the most famous game in the sport’s history, the 1978 one game playoff between the Red Sox and Yankees in each chapter to advance his story.

4/22/09: If It Walks Like a Gabbard, Talks Like a Gabbard, and Looks Like a Gabbard... - The Rangers claimed pitcher Darren O'Day off waivers from the Mets this afternoon. The Rangers and Blue Jays battled into extra innings tonight, and O'Day entered the game in the 11th, just minutes after arriving at Rogers Centre. The Rangers did not have a jersey ready for O'Day, so he wore the #20 uniform of Kason Gabbard, the pitcher with a near-1:1 K/BB ratio in the majors who was outrighted to Triple-A in March. You would have had a hard time convincing some Rangers fans that it was indeed O'Day on the mound and not Gabbard, as the first batter he faced (Kevin Millar) singled to win the game for Toronto.  --KG

April 22, 2009 - Baltimore Orioles Notes: In my Baltimore Orioles season preview, I stated the following:

“All of which is to say I’d put Koji at the top of any rotation before I put Hendrickson within sniffing distance of the bottom of any rotation. Right now, the Orioles have four pitchers from last year’s Bowie Baysox team that I would take over Hendrickson – Brad Bergesen, Jason Berken, David Hernandez, and Christopher Tillman. Four guys. Its shocking that the Orioles looked at all the pitchers available in professional baseball and couldn’t do better than Mark Hendrickson as their number three guy.”

Last night, Bergesen proved me right, for the time being anyway. Bergesen made his major league debut for the Orioles last night, going 5.2 innings and limiting the White Sox to one earned run (and two unearned runs) with four strikeouts and two walks. Bergesen is now 1-0 with a 1.59 ERA, which is certainly better than Hendrickson at this point.

(Intellectually honest moment) Actually, of Baltimore’s pitchers, Hendrickson currently has the best ERA other than Bergesen. So I may have been right about Bergesen while still be wrong about Hendrickson. Stay tuned. --ABC

Week Two of the 2009 Season - April 21, 2009 - What do Ryan Howard, two Ryan Brauns, Ryan Zimmerman, Ryan Theriot, Ryan Ludwick, Ryan Madson, Ryan Sweeney, Ryan Doumit, Ryan Dempster, Ryan Franklin, Ryan Feierabrand, Ryan Jorgensen, Ryan Raburn, Ryan Perry, Ryan Spilborghs, Ryan Tucker, Ryan Vogelsong, Ryan Wagner, Ryan Shealy, Ryan Rowland-Smith, Jeremy Hermida, Aaron Rowand, Noah Lowry, Matt Kemp, Austin Kearns, Dan Johnson, Chad Billingsley, and Chris Young all have in common?

Find out, in Asher's Week Two Review.

04/19/09: Lowered Expectations - Twice today, San Francisco loaded the bases with nobody out and scored just one run in the inning. In the 4th, a sac fly got the run in, while in the 8th, it was a double play that plated the run. You would not believe how excited the Giants' announcers were at both of these outcomes. After that double play, they even went so far as to criticize Arizona for taking the double play rather than settling for an attemped forceout at the plate on a deep grounder up the middle. The double play did make the game 2-0 heading into the 9th, but closer Brian Wilson had allowed two runs to these same Diamondbacks the previous day.

In 2008, with no outs and the bases loaded, teams averaged 2.3 runs scored in the remainder of the inning. The Giants' offense twice fell way short of an average peformance and their announcers nearly broke out with the Dance of Joy. Talk about lowered expectations.

November 18th will mark the 10-year anniversary of Voros McCracken's revolutionary notion that pitchers have little control over the outcome of balls put into play against them. Once met with unbridled skepticism, McCracken's theories have grown in popularity over the past decade to the point where people who use stats like WHIP (walks plus hits per innings pitched) are laughed out of analytical circles for not using stats like FIP (Fielding Independent Pitching ERA).

Nearly 10 years after we first heard about it, what do we really know about Defense-Independent Pitching?

Asher is pretty convinced that either Keith doesn't know as much as he should, or he hasn't payed as close attention to the lessons of DIPS from the last decade. Either way, Asher doesn't think Keith has evaluated what happened yesterday with Vazquez and Harden as fully as he should have.

Harry Kalas (March 26, 1936 - April 13, 2009) - I moved to Philadelphia the night the Phillies traded Bobby Abreu and Cory Lidle to the Yankees for a bunch of minor leaguers. In my short time here even I have my Harry Kalas memories.

Like the time the Phillies were playing the Braves and Harry's broadcast mate decided he'd rather refer to Braves rookie Jarrod Saltalamacchia as “Salty” like his Braves teammates instead of having to say “Saltalamacchia” over and over.

Harry responded by saying “You can’t call players from another team by their nickname. You think Skip and Don [Braves announcers Skip Caray and Don Sutton] are over there right now referring to Jimmy Rollins as ‘J-Roll’?”

The greatest Harry Kalas call since I've been in Philly came when the Phillies clinched the NL East last season on their way to the World Series title. With the bases loaded and one out, Ryan Zimmerman hit what looked like a two-run single up the middle to give Brad Lidge his first blown save of the season. But Jimmy Rollins somehow snagged the ball and started one of the most dramatic double plays in Phillies history. In just that one play Harry’s voice went from the agony of defeat to the joy of victory:

“Ground ball up the middle, J-Roll dives, to Utley one, relay, double play!, the Phillies are the National League Eastern Division champions on a spectacular double play by J-Roll to Utley to Howard! What a play by J-Roll!”

Harry died on Monday at the age of 73 while preparing for a game against the Washington Nationals in Washington. He will be missed by all Phillies fans.   -- ABC

Week One Pace - April 13, 2009 - Early Comeback Player of the Year front runner - and NL Cy Young frontrunner - Josh Johnson is on pace for several remarkable feats. After the first week of the season, Johnson is on pace to start once every four games, putting him on pace for 40 starts this season. He has pitched 15.2 innings, putting him on pace for 317.1 innings. He has 15 strikeouts and one walk so far this season, putting him on pace for 303 strikeouts and 20 walks, which translates to a 15:1 strikeout-to-walk ratio.

But wait, there’s more. He has two wins in two starts, putting him on pace for 40 wins and no losses. He’s already pitched a complete game, putting him on pace for 20 of those. And his ERA is 0.57.

In short, Josh Johnson is on pace to have the Greatest Pitcher Season of All Time. And if that seems utterly ridiculous to you, well, that’s what the Week One Pace is all about.

When it comes to comparing players from the 1970s and 1980s to the players from the 1990s and the first decade of this century, Asher thinks we should examine figurehead players that quantify those eras. And he thinks that Carlos Delgado and Brian Downing are the perfect symbols of those eras. So from now on, when he compares players from the 1970s and 1980s (1973 to 1992, to be more precise) to the players from the 1990s and 2000s (1993 to 2009), he shall now refer to these eras by their names. From now on, it's "the Downing Era," vs. "the Delgado Era."

04/09/09 - Nick Adenhart Killed in Post-Game Hit and Run
In 2008, 21 year-old Nick Adenhart made his major league debut with the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim after three successful minor league seasons out of high school. Never quite comfortable at the major league level, he gave up 12 earned runs in three May starts before spending the rest of the season in the minors. A major leaguer at the age of 21, he never quite looked like he belonged.

Adenhart made his first start of the 2009 season at home last night, and fared far better. Adenhart went six strong innings, allowing seven hits and no runs while walking three and striking out five. Though the Angels’ bullpen ruined his performance by allowing six runs in the last two innings, Adenhart looked strong, and gave Angels fans reason to be excited.

Tragically, Adenhart’s start last night will be his last. Early Thursday morning, just hours after the game, a minivan blew through a red-light at the corner of Orangethorpe Avenue and Lemon Street in Fullerton, CA, smashing into the car that Adenhart was riding in and killing him along with two of the car’s other occupants. The driver of the minivan initially fled the scene, but was caught and has been charged with felony hit-and-run.

Los Angeles has one less Angel than it did yesterday, and Heaven has one more.’s thoughts are with Nick’s family and friends and the Angels organization on this day.

Rest in peace, Nick. For one night you showed’em that you belonged.

4/09/09: Thank You! You May Go Now - After tossing six innings of one-run, four-hit, one-walk, six-strikeout ball in hitter-friendly Chase Field, Franklin Morales was sent down to Triple-A. This was a premeditated move to get Jason Hammel, who was recently acquired from the Rays, onto the 25-man roster. Will Morales get re-activated when the Rockies need a fifth starter on April 21st? Possibly not, because the Rockies plan to activate ex-Red Matt Belisle next week. --KG

April 7, 2009: The Kid is Back! - Admit it, you loved it. Just as much as you loved it when the Kid and the Dad hit back to back homeruns in 1990 with the Mariners, you loved seeing a more portly and less agile Ken Griffey, Jr. hit his eighth opening day homerun in his first game back in a Mariners uniform. Despite all that can be said about Griffey, and the poor prospects of the 2009 Seattle Mariners, for one day it was the 1990s again, back when baseball was a little more magical and a little less suspect.

In related news, the quote of the day comes from the Associated Press wire reports, dripping with what we hope, but doubt, is a healthy dose of irony:

"[Ken] Griffey's 41 homers against Minnesota are his most against any opponent, a remarkable number given his nine years in the National League."

Not so remarkable at all, considering what happened in those nine years.   --ABC

Opening day is here, and that means it's time for the staff of Baseball Evolution to reveal its predictions for the upcoming season.  But these aren't your local beat writer's cut-and-paste of last year's standings.  Baseball Evolution sets out to divine the exact win total for each club, map out how the postseason will play out, award the best (and worst) players in both leagues, and peg the leaderboards for every major statistical category (and even some not-so major ones).

Our willingness to go against the grain has produced some gems in the past, as well as some embarrassments. Last year, Tony predicted that Chipper Jones would lead the NL in OPS when everyone else thought he was on the downside of his career.  Then again, he's also the one who picked Seattle to win the AL west with 86 wins.  Rich's pick of Joe Blanton to disappoint was prescient - until he got traded to the Phillies and helped lead them to a World Championship, making his selection of Blanton for the Mark Redman Award particularly poor.  Keith was one of the few people who saw Carlos Quentin's breakout season coming, but he's also the guy who expected Dontrelle Willis to lead the AL with 230 innings pitched.  And of course, Asher has been kicking himself for the past 11 months for "only" picking the Rays to win 87 games when most people had them pegged for a 12th consecutive losing season.

Among the surprises you'll see in our predictions this year: Tony forecasts that this will finally be the year that Javier Vazquez returns to his pre-Yankees form and wins a Cy Young Award.  Rich thinks that Ian Kinsler will finally be healthy all year and increase his hits total by more than 40% over his career-high of 165 set last year.  Asher - an alleged Cubs fan - makes predictions for the rival Mets and the Brewers that even rabid fans of those teams wouldn't dare to make.  Keith foresees unusual winners in all three NL divisions, with three teams that each won 74 games or fewer last year rising to the top.  But even that can't compare with guest contributor Avi Brand's prognostications.  Those are simply among the boldest set of predictions that you'll ever lay your eyes upon.

Time will tell whether this year's predictions rank as ones to remember or ones to forget.  Feel free to post your two cents in the Baseball Evolution Fan Forum.

The Toronto offseason was terrible, as they lost three excellent starting pitchers, failed to use their bullpen surplus to address other needs, and boasted Kevin Millar as their marquee acquisition.  But that doesn't mean this isn't still a very good team.  This is a ballclub that had a pythagorean record of 93-69 (.574) that went 51-37 (.580) after Toronto legend Cito Gaston reclaimed his rightful role as King of the Blue Jays.  Full seasons of Adam Lind and Travis Snider will replace worthless at-bats from Brad Wilkerson, Matt Stairs, Frank Thomas, and Shannon Stewart, transforming their offense from one of the worst in the league to at least league-average.

The question of whether they can compete this season will be answered by their team defense's ability to bolster their unproven rotation to the point where they are serviceable pitchers.

The 2009 Texas Rangers come into the season with, if nothing else, another year of continuity on both the field and in the manager's office. Manager Ron Washington brings back an eerily similar squad to the one he had entering the past season, complete with the "Past-Their-Prime-Outfielders Tour" hosted annually by the Rangers. They have the same pitching, too. Kevin Millwood and Vicente Padilla again are the "strength" of the rotation. This has disaster written all over it, right? Maybe..... or maybe not.

The Houston Astros are going to be terrible this season. They are one of the worst five teams in the league, despite their management's positive babble. Cecil Cooper says he thinks his team can win 90 games this year because they went 42-24 in the second half last year. Ed Wade thinks that anything can happen and points out that nobody believed in his team last year.

Let's get real. Beyond the fact that their second half last year was so good it would be difficult for any team to match, they do not have the same team, so the point is moot. In fact, they’ve given up several key players from last year’s “run,” including Ty Wigginton and Randy Wolf.

The 2009 season promises to be similar to the 1998 campaign for St. Louis. The incomparable Albert Pujols has a fully healthy right elbow for the first time since 2002, so he is now the best chance our generation has seen to win the National League Triple-Crown. Unfortunatley, the talent surrounding him may not be enough for the Cardinals to make the postseason, just like Mark McGwire's historic 1998 squad.

Much has been made of the Mets’ late-season collapses the past couple of years, and their inability to make it past the regular season despite significant leads in September is impossible to avoid. Fortunately for the Mets, they appear to have solved the problems that plagued them last year with a busy offseason. The question is: have they done enough to contend again and win?

When a team loses five good players to free agency and replaces them with Jon Garland, Felipe Lopez, Scott Schoeneweis, and Tom Gordon, you expect that team to fail. But anything is possible in the NL West, and the Arizona Diamondbacks have a young nucleus that can keep them competitive.

For years, the Red Sox have been known for their innovative and efficient front office. In 2003, they were on the cusp of catching the Yankees, and now they have blown right past them. This offseason, the Red Sox responded to the Yankees’ spending spree by signing a trio of low-risk, moderately high-reward arms. These modest upgrades will make it tough to knock the Bosox out of contention for the AL East crown.

Bad news. The Detroit Tigers, Cleveland Indians, and Minnesota Twins all figure to improve this season, while the Chicago White Sox have clearly stepped backwards. Chicago traded two players poised for rebound seasons at low value, getting no immediate help in return, while their biggest impact on the free agent market was signing an aging, out-of-shape pitcher who hasn't been successful since 2005.

2008 marked the first time since 1994 in which the Yankees did not reach the playoffs. So in order keep their playoff drought at one year, what did they do? Well, they did what they always do: throw wild amounts of money at free agents. Despite scooping up the top three agents on the market, the Yankees are in a division where the margin of error is minimal, and are not guaranteed to play come October.

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