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May, 2009

5/26/09: Congratulations to Ichiro - Congratulations to Ichiro Suzuki, who singled to left in his final at bat Tuesday night, extending his hitting streak to 20 games. For Ichiro, it is the sixth streak of 20 games or longer in his major league career, moving him past Ty Cobb, Tris Speaker, and Dale Mitchell into second place on the all-time list. Only Pete Rose, with seven career streaks of twenty games or longer, has more.

In fact, Ichiro, who holds six of the top 10 hit streaks in Seattle Mariners franchise history - including a club-best 25 straight games in 2007, now has nine career hitting streaks of 18 games or more. About the only thing left for him to do, aside of course from going after Rose’s and Joe DiMaggio’s records, is to hit safely in 30-straight.

Here’s hoping he does just that in his next ten games and becomes only the 46th player in big league history to reach that plateau.   -- RVZ

05/26/09 - A Player Comparison for the Evening Let’s play a little player comparison game. Which of the following National League first basemen would you rather have, Player A or Player B:

Pl. A 44 44 193 152 38 49 8 0 14 38 7 1 35 13 .322 .451 .651 1.102 99
Pl. B 45 45 194 167 33 47 4 0 17 31 1 0 26 40 .288 .381 .611 .992 102

Okay, so that would appear to be an obvious answer - Player A. Now, let’s change it up. Looking at the following home/road splits, which player would you rather have:

Home 26 26 111 84 23 32 5 0 9 24 4 1 23 4 .381 .514 .762 1.275 64
Away 18 18 82 68 15 17 3 0 5 14 3 0 12 9 .250 .366 .515 .881 35

Home 23 23 99 85 12 22 2 0 5 12 0 0 14 21 .259 .364 .459 .822 39
Away 22 22 95 82 21 25 2 0 12 19 1 0 12 19 .305 .400 .768 1.168 63

Do home/road splits really matter? What can be learned from home/road splits, really? I don’t know, but it seems to me that in a neutral ballpark, I would rather have Player B. The identities of these players would shock you, so I won’t disclose them.

5/26/09: Don't Cut The Sheff - If the Detroit Tigers fail to make the playoffs this year, they can blame their decision to cut Gary Sheffield this spring. The likely Hall of Famer is hitting .277/.419/.497 in part-time duty with the New York Mets. Each of those pecentages is higher than anyone who has played in the Detroit outfield this year and also better than anyone who has played more than three games as designated hitter for them. Meanwhile, the Tigers are paying Sheffield $13.6 million to help the Mets win the NL East this season.   --KG

5/25/09: Best Comeback Ever? - The Cleveland Indians handed the Tampa Bay Rays thier biggest blown lead in franchise history on Memorial Day. The Indians had trailed 10-0 in the fourth inning but bounced back to win 11-10 thanks to seven runs in the bottom of the ninth, six of which scored with two outs. After Ryan Garko blasted a 3-run homer - his second dinger of the day - the Rays walked four straight batters, which the Indians had done themselves in the second inning. Then Victor Martinez, mired in an 0-for-18 slump that saw his batting average dip from .400 to .361, lined a two-run single off Jason Isringhausen to win the game. --KG

Nearly two full months now into the 2009 baseball season, one infamous San Francisco Giant and one infamous ex-Giant are among the National League's most surprising players. Richard takes a look at Barry Zito and Pedro Feliz and can't help but ask, "Who are these guys?"

May 23, 2009 - If You're Happ-y and You Know It . . . - J.A. Happ makes his first start of the season today against the New York Yankees, taking the place of Chan Ho Park, who had a 7.08 ERA through his first eight appearances and lasted only 1.1 innings in his most recent start. Is there any way the Phillies could have seen this coming? This is from our Phillies Preview:

"I must say, I think there are times when you let players duke it out for the starting job and let the best man win, and then there are times to keep your wits about you and play the better player. From 2000 to 2008, Chan Ho Park had a season with a 133 ERA+, a 125 ERA+, a 113 ERA+, and then six seasons of ERA+ under (usually well under) 100. . . . And what are the Phillies potentially going to pass on? J.A. Happ is a 26-year old, 6-foot-6, 200-pound lefty with 545 strikeouts and a 3.34 ERA in 528.2 minor league innings. Last season at Triple-A, he went 8-7, 151/48, 3.60 in 135 innings pitched.

If the Phils go with Park over Happ, it will be a sizeable error."

  -- ABC

This Friday, as Interleague Play 2009 commences, Randy Johnson is all set to take the mound against the Seattle Mariners. This means that Johnson will have a chance to face former Mariners teammate Ken Griffey, Jr. as a Mariner for the first time. It is too bad that Omar Vizquel isn’t still on the Giants – it would be a reunion of three players who were on the 1989 Seattle Mariners, and three of the eight guys from the 1980s with a chance to become four decade players next year. A couple of years ago it looked like Vizquel, Curt Schillng, Tom Glavine, John Smoltz, Greg Maddux, Johnson, Barry Bonds, Gary Sheffield, Tom Gordon, and Griffey would all coast into the 20-teens. But that’s the thing about playing into your forties – one day you have it, the next day you don’t. Most of those guys are either done or should be done, and if Johnson gets his 300th win and his 5,000th strikeout this season, it is hard to picture him coming back for next season.

Here are some reflections on guys who played Four Decades, and a whole bunch more.

May 20, 2009 - Jake Peavy Blocks Trade to the Chicago White Sox - Imagine for a moment you are Jake Peavy, generally regarded as one of the great pitchers in baseball, but also a product of your ballpark to a certain degree. Imagine that on the day you found out you'd been traded, and the trade just needed your approval, you also find out that the team you've been traded to plays in a hitter friendly ballpark. What factors do you think might influence your decision whether or not to approve the trade?

Now imagine that on this very same day the team that you are trying to decide whether or not you want to pitch for loses 20-1 at home against a division rival. Now what goes through your mind?

What would you do? The same thing I would do, and the same thing Jake Peavy did. Block the trade, and tell the Padres how glad you'd be to go to Los Angeles or Detroit. --ABC 

5/20/09: On Pace for Something Special - Tonight the Texas Rangers played their fortieth game of the season. Second year first baseman Chris Davis struckout 3 times, to bring his season total for strikeouts to 59. At this rate, he will finish the season with 236 strikeouts, which would obliterate Mark Reynolds' single season record of 204.  --ABC

5/20/09: Half Way Home a Quarter of the Way Through - Through 40 team games, Carl Crawford now has 25 stolen bases and 0 caught stealings. Not only does this match his 2008 total, but it is also half of the total that managed to lead the American League in each of the last two seasons. --ABC

A surprising number of commentators think the Astros signing Ivan Rodriguez as their catcher was a good thing. Asher thought it would be so universally accepted as a bad move that he didn't even comment on it at the time. Not only is I-Rod no longer a major league contributor on the field, in Asher's opinion, but his keeping J.R. Towles in the minors for 2009 may even make him the inaugural winner of an award named after a former Astro.

It would be a shame if I-Rod's legacy went from "bringing winning ways with him wherever he goes" to "the veteran player who most hurts his team by hanging on too long when he should have retired" simply because he kept playing past his prime. But perhaps we should ask ourselves whether Pudge deserves all the credit he gets for the wins he seems to bring to his team. Keith examines the Legacy of Ivan Rodriguez and is a little surprised by what he discovers.

5/18/09: Not Just About the Price - When David Price began the season in the minor leagues, it was universally chided as a financial decision aimed at saving the Rays a year before Price becomes arbitration or free agent eligible. Right now, Price is looking as though he may not even be ready for the majors until 2010. He is 1-4 with a 3.97 ERA for the Durham Bulls, and has allowed 18 walks and five homers in 34.1 innings. Everyone was so dazzled by his 12-1 record and 2.30 minor league ERA last year that few bothered to notice that his peripheral stats were only good, not great, that he worked in pitcher's leagues, and that he struggled a bit in four Triple-A starts. --KG

As someone whose enjoyment of baseball has always been tied to player comparison, the 2009 bombs about Alex Rodriguez and Manny Ramirez actually come as somewhat of a relief to me for a number of reasons - there are fewer and fewer players with each passing year that I have to account for in terms of performance enhancement, or lack there of; there's less guessing; I no longer have to wonder whether Barry Bonds, dirty, was better than A-Rod, clean. If everyone is dirty, then everyone is on a level playing field and it is easy to compare them.

And the more players that fall, the easier it is to deal with the steroid era.

Guest Contributor Barry Schechter penned another poem on baseball's recent drug scandals.

"Scoop" Heyman of Sports Illustrated had this to say, in an attempt to console the baseball world after the Manny suspension:

“Josh Hamilton, Rangers star. If he can only get healthy, we can all enjoy the greatest talent in the game. How he kept all his talent after four years away being a drug addict nobody will probably ever know. His home-run display at the All-Star Game at Yankee Stadium was truly remarkable. Just being alive and a contributing member of society was something unforeseen at his lowest moments.”

Wow. Just wow..

May 7, 2009 - And then there were none . . . According to reports just out, what seemed to be the last 1990s era superstar untainted by the performance enhancement drug scandal has now been dragged down. Reports all over the internet are saying that Ramirez has tested positive for a banned substance and will be suspended for 50 games by Major League Baseball. Manny is expected to blame a drug prescribed by a doctor.

Three thoughts - 1) Now all the heroes are gone; 2) Nothing can be believed any more; and 3) Boston Red Sox fans will now commence to being unsufferable.

Manny issued the following statement:

"Recently I saw a physician for a personal health issue. He gave me a medication, not a steroid, which he thought was OK to give me," Ramirez said. "Unfortunately, the medication was banned under our drug policy. Under the policy that mistake is now my responsibility. I have been advised not to say anything more for now.

"I do want to say one other thing; I've taken and passed about 15 drug tests over the past five seasons. I want to apologize to [Dodgers owner Frank] McCourt, Mrs. McCourt, [manager Joe] Torre, my teammates, the Dodger organization, and to the Dodger fans. LA is a special place to me and I know everybody is disappointed. So am I. I'm sorry about this whole situation."

After consultation with the Players' Association and his personal representatives, Ramirez waived his right to challenge the suspension. Doesn't exactly sound like a guy who is outraged that his legacy has been tainted by something he didn't know was illegal.

5/06/09: A Royal Tanking for Arroyo - Going into Wednesday's games, the Cincinnati Reds led all of MLB with a 3.61 starter's ERA. Then Bronson Arroyo let the Brewers score nine times in one-plus innings in Wednesday's 15-3 drubbing. After the game, Cincinnati's aggregate starter's ERA balooned to 4.02, down to ninth-best in baseball. --KG

Power-Speed Number has never been an important statistic to Asher, so he has never bothered to look up how it is calculated. Asher also has not done so for the purposes of this comment, either. However, he can only assume that Power-Speed Number is a statistic designed to measure a player’s combination of power and speed. At present, Jacoby Ellsbury has a Power-Speed Number of 1.9, which is pretty awful, but better than the Power-Speed Number of 0.0 that both Carl Crawford and Bobby Abreu have put up so far.

Wow, look at that. Looks like Asher was right to not care anything about Power-Speed Number.

5/04/09: Rare But Mixed Company - Carl Crawford joined Eddie Collins, Otis Nixon, and Eric Young as the only players to steal six bases in a game Sunday. He has now stolen 17 bases this year without getting caught. Collins, Nixon, and Young each rank among the top 25 in career steals since 1900, although Young and Nixon aren't widely regarded as terrific players. Crawford has now stolen 319 bases before turning 28, putting him 146 behind Young, 301 behind Nixon, 425 behind Collins, and 1,087 behind Rickey Henderson. --KG

5/4/09: A New Award? - I have referred in the past to my failed attempt to create a “That’s My Dawg!” Award, in honor of Jhonny Peralta’s 2005 season. The idea behind the “That’s My Dawg!” Award was that every time I looked at Peralta’s stats in 2005, I involuntarily exclaimed, out loud, “That’s My Dawg!” It is happening again in 2009 - every time Greinke is pitching, I again finding myself exclaiming out loud. Perhaps at the end of this season, we will create a “Holy F**king Sh*t!” Award. --ABC

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