Baseball Jeremiad


A Curiously Intelligent Baseball blog

Cleaning up the Reader

Some of the items we’re reading today at Baseball Jeremiad… 

Jason Stark reviews eight teams and asks whether their early performance is a reality or illusion. 

His take on the Mets: 

Mets (6-9, last place in NL East)

 Rating: Reality 

Twice in the last week, we’ve heard two scouts make a remark like this: “I think Washington is a much better club than the Mets.” 

From where we Rumblers and Grumblers sit, we wouldn’t go that far. At some point, you can take these predictions to Vegas: Jason Bay will hit a home run. And Carlos Beltran will get a hit. And Francisco Rodriguez will save a game. And a starter other than Johan Santana and Mike Pelfrey will win a game. But is this a good enough, or deep enough, team to hang with the Braves, Phillies and Marlins? We’re not hearing anybody say that except the Mets themselves. 

“You know, baseball needs the Mets to be good,” one scout said. “Baseball is more fun when the Mets are good and that rivalry between them and the Phillies is cooking. But this just isn’t a real good team. If you look past Santana, and Pelfrey the way he’s pitched so far, you see where the Mets’ problems lie. They’ve got legitimate concerns in that rotation. I watched that bullpen six days, and they’ve got four guys on pace to pitch over 80 games. That says their starters just are not getting deep enough. And I don’t see that changing.” 

 Meanwhile, Stark reacted to DC Matt’s dis of Jorge Cantu: 

Yes he Cantu: How many hitters in baseball are more underrated than Marlins hit factory Jorge Cantu? He may not be Albert Pujols. But he’s the only player in the National League who has gotten a hit in every game this season. He has more extra-base hits (10) than singles (eight). He’s second in the league in RBIs. He’s hitting .429 with men in scoring position. And as we mentioned last week, the only NL hitters with more RBIs than Cantu since the 2009 All-Star break are Ryan Howard, Ryan Braun, Matt Kemp and Prince Fielder

Forbes Magazine explains why the Phillies have remained so good for the past three seasons: 

The Phillies have stars like Jimmy Rollins, Chase Utley and Ryan Howard, who came up through the team’s farm system and have been signed to long-term deals. This has left money free to patch holes with the occasional expensive free agent, such as newly acquired Blue Jays ace Roy Halladay, who signed for $60 million over three years. 

The results have been spectacular. The team won the World Series two years ago and made it back last year before losing to the Yankees in six games. This year the Phillies will try to win three National League pennants in a row, which would tie a record set during World War II by the Cardinals. “We had a plan. We wanted to get good in a way that we could stay good,” says team President David Montgomery. 

Former Met and Phillie Bruce Chen rides again, this time in Royals Blue. 

I had a running joke with a friend of mine from Jersey that certain Yankee pitchers broke into cold sweats and possibly soiled themselves whenever they heard Joe Torre’s voice.  The joke, of course, was that Torre had a penchant for destroying Quadruple-A pitchers by pitching them multiple innings multiple days in a row.*  Thus, we laughed like hell when Torre became manager of the Dodgers and Scott Proctor found his way to LA.  All of this is an extended set-up for worrying that Jerry Manuel plans to have the same effect on Francisco Rodriguez

*I don’t know, empirically, whether or not this is true.  Was our perception reality?  Not too sure.   

Benjamin Hoffman of the “Bats Blog” of The New York Times investigates the autonomy of an at-bat

Last week, DC Matt and I picked up Barry Zito to make a spot-start for the Centristfielders.  He threw a gem.  Fangraphs’ Matt Klaassen wonders why.  His answer: might just lucky, he guesses. 

Joel Sherman of the New York Post makes some baseball jokes and observations in his blog.

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Jorge Cantu – don’t get too excited

Jersey Matt mentioned an article about Jorge Cantu’s 10 games of at least one hit and one RBI to start the season (or maybe it was only 9 at that point in time).  I’ve been hearing about this for days and what a hot start Cantu is on.  It’s true: his OPS+ is 143 and he has 9 extra base hits.  The attention, of course, has all been on the RBI streak.  This frustrates me.

I love statistical oddities.  I’m giddy every morning to read another ridiculous small sample size statistic that you can only get early in the season, like which players are on pace to hit 274 home runs this season or hit .450 or strike out 350 times (although Mark Reynolds might actually get to that one).  So it’s interesting to me that Cantu is the first guy to reach this mark, but it’s only interesting as an oddity, not interesting because it’s important.  Cantu is a fine player, but he’s nothing special.  RBI don’t matter.

Cantu is far from the top ten in the league leaders in OBP.  He is outside of the top ten in Runs Created.  During his streak he had multiple RBI only twice.  In fact, three times during that span his Win Probability Added was negative.

He’s hitting .292.  Pudge Freakin’ Rodriguez (not his actual middle name) is hitting .419.  The #10 guy in the league leaders in BA is hitting .378.  In other words, any of those guys would probably have had an RBI in every game too if they were hitting behind some guy named Hanley Ramirez and Possibly Finally Living Up to His Potential Cameron Maybin, who have OBPs of .474 and .368, respectively.

I know RBI are a traditional statistic.  I was even persuaded to, against my will, include them in our fantasy league stats (which I’m strongly regretting).  I see their value as something fun to look at and talk about, but it’s like saying a good coach can take a lousy team to the Super Bowl.  No matter how good of a coach he is, he still needs good players to win.  Without good players, he goes nowhere.  Without guys getting on base in front of him, Cantu doesn’t have any RBI (well, he’d have three, since he has three home runs).  He certainly would not have a streak.

I blame Tim McCarver.

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Jorge Cantu: Sarcastic Genius?

In yesterday’s Wall Street Journal, Matthew Futterman speculated that due to an extremely large sample size, baseball may be running out of new milestones.*

*One of the drawbacks of the WSJ is that articles only remain free for a day or two — as of this morning the link was still active, but I can give no guarantees for the future. 

Futterman began by pointing out an obscure achievement of Florida’s Jorge Cantu in this young season.  I’ll let Futterman explain:

The ink was barely dry on the scorecards after the Florida Marlins’ 5-3 win over the Cincinnati Reds on Wednesday night when the memo went out to baseball historians: Marlins third-baseman Jorge Cantu had made his mark, becoming the first player to have at least one hit and one RBI in each of his team’s first nine games.

Alright, fair enough.  What really caught my attention, however, was Cantu’s response to his “milestone”:

“It hit me when I was rounding the bases,” a reverent Mr. Cantu told reporters after the game. “It’s a little bit surreal. It’s like, ‘Wow I’ve accomplished something very big.’ “

Was Cantu serious? 

If he was serious, then I’m left scratching my head. 

But, if Cantu answered reporters faceitiously, two points spring to mind: 1) Futterman was desperate for a lede to this story and did not actually notice Cantu’s sarcasm; 2) Good for Cantu for answering what likely was a foolish question (How does it feel to set this record?) with a deadpan answer.

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