Feb 29, 2008

Value of Defense in Griffey

Witnessing a great defensive play is certainly one of the true joys of watching a real baseball game; in HBD, we have to settle for a little "++" next to a line in a box score. It's tough to get excited about a "++" because it has none of the aesthetic value of a Jim Edmonds diving into the right-centerfield gap to turn a sure triple into an out, or Torii Hunter scaling the wall to rob another home run. In order to attach a little more meaning to "good plays" and "bad plays," an attempt to quantify the value of good (or bad) defense is presented below.

One nice thing about the "++" versus a real-life defensive gem is that, in HBD, there's no annoying Joe Buck to tell you how a "play like that doesn't show up in the box score" -- in this case, it actually does. Because they are tallied, taking a team's total "good plays" and subtracting out "poor plays" and passed balls is a crude way of evaluating a team's defensive prowess. Translating that into runs and wins is a bit trickier.

In starting with passed balls, two things are important to note: (1) a passed ball only occurs with guys on base and (2) the incremental number of runs allowed due to a passed ball would never be more than one, even accounting for guys moving up a base into scoring postion. With respect to (1), an easy (but almost certainly inaccurate) way of evaluating the effect of a passed ball is to assume that it occurs with equal frequency with lead runners at first, second or third. Assuming that is the case, a passed ball would cost a team, on average, around 0.33 runs. For example, when a runner on 3rd with two outs who scores due to a passed ball, that run is directly attributable to the passed ball if the man at the plate makes an out. However, if that batter gets a hit, the run would have scored anyway; therefore the passed ball is effectively inconsequential. This 0.33 is biased high since a greater percentage of runners reach 1B than 2B or 3B.

Item (2) pertains more to a situation where multiple runners are on base. For example, if the situation was first and third when the passed ball occurred, obviously a run scores and the other runner moves up to 2nd. If the next guy singles and the runner scores from second, that run would be attributable to the passed ball; however, the guy who actually scored when the passed ball occurred would have scored regardless. Consequently, only one of those runs is ever attributable to the passed ball. Taking all of this into account, the value of a passed ball is probably on the order of 0.25 runs.

Regarding a "good play," if we assume that each such event results in adding one out to the situation while leaving all runners in place as they were, we can lean heavily on the statistical work of others to quantify its value. Specifically, clicking here takes you to a run expectancy matrix which shows how many runs might be expected following any given combination of outs and base runners in MLB. Assuming that each situation occurs with equal frequency, that gives a "good play" a value of about 0.5 runs. That may be biased low because the average team OPS in HBD is much higher than in MLB, but you could also argue it is biased high because situations with fewer guys on base occur more frequently than with the sacks packed.

A "poor play" is more difficult to quantify because it is not clear whether it would only result in a one-base shift in runners or if an "out" can effectively be converted into double, etc. In any event, it seems likely that a "poor" play is likely of slightly greater detriment than the benefit received from a "good play."

Taking all of this into account, about 2/3 of a run per event feels about right for each "good play" and "poor play"

So, we are still not where we would like to be with this necessarily, but cutting the shuck-and-jive, expected net wins due to defense over 162 games are presented below. (If anyone has any additional insight here, let me know. This is fairly "back of the envelope.")

Expected Net Wins due to Defense over 162 Games by Franchise

Pittsburgh Ponies: +1.84
Cheyenne Duck Snorts: +1.71
Little Rock Razorbacks: +0.82

Pawtucket G-Maniacs: +0.74
Trenton Cage Rattlers: +0.74
Fargo Fuzznuts: +0.53
New York Yank-Mes: +0.44
Colorado Mile High Rapids: +0.37
Charlotte Wolves: +0.33
Oakland Dragons: +0.31
San Antonio fighters: +0.31
Montgomery Miracles: +0.02
Charleston Cobras: -0.06
Los Angeles Mojo: -0.13
Atlanta Ripettoes: -0.23
Albuquerque Ranchers: -0.27
Rochester Regal Beagles: -0.35
Texas Dusters: -0.38
Philadelphia Revolution: -0.44
New York Cyclones: -0.45
Cincinnati centipedes: -0.48
St. Louis Jayhawks: -0.64
Kansas City Twisters: -0.68
Salem Warlocks: -0.71
Montreal Valiants: -0.82
Syracuse Swingers: -0.89
Cleveland Rockers: -1.13
Florida Tropic: -1.13
Honolulu Beach Bums: -1.26
Anaheim Jack A$$es: -1.27
Tacoma Appleseed: -1.35
Houston Bombers: -1.57

Feb 28, 2008

AL Draft Review

AL North

Cleveland chose live-armed starter Frank Hyun with the 15th selection. He flashes good stuff and baffles left-handed batters, but control is a serious issue and is being scouted to play pro hockey. If he signs, he projects as a quality back-of-the-rotation pitcher. Right-hander Thomas Selby should accumulate tons of strikeouts, but hitters will hit him hard if they can make contact. He'll likely top out in AAA. Third-rounder Art Peterson and fourth-rounder Junior Peron draw similar scouting reports as Selby, but both are left-handed. Grade: C-

Montreal picked collegiate left-hander Tyler Bailey, who could be plugged into the middle of a rotation as soon as next season, with the 28th selection overall. He won't win any awards, but he projects as an above-average starter despite average control. Sandwich pick Herbert Alexander projects as a fine leadoff man and average defender at 2B, and provides terrific value at pick 44. Pitcher Matt Blair is a signing risk at pick 72, and starters Dale Lewis, Mac McFeely and Wade Meyers are marginal prospects, at best. Grade: B

Pittsburgh whiffed with their first-rounder, selecting high school SS Pedro Franco at 31. His range and arm are both below-average to go along with his unremarkable hitting skills, and some scouts believe better players were selected later. Juco lefty Matt McConnell is a solid second-round pick and projects as a quality setup man, and catchers Jacque Stone and Dan George add to the Ponies' minor-league glut of quality backstops. Fifth-rounder Craig Crede could one day provide some pop from a ML bench. Grade: C+

Free-agent signings stripped Trenton of their first two draft picks, and the team's first selection, left-hander Chris Bird, projects as a journeyman reliever. Right-hander Jack Ramirez is an intriguing SP prospect, but he'll need to show dramatic improvement to stick in the majors. Speedy LF Stuart Carmona could become a valuable role player, but he lacks the bat speed to earn steady playing time. Grade: C-

AL East

Charlotte's first pick, left-hander Ernest Brock, should rocket through their system and lock down the closer's job for a decade. Some have questioned his dedication to the game, but the talent is real and quite advanced for an 18-year-old. He's an incredible value at pick 23. Second-rounder Antone Ryan doesn't do anything exceptionally well, but he does everything well. He projects as a below-average defensive 2B or above-average LF. Late-blooming left- hander Dave Benson is a a step below Brock, but he could eventually close for another team or set up his fellow draftee, and represents another high-value pick at selection 99. Fourth-round LF Trent Whitehead is another solid prospect who'll be good enough to win a ML job but not quite good enough to lock one down long-term. Right-hander Nate Wagner projects as an average ML long reliever. Sixth-rounder Cameron Lewis has the defensive skills to ride an ML bench, and C/DH Rob Chase is a fantastic value in the seventh round. Grade: A+

New York selected promising closer prospect Vernon Mora with the 10th selection, but he decided to forgo his signing bonus and accepted a college scholarship. Third rounder Johnnie Richardson has not yet signed, either, but even his electric stuff can't overcome woeful control. Starters Theodore Cochran and Wayne Forsch will likely top out at AAA. Seventh-rounder Ken Lofton has Gold Glove potential at 2B or CF, but his bat is just barely good enough to qualify for a starting job. Too many risky picks and not enough reward. Grade: D+

Philadelphia chose on-base machine Geraldo Rosado with selection #20. The RF lacks the high-end speed and baserunning skills to become an elite leadoff man, but he'll likely contend for the batting title from the first or second spot in the order. After that outstanding selection, three signing risks were chosen in SS Keith O'Brien, LF Weldon Black and RF Jack Crawford. Black's speed and baserunning skills could earn him a starting job and Crawford displays impressive bat speed, but none of the three has signed yet. 2B Norm Bettancourt might eventually log some ML service time and seventh-round 3B Mule Peters could provide some solid platoon value. Grade: B-

St. Louis rolled the dice on a pair of signing risks with their first two selections. Scott Terry uses an incredibly deceptive delivery to baffle lefties and righties alike, but some scouts question whether he's got the stuff to be effective as a starter. However, the fourth pick overall has not yet signed, presenting a possibly sickening scenario, but his agent has indicated he might be willing to skip college for the right price. C Luke Blair represents another solid pick, if he decides to accept the team's offer, and undersized lefty SP Trace Hutton is a steal in the third round. Slugging 1B Stu Banks is a solid value in the fourth stanza and fifth-rounder Vic Cruz should stick in the majors as a LF or 1B. Sixth-rounder Domingo Garces flashes exceptional leather, but his bat will keep him on the bench if he makes the ML. Grade: B

AL South

Charleston gave up its first-round selection in free agency, but the team fumbled its second-round choice by selecting hittable SP Alex Hasegawa. The rubber-armed lefty possesses decent control, but many scouts feel he tips his pitches and lacks an out pitch and will likely top out in AAA. College lefty Alan Damon, who projects as a ML back-end SP, provides solid value in the third round, but he was available there because he's also considered a solid NBA prospect. Lefty SP Vernon McCormick is similar to Damon, but only 18 years old and already pitching in rookie ball. Another 18-year-old lefty, Nerio Sweeney, is unlikely to reach the ML. Fifth-rounder Stevie Snow possesses phenomenal power and a keen eye, and he'll likely smack 40 HR more than once. Grade: C

Houston pulled up a chair to the buffet, selecting an gluttonous six times between picks 11 and 66. Scouts are mixed on right-hander Herbert Kotsay's ceiling, projecting him as high as a ML #2, but some scouts believe he's more of a #5. But all agree he'll make the show. Right-handed closer Tony Summers can be hit by left-handers, but his excellent stuff and high stamina will make him an elite setup man. Lefty SP Willis Beimel needs to show dramatic improvement to be effective in the ML, and is a bit of a reach at pick 39. All three second-rounders, including pitcher Deivi Reyes and RF Julian Bennett, remain unsigned, and right-hander Bill York is not a prospect and a poor selection at pick 54. Third-round CF Kelly Ingram should become a fine defensive backup and possible platoon starter. Fourth-round 2B Rob Brown remains unsigned and Alberto Calderon lacks enough tools to be anything more than a 25th man, if that. Grade: C

Little Rock picked up one of the draft's top pitching prospects, right-hander Alex Pulido, with the fourth selection overall. He has true top-of-the-rotation potential, and the collegian is already highly developed and should be ready to pitch at the ML level within two seasons. With their sandwich pick, #40, the club snagged outstanding defensive 2B Lorenzo Montero, who projects as a possible two-hole hitter. Third-rounder Tomas Javier fields like a 3B and hits like a backup SS, and fourth-rounder David Aparicio lacks true ML hitting skills. LF Pedro Gonzalez has the speed and baserunning ability to become a useful role player. Sixth-round RF Dutch Mench and seventh-round 1B Moises Olivo are an intriguing pair of contact hitters who could hit .300 in the right situation. Grade: B+

Texas turned in a solid choice, left-handed SP Ernest Omlansky, with the second selection overall. He lacks the sort of arsenal you expect in an ace, but most scouts agree he could become a quality #2 starter for many years. Sandwich pick Gus Knott is an outstanding defensive CF with a ML-quality bat, but some scouts think he could be most effective as part of a platoon. Second-round 3B Stevie Hogan exhibits the kind of power you can't teach, but his average batting eye will likely keep him from batting fourth. Gregory Levis, another second-rounder, shows Gold Glove potential, and he can get on base and cause trouble once he's there. Third-rounder Malcolm Baldwin is one of the draft's most intriguing prospects, as a rubber-armed long reliever who some scouts say could potentially start. Right-handed reliever Al Rivera doesn't do anything especially well, but he has no glaring flaws and is a good value at pick 110. Fifth rounder Gerald Lush could peak as a decent fourth OF. Grade: A-

AL West

Albuquerque selected SS Bart Pride, who lacks the range to put his gorgeous arm and glovework to full use, with the 17th pick. His bat won't make up for that glaring deficiency, but Pride should be an effective MLer nonetheless. Left-hander David Otanez appears unlikely to sign, but third-round RF Lyle Millwood can do nearly everything but take walks consistently. 3B Chris Miller, a fourth-rounder, could stick in the ML as a backup and fifth-round RP Les Bradley will have to learn to fool hitters to be an effective in the ML. Seventh-round 3B Cody Douglas could find a bench role and 1B Martin Hall could become a middle-of-the-order slugger. Grade: C-

Cheyenne snagged righty Harvey Carr with the 26th selection, and most scouts believe he projects as a #2 or #3 starter. Second-round pitcher Donald Lim remains unsigned, but third-round righty Bonk Stevenson shows plenty of skills but lacks the durability to take the ball every day. Fourth-round 3B Joseph Kuo should develop into a solid starter and represents an outstanding value. 1B Octavio Navarro could blossom into a quality #5 hitter, a fine value for a fifth rounder. Grade: B+

Colorado made a risky selection at #21 with pitcher Billy Haynes, who remains unsigned, and second-round right-hander Lonny Sele projects as a fifth starter at best. Third-rounder Stan Jackson could stick as a fourth OF, but fourth-round SP Ryan Fordyce lacks the skills to break into the ML. Cam Tucker is a fine defensive C, but his bat should keep him in the minors. Sixth-round righty Howard Darwin could hold down the back of a ML rotation one day. Grade: C-

Salem spent the fifth pick in the draft on mustachioed LF Wayne Morris, who's already tearing up AA. He should fill a spot in the middle of the lineup as soon as next season. Righty Brendan Cashman struggles with control, but his pitching skills should still make him an effective ML SP. 3B Austin Riske is a solid value in the third stanza, and fourth-round RF Milt Baker could become a solid cleanup hitter and an outstanding value if he fully develops. Fifth-rounder Trevor Leonard could develop, at best, into a solid back-end starter and, at worst, into a good long reliever. Seventh-rounder Doc Davis lacks the bat to go along with his fine defensive skills, but he could find a spot on a ML bench anyway. Grade: A-

Feb 26, 2008

NL North Draft Review

Fargo Fuzznuts

With the 30th pick in the draft, Fargo was not looking to fill any immediate hole as their team is already stacked. Instead, a role player such as another reliever for an already fantastic bullpen, or a prospect for the future would be perfect.

C Al Riggs- Very solid pickup at the end of the first round for the Fuzznuts. Riggs will be a future catcher, though in all likelihood in a platoon situation due to his lack of durability.

1B Dave Larry- Larry's definitely got some pop in his bat, but he promised his mother that he would finish college and thus it is very unlikely that he will sign.

Grade- C+. Riggs was a good pick so late in the first round, but Larry was a waste of a 2nd round pick. In addition, Fargo did not take anyone with any potential ML value in rounds 3-25. If Larry signs though, grade goes up to a B.

Should Have Taken- A better second round pick. Who? Anyone that would sign.

Tacoma Appleseed

Tacoma has been following in the footsteps of San Antonio by having a high draft pick year after year resulting in a rich minor league system.

But Tacoma will not be given a grade since I can't see any of his prospects and the owner hasn't checked in since February 15th. I give him an F just for that.

Syracuse Swingers

'Cuse is two seasons removed from a world series appearance but has struggled in Season 7 due to the second worst offense in the league (based on runs scores.)

Ricardo Martin- Martin was taken with the 8th overall pick and will be very successful in the majors once he's ready. He can throw all 4 of his pitches with success, with a nasty slider as an out pitch. Martin has always needed 5 days of rest in the past, so unless Syracuse lowers his pitch count, they will need to use Martin in a 6 man staff.

Taylor Russ- Russ will be a future starter or long reliever, and will be around a 4.5 ERA pitcher. He's the type of guy who could give you 6 innings of 4 run baseball, but will probably be more useful in the bullpen pitching 2 innings a night.

Sammy Sanchez- Very nice 3rd round pick here. Sanchez could be a stud if he improves his 2nd and 3rd pitches, but he will still be a worthy setup man who can give 80-100 solid innings a year.

Ed Ramirez- Getting a value pick in the 4th round is not always easy to do. Ramirez will surely be a major leaguer as a 5th or 6th starter, long reliever, or mopup man. Similar to Martin, Syracuse will have to lower his pitch count or give him ample rest to keep him healthy. Maybe he could work perfect as that 6th starter once Martin hits the big?

Todd Daniels- A platoon guy against righties who can steal some bases. What more can you ask for in the 5th round?

Grade- A-. Syracuse did his homework before the draft and it paid off.

Should Have Taken- Geraldo Rosado may have been a perfect fit here at the 8 spot, especially to a team that has problems scoring runs.

Cincinnati Centipedes

This franchise has never made the playoffs so a solid draft is key in getting over the hump.

RP Ray Stevenson- Potential stud closer, but will he sign? It's been a roller coaster all year long as Stevenson changes his mind every day, but hey you would too if you had to pick between $2.5mil and all the girls you want in the University of Miami. But even if he signs, many scouts say he is difficult to coach.

Earl Faulk- A good hitting catcher- though he is much more effective against lefties than righties. But there's always something new with this guy, either he's tired from catching the night before, or his ankle hurts, either way, he loves sitting on the bench every other night. Expect him to bat exclusively against lefties.

Raymond Rain- Good pickup in the 3rd round. Raymond has a great fastball and a very good 12-6 curveball but unless he listens to his coaches, he might never reach his potential.

Grade- C. Stevenson is a potential great closer (even with his problems), but taking a relief pitcher with the 12th overall pick when you have Johnnie Becker is not a particularly wise decision.

Should Have Taken- Geraldo Rosado, Malachi Widger, or Melvin Dixon. Any of these three sluggers would be the best hitting prospect in the Centipedes organization.

Feb 22, 2008

Power Rankings @ 50 Games

1. Pittsburgh Ponies (33-18, +91 Run Differential)
Last year's World Series Champions are again the cream of the AL and seem undeterred by rumors placing pitcher Matt Ross at a pool party with trainer Brian McNamee. A superior pitching rotation, including Ross (1.03 ERA) and Fritz Branson (2.21 ERA), may make the Ponies unbeatable. With most key players back, there's no reason to rank Pittsburgh anywhere but at the top.

2. San Antonio Fighters (31-20, +92)
Last year's World Series runners-up lead the NL in WHIP and OPS in Season 7. While the Fighters are still the team to beat in the NL, they face serious competition from Fargo and New York and KC.

3. Fargo Fuzznuts (31-20, +112)

The NL, as a whole, appears to be a four-team league, but Fargo is clearly one of those teams. The Fuzznuts have thrashed their competition by an average of almost 2.2 runs per game so far in Season 7. Fargo is again led by 2B Yamid Morales (.297/.399/.589)

4. New York Yank-Mes (36-15, +54)

The Yank-Mes feature Griffey's best overall record and were the preseason favorite among many to capture the Season 7 NL crown. Still an inner-circle contender, but a +54 run differential suggests New York has not been as dominant as their record indicates.

5. KC Twisters (29-22, +54)
Kansas City's impressive hitting tandem of Edwin O'Malley (.376/.455/.630) and Miguel Silva (.361/.447/.514) have helped KC lead the NL in team batting average so far this season. KC will need to sustain the offensive attack and find some additional pitching support if they hope to keep up with San Antonio.

6. Charlotte Wolves (27-24, +41)
The Wolves recently carried 8 of 9 before losing one game to top-AL seed Pittsburgh and two to a hot Albuquerque team. Charlotte, lead by perennial MVP candidate David Murata, boasts AL's top team OPS (.910).

7. Cheyenne Duck Snorts (28-23, +45)

Cheyenne is well off the pace to match last year's 98-win mark, but currently maintain a slim lead in one of Griffey's more balanced divisions top-to-bottom. The Duck Snorts have been plagued by inconsistent hitting, but seem to have found their stride following the promotion of rookie catcher Jose Mieses (.369/.406/.508).

8. NY Cyclones (29-22, +40)
The Cyclones have been the surprise of the AL thus far this season, thanks in large part to a torrid 9-1 start. Whether New York, who has posted middle-of-the pack team OPS and WHIP on the season, can remain atop the AL East seems questionable.

9. Montreal Valiants (30-21, +37)
Montreal boasts the AL's second best record, but will have to improve to make that record stand up, as indicated by a +37 run differential. Maintaining that record is particularly important for the Valiants, who will likely have to fight for a Wild Card spot as they share the AL North with the Ponies. Also like the Ponies, Montreal is bolstered by a strong pitching staff (4th in AL in WHIP, 3rd in ERA).

10. Charleston Cobras (26-25, +37)
This may be the most controversial ranking, as the Cobras currently place only 3rd in their division. However, Charleston is the only team in their division who has not been outscored on the year. Let's not forget, Charleston was also the AL runner up last season.

Feb 20, 2008

Gaggle of Goose Eggs Gone for Duck Snort

CHEYENNE, WY -- Duck Snort pitcher Orlando Romero's consecutive inning scoreless streak was halted at 25 by the first batter in last evening's game when Alex Santana of the Montreal Valiants drilled a 2-1 curveball into the left field stands.

"Big O left that curve up in the zone a little bit, and you can't do that to a professional hitter like Santana," stated rookie Duck Snort catcher Jose Mieses. "Alex is a little guy, but he got all of that one."

During the scoreless streak, Romero posted a miniscule 0.56 WHIP, a 20:4 K:BB ratio, and tossed two complete game shutouts. The streaky Romero boasts a 2.25 ERA over his past six starts.

Living The Dream

Former Reds GM and Broncos founder Bob Howsam, who died yesterday at 89, actually did all the stuff we pay $25 to pretend to do. That's pretty awesome.

Feb 19, 2008

Denny Yamamoto Signed to 4 Year Extension

Hardball Dynasty's
Denny Yamamoto

Denny Yamamoto, 2nd behind Matt Ross with 104 career victories, has been signed to a 4 year contract extension, with a mutual option for the last year.

"We've been in negotiations all season, and it has been difficult due to Denny's age," said gm jabronidan. "We were finally able to settle on a mutual option for the last season, which will give each side leverage in season 11."

The signing was somewhat of a risk, given Yamamoto's age, but management in Atlanta is confident that the Japanese pitcher will be continue being effective into his mid to late 30's.

Jabronidan further clarified that the meaning of "Ripettoes" is in fact a typo of the surname, "Rippetoe" which is of course of the famous body builder and personal trainer Mark Rippetoe. The type was accidental, but since the team had success, jabronidan refused to change the team's name in case it would jynx everything.

Quarterpole League Leaders (Hitting)

Batting Average
Sam Wheeler, Phi, .393
Rickey Kelton, Col, .390
James Hampton, Tex, .385
Kris Pavlik, NYC, .385
Edwin O'Malley, KC, .370

Home Runs
David Murata, Cha, 22
Darren Charlton, SA, 20
R.A. Flier, Phi, 19
Ron Barber, Ana, 18
Javier Marquez, Chr, 17
Tike Hayes, Mon, 17

Curtis Bland, NYC, 47
Rickey Kelton, Col, 47
R.A. Flier, Phi, 46
David Murata, Cha, 45
Darren Charlton, SA, 42

Stolen Bases
Sammy Romero, Fla, 25/26
Richie Miller, NYC, 24/26
Rigo Castillo, Roc, 24/25
Brady Cortes, Col, 22/23
Tomas Estrada, LA, 21/21

Hitting Streak
Terry Finley, StL, 21
Russel Brow, Mon, 20
Will Mills, Alb, 19
Three tied with 17

Quarterpole League Leaders (Pitching)

Terry Torres, NYY, 9-0
Matt Ross, Pitt, 7-2
David Rojas, NYY, 6-0
18 tied with 5 wins

Matt Ross, Pitt, 0.81
Ed Miller, Mon, 1.65
Juan Cordero, NYY, 1.84
Angel Hines, StL, 2.00
Wilt Voyles, SA, 2.12

Matt Ross, Pitt, 88
Terry Torres, NYY, 80
Benny Halter, Atl, 63
Zachrey Spradlin, Far, 59
Enrique Gonzalez, Alb, 58

Matt Ross, Pitt, 0.58
Sandy Conway, LA, 0.89
Ed Miller, Mon, 0.92
Juan Cordero, NYY, 0.97
D'Angelo Blasco, SA, 0.97

Curtis Peterman, Mnt, 13/13
Che-Bang Ramirez, Ana, 12/14
Joe Taylor, ALB, 11/12
Five tied with 10 saves

Feb 18, 2008

Lady Luck Smiling on Jack A$$es, Frowning on Philly

Commonly held baseball wisdom dictates that a team wins 50 games and loses 50 games each year--it's what is done with the other 62 games that counts. If that's the case, the Anaheim Jack A$$es are making the most of their "62," whereas the coaching staff of the Philadelphia Revolution may be looking for new employment next season.

Based on WHIP and OPS posted through Game 40, the Jack A$$es would be expected to have won only 20 games, but have tallied 25 victories thus far over NL opposition. The hard-luck Revolution have fallen four games short of expected wins thus far, posting a breakeven 20-20 record, where a 24-16 record would be expected. Jack A$$ manager, hurdles52, noted "there are fewer distractions here in Southern California," referring to the team's move from their Season 6 home in Las Vegas.

Philly pitcher Davey Nunez, having posted a 9.58 ERA on the season, blamed the installation of the QuesTec umpire evaluation system at Citizen's Bank Ballpark this season. "This camera thing is [bad news], man," griped Nunez. "Pitches that were strikes last season, are being called balls this year. I'm getting squeezed."

Most teams in Griffey have posted win totals within a game or two of projections, with the exception of the following:

Wins Exceeding Projections:
Anaheim: +5
Cleveland: +4
Houston: +4
NY Cyclones: +3
NY Yank-Mes: +3
Pawtucket: +3

Wins Below Projections:
Philadelphia: -4
Tacoma: -3
Rochester: -3

Spotlight: Ron Barber

Veteran RF Ron Barber's torrid start has helped key Anaheim's race to the top of the NL West standings, and no one is more surprised than owner hudles52. "We signed Ron with the intent on adding a veteran RF to fill a big void in the outfield, (but) his production this year has far exceeded our expectations," said the first-year owner. The35-year-old Barber is on pace to shatter his career highs in most categories, with a .322/.376/.711 line through 40 games, including 18 HR and 39 RBI, but his contributions extend outside the lines. "He had been great in the clubhouse and has already been instrumental in the development of some of our younger players," hurdles52 said. His leadership and acumen have lifted the Jack A$$es above also-ran status to a 25-14 record, good enough for a five-game NL West lead over Honolulu and the NL's second-best record so far.

Feb 16, 2008

Fighters pound Swingers 11-3

SAN ANTONIO, Texas -- The Fighters bruised Syracuse 11-3 to maintain a first-place tie with the now-slightly less "Miraculous" Montgomery.

Max Camacho helped break open a 3-3 tie in an 8-run seventh, walking once and scoring on a Dwight Meyers single and knocking in two on a bloop single to right.

"I thought (Sam) Stewart had it, but the ball must have had some spin on it that threw him off or something," Camacho said.

Pat Sinclair (1-4) took the loss, his third in four previous starts, and Dweezil Henson committed two errors.

The third baseman booted a routine grounder with two outs in the seventh, allowing one run to score and opening the door for three more to follow.

Pedro Tejera (3-0) picked up the win by recording two outs to end the seventh.

In other NL South action, Kansas City topped Anaheim 8-3 to pull within one game of San Antonio and Montgomery.

Spotlight: Ricky Kelton

Colorado LF Rickey Kelton holds one of Griffey World's most unassailable records, hitting safely in 35 consecutive games during S5. The three-time All-Star turned in an impressive .370/.426/.611/1.037 line that season, with 30 HR and 147 RBI. The two-time Silver Slugger and Gold Glove winner stands second on the career list for batting average, behind only teammate Royce Minor, and boasts a .359/.421/.619/1.040 career line, including 193 HR and 907 RBI. With two years remaining on a contract extension signed during S6, the 34-year-old Kelton appears likely to retire with the Mile High Rapids.

Dusters brush off Ross, Ponies

ARLINGTON, Texas -- Texas turned the tables 1-0 on the suddenly hapless Matt Ross (5-2), dealing the dominant righty his second straight loss.

Jay Carlyle (3-4) outdueled Cy Young winner, allowing just two hits and no walks across eight innings, and Tony Fujiwara pitched a scoreless ninth inning to preserve the shutout and record his third save.

"Obviously, he pitched a great game, too, so I feel lucky that our offense came through and theirs didn't," Carlyle said.

The Dusters did their damage early, loading up the bases in the second inning on a Bernie Sosa infield single, a Charles Russell single to center and a two-out Mario Coppinger walk.

Ross dealt Bubba McClellan a free pass to send home Sosa for the game's only run.

Feb 15, 2008

The '85 Club'

SP Matt Ross -- Pittsburgh, 34, 99/99
2B Michael Snow -- Atlanta, 30, 95/95
SS Jeremy Brooks -- New York (NL), 32, 94/94
SP Dean Bukvich -- Pittsburgh, 30, 93/93
SP Ned Truby -- Montreal, 26, 91/97
RF David Murata -- Charlotte, 25, 90/92
SP Terry Torres -- New York (NL), 35, 89/89
2B Chad Matthews -- Anaheim, 23, 88/95
LR Chad Douglas -- Honolulu, 32, 88/88
3B Tomas Rincon -- Tacoma, 24, 87/96
SS Karim Nunez -- Montreal, 26, 87/95
3B Dwight Meyers -- San Antonio, 25, 87/91
RF Houston Jenkins -- New York (NL), 31, 87/87
SS David Murata -- San Antonio, 22, 86/91
C Alex Langston -- San Antonio, 26, 86/89
C Royce Minor -- Colorado, 31, 86/86
SP Virgil Lima -- Anaheim, 29, 86/86
SS Ernie Person -- Oakland, 28, 86/86
SP David Rojas -- New York (NL), 27, 86/86
SuA Pedro Tejera -- San Antonio, 24, 85/89
SP Zachrey Spradlin -- Fargo, 28, 85/85

There are 21 players currently rated 85 OVR or better. Two teams have four players, three teams have two players, seven teams have one player, and 20 teams have none. Eight of them are at least 30 years old and 13 of them are younger than 30. Nine of them are pitchers, two of them are catchers, eight of them are infielders, two of them are outfielders and two are named David Murata.