No Reason to Panic

I don’t know if any of you out there have heard, but the Mets traded for two-time Cy Young Award-winner Johan Santana. Yeah, I’m as surprised as you are. I could’ve sworn that the Red Sox and Yankees offered better packages. But the Twins’ front office isn’t who I want to criticize right now (plenty of people will be doing that between now and the end of the regular season); I want to question Don McKee’s logic in an article he wrote for the Philadelphia Inquirer.

He titled it “Phils Fall Back in Arms Race.” It’s clever, probably unintentionally so. Does he mean that the Phillies are falling back, as in a relapse of sorts? Or does he mean that the Phillies are falling back, as in lagging behind the Mets? Probably the latter, but he spends the rest of the article implying the former.

McKee provides a summary of the Santana deal, then hammers out this doozy:

So here’s a friendly little road map that could guide the Phillies back to another of those scintillating stretch runs with their most hated (is it even close?) rivals.

First, send something to the Pittsburgh Pirates for Matt Morris, who has 121 career wins and too big a price tag for the team with the majors’ fourth-lowest payroll. (Since Morris is scheduled to make $9.5 million this season, the Bucs might be willing to accept Wes Helms, who makes about a third of that.)

Then ship Adam Eaton to Minnesota, which will be seeking an arm to fill out its rotation. The Twins could have some big problems without Santana: Francisco Liriano missed all of last season after elbow surgery and former Phillie Carlos Silva signed with Seattle as a free agent.

If you know who Scott Baker, Boof Bonser and Kevin Slowey are (the rest of Minnesota’s rotation), you get a stack of old Mike Lieberthal cards.

Morris has won at least 10 games in seven straight seasons and won 22 with St. Louis in 2001. He has had a losing record the last two seasons, but that may have had more to do with his teams (San Francisco and Pittsburgh) than him.

Is he Johan Santana? No. But neither is anybody else out there. And with every single arm in the Phillies’ projected rotation a question mark, Morris would be a welcome addition.

He suggests trading Wes Helms to the Pirates for Matt Morris. That sounds reasonable since we’re talking about Wes Helms, a mediocre player, and the Pittsburgh Pirates, whose front office has made a hobby out of collecting as many mediocre players as possible since 1992.

Morris is owed $9.5 million for the ’08 season and he has a $9 million club option with a $1 million buy-out clause for ’09. Helms is owed $2.5 million this season and he has a $3.75 million club option with a $750,000 buy-out clause for ’09. That’s a total of $6.25 million the Phillies would be required to take on this season. Not bad.

But if you look at the free agent market, once name sticks out: Kyle Lohse. Lohse doesn’t throw as many ground balls as Morris, but he’s a free agent, and that’s key. Instead of having to give up Helms to round out the rotation, the Phillies can sign Lohse, whose price tag drops with every passing day, and then flip Helms to some third base-desperate team who is willing to part with a relief pitcher. As anyone who watched the Phillies last season knows, you can’t have too many relief pitchers.

Lohse will probably take a three-year, $27 million deal, an average of $9 million per season. This also allows the Phillies the flexibility to add another arm to the bullpen by trading Helms.

Even more laughable is that the Phillies can just dump Adam Eaton on the Twins, as if their front office is collectively unconscious following the Santana trade (who knows, maybe he’s right). Dumping Eaton on the Twins would require eating a lot of his remaining salary, which is $7.635 million this season, $8.5 million in ’09, and a $9 million mutual option in ’10 with a $500,000 buy-out clause. The Phillies would have to fork over about half of Eaton’s ’08 salary, most likely.

So, here’s McKee’s plan in the big picture:

Phillies Get

Matt Morris ($9.5 million)

Some random Twins Minor Leaguer who will be serving fries in two years

Phillies Give Up

Wes Helms ($2.5 million)

Adam Eaton ($4 million of $7.635)

To find out how much money the Phillies would have to have, just add up Morris’ salary and the cash they’d send with Eaton, and subtract from it Helms’ salary. That’s $11 million they are paying essentially just for Matt Morris, a pitcher whose poor ’06-07 seasons McKee wrongfully labels as aberrations or due mostly to bad teams.

Take a look at the trends Morris has shown. In 2005, he was with the Cardinals, ’06 with the Giants, and split ’07 between the Giants and Pirates.

K/9

2005: 5.47

2006: 5.07 (-.40)

2007: 4.62 (-.45)

Career: 6.08

BB/9

2005: 1.73

2006: 2.73 (+1.0)

2007: 2.76 (+0.03)

Career: 2.53

WHIP

2005: 1.277

2006: 1.353 (+.076)

2007: 1.515 (+.162)

Career: 1.305

Fly Ball %

2005: 29.8%

2006: 33.4% (+3.6%)

2007: 31.5% (-1.9%)

Career: 31.7%

You can’t blame that on Morris’ teammates. He is striking out less hitters, walking them more, allowing more overall base runners, and is becoming slightly more fly ball-prone.

Also, isn’t it hilarious that McKee thinks it’s some trivial thing to know who Baker (MLB experience since ’05), Bonser (since ’06), and Slowey (’07 rookie) are? It’s not like all of America watched Baker attempt to hold down a perfect game in the 9th inning, or Bonser wasn’t included in one of the most lopsided trades in baseball history, or Slowey was the 17th-best overall prospect in 2005 according to Baseball America. You’d have to be the Schwab to know those guys.

So, the Mets got Santana. It probably makes them the pre-season favorites barring any other significant moves by the Phillies or Braves. It doesn’t mean the Phillies have to panic and just start randomly acquiring pitchers. Even if the Phillies don’t acquire Lohse and go into the season expecting Adam Eaton to start once every five days, it at least means the Phillies will have some funds available to make a mid-season trade if a player becomes available.

Phillies sign 3B Pedro Feliz

Reasons why you would ever consider signing free agent third baseman Pedro Feliz:

  • You are a bottom-feeding organization like the Tampa Bay Rays or Kansas City Royals.
  • You have never looked at baseball statistics before.
  • You like your hitters reaching base in less than 30% of their plate appearances.
  • You are a vengeful GM and the fans have wronged you.
  • Feliz blackmailed you.

Yet, the Phillies, who have three third basemen (Wes Helms, Greg Dobbs, and Eric Bruntlett) are close to signing Feliz to a two-year, $8.5 million deal:

An agreement is believed to be pending a physical, which could happen sometime this week, though the Phillies would only confirm that the sides are in discussions. The deal is reportedly for $8.5 million over two years with a team option for 2010 that could approach $15 million, according to an Associated Press report.

Feliz has played seven full seasons of Major League Baseball, and in none of them has he ever been close to the league average on-base percentage (usually between .330 and .345). In fact, he’s only been above .300 once in 2004 (.305).

Offensively, Feliz is a black hole. He ranked 31st on the San Francisco Giants in Value Over Replacement Player (VORP) at -2.7.

Defensively, Feliz does have value. The Fielding Bible awards named him the best-fielding third baseman in all of Major League Baseball, and he ranked first in the National League in Revised Zone Rating (RZR) and third in Out of Zone plays (OOZ).

Combining weight-loss prescription drugs like levitra and cialis, with a low-fat diet and normal exercise can help you drop more weight than can either drugs or routine changes alone. Combining all three; drugs i.e. Any viagra and phentermine, fewer calories and more exercise; can help you lose anywhere from five percent to ten percent of your total body fats within a 12 months.

So, we’ve established that Feliz is unattractive offensively and attractive defensively. Depending on how much money the Phillies threw at him, this signing could be one of those where you just shrug your shoulders. Who knows, maybe Feliz will improve on his offense. After all, he did play in the very pitcher-friendly AT&T Park, and players, under the tutelage of manager/offensive guru Charlie Manuel and hitting coach Milt Thompson, usually end up being more prone to taking walks and set career highs in OBP. For instance:

  • Aaron Rowand: Career-high 32 walks before ’07’s total of 47 walk; career-high .361 OBP before ’07’s .374.
  • Rod Barajas: Career-high .306 OBP before ’07’s .352. He was, however, helped by hitting mostly eighth in the line-up, in front of the pitcher.
  • Jayson Werth: Career-high .338 OBP before ’07’s .404.
  • David Bell: Career-high .331 OBP before ’04’s .363.
  • Jason Michaels: .364 and .399 ’04-05 OBP’s with the Phillies; .326 and .324 ’06-07 OBP’s with the Indians.

Don’t forget that the Phillies have also had four of the best on-base players in the game in Chase Utley (.410 OBP in ’07), Ryan Howard (.392), Pat Burrell (.400), and Bobby Abreu (.408 career OBP).

Feliz will likely fill in as the #7 hitter, ahead of the catcher (Carlos Ruiz or Chris Coste) and the pitcher, so the impact of his lack of offense will be dulled a bit. Either way, it’s a questionable signing at best and rather unnecessary.

Fuck Jesus, Raymond Burke, and Bill Donohue

To the four or five loyal readers I have, you know I’m a happy guy when political issues spill over into sports. Imagine my glee when I’m perusing the fabulous blog With Leather and come across these babies:

Majerus Has Opinion, Catholics Freak Out

ESPN’s Dana Jacobsen Is In Trouble

Majerus’ offense:

St. Louis Archbishop Raymond Burke said this morning that… Majerus should be disciplined over his public comments supporting abortion rights and stem cell research [...]

Jacobsen’s offense:

A Catholic advocacy group charges the sports TV network ESPN has failed to respond properly to a graphic rant by anchorwoman Dana Jacobson in which she “attacked Jesus Christ.”

Jacobson, reportedly intoxicated, was speaking at a celebrity roast in Atlantic City, N.J., when she unleashed a profane tirade, saying, “F— Notre Dame,” “F— Touchdown Jesus” and finally “F— Jesus.”

It’s not surprising that in both instances, it’s Catholics doing the whining. Even funnier is that the redress required by both Raymond Burke and Bill Donohue is a formal apology, because we all know that when you sin, you can confess and pray to Jesus and it all goes away.

Are you a homosexual pedophile? Jesus can fix that.

Like getting fellatio in airport bathrooms? Pray and your sins will wash away.

A fan of using power to force teenage boys into sexual acts? He is a forgiving God.

All jokes aside, I’d like to point out some of the idiocy on display from the Catholics that I’ve pulled from the articles. First, the Majerus scandal:

Let’s start off with a hanging slider:

St. Louis Archbishop Raymond Burke said this morning that St. Louis University basketball coach Rick Majerus should be disciplined over his public comments supporting abortion rights and stem cell research.

Majerus should be punished for having an opinion — a differing opinion?

Later on in the article:

“It’s not possible to be a Catholic and hold those positions,” Burke said. “When you take a position in a Catholic university, you don’t have to embrace everything the Catholic church teaches. But you can’t make statements which call into question the identity and mission of the Catholic church.”

This is just downright hilarious. “Think whatever you want, but don’t express your contrarian opinion.”

Yeah, I get it — SLU is a private, Catholic school and they don’t want their employees expressing statements that go against what they believe in. But to me, that just shows weakness. If you’re not willing to have your beliefs scrutinized and questioned, how strong are they in the first place? If the Catholic ideals are so right, shouldn’t they stand being tested?

Look throughout history and the ideals that have been most forcefully and authoritatively stated and defended are the ones that have been the most incorrect. Archbishop Burke just wants everyone in his little bubble to think just like him so he never has to critically think about the views he espouses.

If you read further down in the article, a Missouri Supreme Court case is cited with a conflict regarding the use of tax money for SLU’s new stadium.

The debate came down to two words: “control” and “creed.” Does the guiding mission of a Catholic university align with the specific system of religious faith espoused by the Catholic church? And if so, does that system of faith control the actions of the university?

Do a Google search (I did a Yahoo! search) for St. Louis University. This is what comes up:

It says that exact same thing in the “About Us” page on their website. They are a self-identified religious college. The Establishment Clause of the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution says that the government cannot support anything religious, or non-religious for that matter (for clarification, that means something like an atheist group wanting to use taxpayer money for some event, similar to SLU wanting to use taxes for their stadium).

I just find it hilarious how mind-numblingly hypocritical and close-minded people can be.

Anyway, onto the Jacobsen rant. This is even more mind-numbing because Jacobsen works for ESPN, which is not a pro-Catholic organization, and is not affiliated with any religion in any way.

A Catholic advocacy group charges the sports TV network ESPN has failed to respond properly to a graphic rant by anchorwoman Dana Jacobson in which she “attacked Jesus Christ.”

Why should ESPN or Jacobsen have to respond at all for attacking Jesus? Not everyone worships the same God you do, Mr. Catholic Advocacy Group. Deal with it.

Catholic League president Bill Donohue said he pressed ESPN on the issue and received an e-mail with an unsatisfactory statement by Jacobson.

The statement said, in part, “My remarks about Notre Dame were foolish and insensitive. I respect all religions and did not mean anything derogatory by my poorly chosen words.”

Donohue contended the response “fails on several counts.”

Even when you make a superfluous apology to people who have no jurisdiction on your behavior, it’s still not enough for these close-minded Jesus freaks.

Frankly, I think Ms. Jacobsen chose her words well. While I don’t follow college football closely at all, especially not enough to have a distaste of Notre Dame, I do share her sentiment in regards to Mr. Christ. The figure of a religion responsible for millions of deaths, the backing of slavery, misogyny, and the mistreatment of animals (I can cite Bible verses if you’d like), and the intolerance of homosexuals, polygamists, atheists, believers of other Gods, disobedient teenagers, people who work on the Sabbath… is not someone to whom I am wont to kneel.

Anyway, how did Jacobsen’s statement “fail on several counts”?

“First, there is no evidence that ESPN is taking this matter seriously,” he said. “Are we to believe that her hate speech is of no consequence?”

Extreme lulz at Donohue citing Jacobsen’s drunken rant as “hate speech” being that he belongs to a religion that has done nothing but hate anyone who isn’t a white male Christian. Go through Donohue’s Wikipedia entry and look at all of the innocuous things he’s whined about. He’s an ideological tattletale.

Donohue argued Jacobson’s comments were at a public event where she represented ESPN.

Yes, and if ESPN wants, it can reprimand Jacobsen. No one — not Donohue, the Super League of Catholics, or anyone else — has jurisdiction on the matter.

Secondly, he pointed out, racist remarks by the late sports commentator Jimmy “The Greek” Snyder during a luncheon interview in 1988 resulted in his prompt firing by CBS, despite an apology.

Donohue added, “It is also important to note that being drunk didn’t help Mel Gibson’s case when he made bigoted remarks about Jews.”

Yes, because “fuck Jesus” — an attack on the “icon” of a religion — is on par with “Fucking Jews…Jews are responsible for all the wars in the world” — an attack on all of the adherents of a religion.

Finally, the Catholic leader said, “By far the most offensive thing she said, ‘F— Jesus,’ isn’t even addressed!”

Does it need to be addressed? No.

“It is obvious, then, that neither Jacobson nor ESPN is dealing with this matter in a professional way,” Donohue declared.

The only one being unprofessional is one Mr. William Donohue.

“To put this issue behind them, ESPN must deal with this issue quickly, publicly and fairly, something it has yet to do. After all, most Christians are yet unaware of this event, but once they learn of it, they are sure to demand accountability.”

Accountability… for… having… a differing opinion, and emphasizing it via the F-word?

Fuck Jesus, and fuck Bill Donohue.

The Ryan Howard Situation

The Phillies’ front office has stated that they are done making major deals until spring training starts, though that doesn’t exclude a signing of someone like Kyle Lohse or Kris Benson. The only thing left to complete then is signing Ryan Howard to some kind of a deal, as Howard is arbitration-eligible for the first time in his brief career.

The Phillies and their Ruthian first baseman exchanged figures recently and were $3 million away from each other: the Phils offered him $7 million; Howard wanted $10 million. Should this be settled by an arbitrator, there’s little doubt the Phillies would win, as $10 million for a first-time arbitration-eligible player is unprecedented (as a comparison, Miguel Cabrera got $7.4 million in his first year of arbitration eligibility).

Before last season, however, Howard and the Phillies were at odds. The author of the Phillies’ franchise single-season home run record wanted a long-term deal. Instead, the Phillies gave him a one-year deal worth $900,000. Howard was disappointed, though it tied the record, held along with Albert Pujols, for the highest base salary for a non-arbitration-eligible player. When the deal was completed, Howard said:

It’s a little frustrating and a little disappointing that we didn’t get it done, but that’s the business aspect. Now you use it as a starting point. It’s over. Now you go out and play.

Should the Phillies give him a long-term deal now? They have control of him until after the 2011 season and can go year-to-year with him in arbitration until then. Let’s look at some possibilities.

The Phillies sign Howard to a large long-term deal worth $90 million over the next six seasons.

The Phillies now have control of Howard until after his age 33 season in 2013, when he would undoubtedly be in decline. For those six years, the Phillies wouldn’t have to worry about drafting a first baseman and would have an almost-definite above-average offense, since they also have Chase Utley locked up until after the ’13 season.

Adrian Cardenas, one of the Phillies’ top prospects, then becomes valuable to the Phillies in two ways: they can try him out as a potential third baseman (or perhaps an outfielder), or they can continue grooming him as a second baseman and use him as trade bait, since he’s road-blocked by Utley at his natural position.

By the time Howard’s contract is nearing its end, his annual salary will likely look like a bargain, given inflation. This benefits the Phillies two-fold: the relative cheapness gives them probable cap space to add players and it increases Howard’s trade value.

As for ’08, the Phillies will have little cap room to make another signing (i.e. Lohse) or an in-season move unless it involved shedding salary (perhaps that of Pat Burrell?).

The Phillies sign Howard to a back-loaded four-year, $65 million deal.

With this contract, Howard averages over $16 million per season, so he’s definitely being fairly compensated when you compare it to what he’d make in arbitration. Backloading the contract allows the Phillies flexibility in the immediate future, so they can still sign a player like Kyle Lohse to round out the starting rotation while still ensuring themselves that the mainstay in their offense is happy about his tenure in Philadelphia and doesn’t demand to be traded.

When Howard is reaching the end of this four-year deal and is destined for free agency, the Phillies may want to consider trading Howard and moving Chase Utley over to first base. This is feasible only if Adrian Cardenas makes significant progress in the Minor Leagues, another impact second baseman is drafted and climbs the ranks quickly, or the Phillies sign another good second baseman.

Howard’s deal will run out two years before Utley’s, so that means that unlike the hypothetical six-year deal, the Phillies won’t be left with having to deal with the simultaneous contracts of their two best players. The Phillies can deal Howard without fearing that their offense will collapse and won’t have enough talent to contend.

The Phillies go year-to-year with Ryan Howard until after the 2011 season.

This is a dangerous way to go, as it will all but guarantee that Howard will not be wearing a Phillies uniform in 2012. However, the Phillies would end up getting a bargain and paying market value for a top-tier first baseman, allowing them the financial flexibility to round out the roster and give them the best chance to make a run at the World Series. The Phillies are, if nothing else, a team built for the immediate future.

Towards 2011, the Phillies could shop Howard around similar to how the Twins are shopping Johan Santana. Teams would likely overpay for a top-five offensive juggernaut (assuming Howard averages a 130 or so OPS+) both in terms of players given up and the amount of Howard’s remaining contract taken. Then the Phillies could move Utley to first or shop for another first baseman in the off-season.

So, what should the Phillies do? The Good Phight analyzed how players most similar to Howard performed in their same-age seasons and concluded:

On balance, I think this data suggests that Howard is a solid bet to deliver very good to excellent production over at least the next 4-5 seasons.

“Very good” and “excellent” are ambiguous, perhaps intentionally so. Either way, I’ll take “very good to excellent production” with a backloaded four-year, $65-ish million deal for Howard. After ’11, either deal him or if he’s still productive as his career wanes in his mid-30’s, maybe he’ll want to sign another lighter contract for the Phillies.

On Flags and Speech

I finally got around to catching the re-run of Friday’s Real Time with Bill Maher. An excellent quartet — comedian D.L. Hughley, Wall Street Journal columnist John Fund, country music star Trace Adkins, and pundit Dan Savage — joined Maher for a round-table discussion of politics. One of the subjects that piqued my interest in particular was of the Confederate flag being flown in South Carolina and Presidential candidate Mike Huckabee’s cloaked support for it. Not surprisingly, the three liberals at the table were against it, and Adkins, the conservative, seemed indifferent about it.

I loved a couple of the points that were made in the discussion: that the American flag itself stands for blotches in this nation’s history, and that white Christian males always have and always will try to keep the balance of power tipped in the favor of white Christian males.

Anyone who has been following current events lately knows what little the American flag stands for, if anything, these days. Get a calendar from each year 2000-2008, and point to a random date, and you can probably find this country doing something wrong. In 10 years or so, we will look at our operation in Iraq as angrily as we, or at least I, look at the C.I.A.-backed, Milton Friedman and Chicago School of Economics-led military junta of Augusto Pinochet in Chile. I needn’t cite the USA PATRIOT Act or the Military Commissions Act of 2006 (which, in effect, made Habeas Corpus moot), or Guantanamo Bay, or Walter Reed, or waterboarding (which the U.S. condemned the Japanese for using in WWII), or Halliburton, or the lawless private military company Blackwater, or… you get the point. The American flag, if it supposedly stood for something like freedom, no longer stands for anything good.

And the second point also doesn’t need clarification. There’s a reason why atheists are the least-trusted minority in the U.S. and why we’ve never had a non-white, non-male, non-Christian President. Power has yet to change hands in this country’s history and as long as we keep producing white male Christian politicians, it will stay this way. And no, this is not a thumbs-up to Hilary Clinton or Barack Obama in subterfuge. Look at all of the names we’ve had run for President just in recent history. 95% of them are white Christian males. It’s amazing that we have not only a woman, not only an African-American, but a Mormon running for President, too. Too bad all of them are beholden to lobbyists of big business.

But my main point is the concern Americans seem to have about symbols. George Carlin did an hilarious bit on this during one of his HBO stand-up specials, saying that he leaves symbols to the “symbol-minded.” We know that the Confederacy fought for the right to oppress African-Americans in the Civil War and that the Confederate flag represents that oppression, but seriously, what harm will a flag do and if there is any harm, how does it warrant infringing on others’ right to free speech?

If it was a Christian symbol on a government building, I could see the offense because that is explicitly outlawed by the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment. But this is a flag being flown in a state that was part of the Confederacy. If that’s what they want to do, so be it. Ask them to take it down politely and if they decline, move on.

And on the topic of “states’ rights,” a favorite phrase of libertarians: what’s the point? Let’s take the issue of gay marriage, for instance. It’ll obviously become legal in the liberal states and banned in the conservative states. So, homosexuals who want to get married in, say, Texas, will be forced to move to other states if they want to be legally bound to their partner. In other words, they’ll be forced to give up their residence, their job, friends and neighbors, and perhaps family, all because they happen to live in a part of the country that is highly close-minded towards anyone who isn’t heterosexual.

Is that freedom — banishing someone to another part of the country for having a quality that isn’t viewed favorably by most people?

This idea of states’ rights will also end up dividing the country exponentially deeper than it currently is now between conservatives and liberals. Just have a country-wide policy on these issues. That’s why it’s called the United States of America, right? It’s not the “Some States do one thing and other states do another” America.

And, finally, libertarianism lends credence to ideas that may not deserve such credence. The idea that homosexuals shouldn’t be allowed to get married does not deserve one ounce of respect from anyone, yet libertarians would like to give these people power potential. If you don’t like gay people, fine, that’s your prerogative. You have no right to tell them that they cannot be legally bound to their partners as heterosexuals are, and it doesn’t matter if 99 out of 100 people feel this way.

Here’s the clip of Maher’s show. Hopefully something exciting happens in the world of baseball so I can put up a decent sports-related post.

New Layout

This is the layout I’ve been planning to use. I’ve still got a few kinks to work out, so just ignore them for now.

If you have any feedback, I’d love to hear it.

Thanks.

A Real Blend of Sports and Politics

As if we haven’t been submerged in 2008 election news and rumors, the entertainment gods have cast a storm upon us: FOX News is going to be mixed into FOX Sports’ Super Bowl coverage.

Given Keith Olbermann’s sky-high ratings following his injection into NBC’s NFL half-time show, it’s easy to see why FOX would want to try their hand at mixing football and politics. It’s too bad that FOX News is easily the least credible of all of the news channels, ever. Thumb through Crooks and Liarsposts under the FOX News category if you’re skeptical.

As a liberal, I think Olbermann is one of the greatest things to happen to the television world since the original American Gladiators. However, mixing Olbermann’s political observations into half-time of a football game just doesn’t sit well with me. Sports and politics merge in many ways: the playing of the national anthem before games, Congress’ mingling in baseball’s drug issues, et cetera, but both are deemed necessary. Olbermann’s show and FOX News during the Super Bowl are superfluous.

I want to know why Tom Brady will pick apart the Green Bay Packer defense during the Super Bowl, not why Barack Obama will pick apart Hilary Clinton’s voting records. And given that it will be FOX News doing the reporting and opining, I imagine we’ll be hearing about why Mike Huckabee’s plan to Christianize the U.S. Constitution is flawless, or why John McCain’s idea to stay in Iraq for 100 years is guaranteed to both turn Iraq into a worldwide beacon of democracy and strengthen our national defense. In other words, we’ll be inundated with patently false statements backed up with skewed and made-up facts, like the cries of a liberal media bias.

And for the record, it’s not that FOX News is blatantly right-wing that makes me detest it so; it’s that they unabashedly ignore reality and make up their own facts and figures on the fly so it suits their agenda. And I’d be just as irritated if they had decided to throw in a bunch of liberals to report and opine during the Super Bowl coverage because it has no reason being there in the first place.

It’s bad enough most of us subject ourselves to the irritating Super Bowl commercials, only 5% of which are entertaining (well, maybe this will make it more entertaining this year). Now we’re going to sit through war cheer-leading and Republican back-patting.

Did I mention that the election is still 10 months away?

In Other News

You can tell it’s the baseball off-season when I go two weeks without one inspiration to write about something. Counting down the days ’til pitchers and catchers report…

Once I get Photoshop CS3 working on my computer again (or once I can get a few graphics done by someone else for free), I’ll have a new design for Crashburn Alley up. I haven’t really liked either of the designs I’ve used thus far but I think the one I am waiting to use is pretty snazzy.

Links

The Doug Glanville Perspective. [Balls, Sticks, & Stuff]

Amen… this is the longest off-season ever. [Bugs & Cranks]

Grading the top-ten starting rotations in baseball. [I'm Writing Sports]

Why do some Phillies fans hate Pat Burrell, again? [I've Made a Huge Tiny Mistake]

It’s NFL Championship weekend. [Josh Q. Public]

Sportsmanship, where art thou? [Moondog Sports]

A Thought on the Rolen/Glaus Trade. [The Good Phight]

John Brattain hands out The Pujols Awards. [The Hardball Times]

No surprise that the BBWAA got it wrong again, this time with Tim Raines. [The Progenitor of Severe Gluteal Discomfort]

Bud Selig may be bad, but he’s making the owners a lot of money. [Ump Bump]

Hey, Scotty, big girls don’t cry. [We Should Be GM's]

STFU, Carlos Delgado

New York Mets first baseman Carlos Delgado must be getting antsy during the off-season, because he’s opening his mouth seemingly just to hear himself talk.

Via Yahoo:

“It was very disappointing because we know that we had the best team. And I believe that we still have a great team,” the first baseman said Thursday on a conference call.

Granted, the difference between the Phillies and Mets in the standings was one game, and it took an historic collapse from the Mets to push the Phillies into the playoffs, but the Phillies did have the best team, and I’ll prove that in several different ways.

First, the rough team-vs.-team comparisons.

Offense

Phillies: 5.51 runs per game

Mets: 4.96 runs per game (-.55)

Pitching

Mets: 4.63 runs per game

Phillies: 5.07 runs per game (-.44)

The teams are close when you add it up, with the Phillies having a .11 overall advantage in runs per game. Even the Pythagorean records have the Phillies one game better than the Mets, though each team is two games worse.

Now, let’s look at it position-by-position.

Catcher

Phillies

Carlos Ruiz: 429 PA, .736 OPS

Rod Barajas: 147 PA, .745 OPS

Chris Coste: 137 PA, .730 OPS

Mets

Paul Lo Duca: 488 PA, .689 OPS

Ramon Castro: 157 PA, .887 OPS

Mike DiFelice: 47 PA, .661 OPS

Sandy Alomar, Jr.: 22 PA, .318 OPS

The edge here goes to the Phillies. The production from their catchers was pretty much steady, while the Mets gave 68% of their catcher plate appearances to someone who just produced a .689 OPS. Castro was very productive but only got 22% of the catcher plate appearances.

First Base

Before the statistics are even laid out, you know who is going to win this one. Phillies in a landslide.

Phillies

Ryan Howard: 648 PA, .976 OPS

Mets

Carlos Delgado: 607 AB, .781 OPS

Second Base

Another Phillies landslide.

Phillies

Chase Utley: 613 PA, .976 OPS

Tadahito Iguchi: 156 PA, .803 OPS

Mets

Luis Castillo: 231 PA, .742 OPS

Damion Easley: 218 PA, .824 OPS

Ruben Gotay: 211 PA, .772 OPS

Jose Valentin: 183 PA, .676 OPS

Third Base

Finally, a victory for the Mets. You also don’t need statistics to decipher this one, but we’ll do it anyway.

Phillies

Greg Dobbs: 358 PA, .780 OPS

Wes Helms: 308 PA, .665 OPS

Abraham Nunez: 287 PA, .600 OPS

Mets

David Wright: 711 PA, .963 OPS

Shortstop

Phillies

Jimmy Rollins: 778 PA, .875 OPS

Mets

Jose Reyes: 765 PA, .775 OPS

Advantage Phillies.

Left Field

Phillies

Pat Burrell: 598 PA, .902 OPS

Michael Bourn: 133 PA, .727 OPS

Mets

Moises Alou: 360 PA, .916 OPS

Endy Chavez: 165 PA, .705 OPS

Carlos Gomez: 139 PA, .592 OPS

Marlon Anderson: 77 PA, .906 OPS

Edge goes to the Phillies here, since 82% of their left field at-bats went towards a .902 OPS, while the Mets only had 48.5% of their at-bats go towards Alou’s .916 OPS and 10% towards Anderson’s .906 OPS. The Mets also had a bunch of other nobodies but they logged less than 100 defensive innings, so I didn’t include them, actually benefiting the Mets. Those “nobodies” include Ricky Ledee, David Newhan, Ben Johnson, and Jeff Conine.

Center Field

Phillies

Aaron Rowand: 684 PA, .889 OPS

Mets

Carlos Beltran: 636 PA, .878 OPS

Very slight advantage to the Phillies here, since they had more plate appearances at a higher OPS from their center fielder.

Right Field

Phillies

Shane Victorino: 510 PA, .770 OPS

Jayson Werth: 304 PA, .863 OPS

Mets

Shawn Green: 491 PA, .782 OPS

Lastings Milledge: 206 PA, .787 OPS

This is another close one, but the Phillies get the edge here since 37% of their right field plate appearances went to solid .863 OPS production, while the Mets gave 697 place appearances to approximately .784 production between Green and Milledge. Victorino produced slightly below this but only took up 63% of the Phillies’ right field at-bats.

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Draw the tallies up and the Mets only have one starting position player advantage offensively, and that’s David Wright at third base.

If we included defense, it would slightly hurt the Phillies in left and center field. The Mets then might have gotten the nod in center field.

Starting Pitching

Phillies

The Phillies had four pitchers — Fabio Castro, John Ennis, Zack Segovia, and J.A. Happ — make one start apiece, and Brett Myers made three starts at the beginning of the season before he was converted to a relief pitcher.

The pitchers I will be looking at on the Phillies have made at least 10 starts. Likewise when I analyze the Mets’ starting pitching.

I’ll be using ERA+, so there is no room for discrepancy in regards to park effects (Shea Stadium is pro-pitching; Citizens Bank Park is pro-hitting).

Jamie Moyer: 199.1 IP, 92 ERA+

Cole Hamels: 183.1 IP, 136 ERA+

Adam Eaton: 167.2 IP, 73 ERA+

Kyle Kendrick: 121.0 IP, 119 ERA+

Jon Lieber*: 78.0 IP, 98 ERA+

J.D. Durbin*: 64.2 IP, 90 ERA+

Kyle Lohse*: 61.0 IP, 98 ERA+

Freddy Garcia: 58.0 IP, 78 ERA+

Mets

Tom Glavine: 200.1 IP, 96 ERA+

John Maine: 191.0 IP, 109 ERA+

Oliver Perez: 177.0 IP, 120 ERA+

Orlando Hernandez*: 147.2 IP, 115 ERA+

Jorge Sosa*: 112.2 IP, 95 ERA+

Mike Pelfrey*: 72.2 IP, 76 ERA+

*Pitched both as a starter and as a reliever. Statistics not adjusted for this.

Definitely a Mets advantage here.

Bullpen

The criteria here is at least 30 innings pitched out of the bullpen.

Phillies

Geoff Geary: 67.1 IP, 105 ERA+

Brett Myers*: 53.1 IP, 2.87 ERA (ERA+ not available)

Ryan Madson: 56.0 IP, 151 ERA+

Clay Condrey: 50.0 IP, 92 ERA+

Antonio Alfonseca: 49.2 IP, 85 ERA+

Tom Gordon: 40.0 IP, 98 ERA+

Jose Mesa: 39.0 IP, 83 ERA+

J.C. Romero: 36.1 IP, 373 ERA+

Mets

Aaron Heilman: 86.0 IP, 140 ERA+

Billy Wagner: 68.1 IP, 162 ERA+

Pedro Feliciano: 64.0 IP, 138 ERA+

Guillermo Mota: 59.1 IP, 74 ERA+

Scott Schoenweis: 59.0 IP, 85 ERA+

Aaron Sele: 53.2 IP, 79 ERA+

Joe Smith: 44.1 IP, 123 ERA+

Even though Myers’ ERA+ as a reliever isn’t available, I think it’s safe to say that he was pretty close to Billy Wagner’s level as a closer. The Phillies’ equivalent to Pedro Feliciano is J.C. Romero, but he logged 28 less innings, which is significant. Same deal with the Phillies’ equivalent to Aaron Heilman being Ryan Madson — he pitched 30 less innings. Otherwise, the Mets’ bullpen was nearly equally as bad as the Phillies.

However, the 58 innings that Feliciano and Heilman logged with well-above-average production gives the Mets the slight advantage.

Bench

I’m only counting players who got at least 100 plate appearances.

Phillies

Greg Dobbs: 358 PA, .780 OPS

Wes Helms: 308 PA, .665 OPS

Jayson Werth: 304 PA, .863 OPS

Tadahito Iguchi: 156 PA, .803 OPS

Rod Barajas: 147 PA, .745 OPS

Chris Coste: 137 PA, .730 OPS

Mets

Damion Easley: 218 PA, .824 OPS

Ruben Gotay: 211 PA, .772 OPS

Lastings Milledge: 206 PA, .787 OPS

Jose Valentin: 183 PA, .676 OPS

Endy Chavez: 165 PA, .705 OPS

Ramon Castro: 157 PA, .887 OPS

Carlos Gomez: 139 PA, .592 OPS

Pretty close, but the slight edge goes to the Phillies.

If you tally it up, the Phillies win 7 out of the 8 positions for offensive starting position players, and with the bench. The Mets have the better starting and bullpen pitching.

And as we showed in the beginning, the Phillies offense and pitching compared to that of the Mets’ leaves them with a .11 runs per game advantage.

The statistics show that the Phillies were the slightly better team.

As for the current situation on who’s better, let’s take a look at who both teams have gained and lost. OPS+ and ERA+ refer to the player’s career average. A player’s name has been bolded if he was traded.

Philadelphia Phillies

Lost

Aaron Rowand (106 OPS+); Abraham Nunez (62 OPS+); Tadahito Iguchi (98 OPS+); Rod Barajas (75 OPS+); Michael Bourn (79 OPS+); Kyle Lohse (95 ERA+); Jon Lieber (103 ERA+); Freddy Garcia (111 ERA+); Antonio Alfonseca (104 ERA+); Geoff Geary (116 ERA+).

5 average or above-average players lost. Consider that Lieber and Garcia both had mediocre, injury-laden stints with the Phillies.

One can also make the case that the Phillies gained a pretty good starting pitcher by moving Brett Myers (118 and 120 ERA+ in 2005 and ’06 as a starter) back to the starting rotation from the bullpen.

Gained

Chad Durbin (82 ERA+); Brad Lidge (132 ERA+); Shane Youman (85 ERA+); Eric Bruntlett (78 OPS+); Geoff Jenkins (116 OPS+); Chris Snelling (97 OPS+); So Taguchi (89 OPS+).

2 average or above-average players gained.

New York Mets

Lost

Paul Lo Duca (99 OPS+); Shawn Green (120 OPS+); Lastings Milledge (92 OPS+); Jose Valentin (96 OPS+); Tom Glavine (119 ERA+); Guillermo Mota (107 ERA+); Aaron Sele (100 ERA+).

4 average or above-average players lost. Consider that Mota and Green did not live up to their abilities with the Mets.

Gained

Matt Wise (108 ERA+); Brian Schneider (82 OPS+); Ryan Church (113 OPS+); Angel Pagan (81 OPS+).

2 average or above-average players gained.

The Phillies have improved their team well by flushing out a lot of sub-par players like Abraham Nunez, Michael Bourn, and Rod Barajas. The Mets lost a lot of players either close to, at, or above league-average, and replaced them with two above-average players and two-below average players.

So, Delgado is wrong in saying that the Mets were the best team last season, even though they were close. And the Mets definitely aren’t as good as the Phillies going into 2008.

Well, Why Not?

It’s the baseball offseason, and that means for me, a lack of interesting topics on which to opine.

Nick Swisher got traded to the Chicago White Sox yesterday. In return, the Oakland Athletics got a few good prospects (Ryan Sweeney, Gio Gonzalez, and Fautino De Los Santos) that should help speed along their rebuilding process. And the A’s have a few Swisher-types already (Dan Johnson, Travis Buck, Daric Barton), so he was expendable, albeit relatively cheap in his prime years.

In Phillies news, Chris Roberson was traded to the Baltimore Orioles for a scratch-off lottery ticket. Thanks for the .515 OPS in 69 Major League at-bats, I guess.

I’ve got a couple ideas floating in my head for an article on Babe Ruth, but I want to research it well, so it might be a bit until that hits the Internets.
I’ve also signed up to assist Nick Underhill of I’m Writing Sports with a new project he’s working on. To what extent I’ll be needed, I don’t know, but he’s a solid guy and I’m glad to help (though I hope it’s not helping him in the sense that he’ll look better hanging with uglier people).

So, that’s the agenda here, and I wanted to write something to push that holiday top-ten list off the top.

As a reward for reading this mindless drivel, you may watch this milk commercial starring basketball phenom Yi Jianlian.