That’s Poker!

I just finished up a poker tournament on PokerStars lasting nearly 4 hours (starting at 10 PM EST). It was a measly 25-cent buy-in that saw 3,565 players sign up, and I played well and got lucky enough to place in the top 45, earning $1.59. Seems measly, but it’ll pay for 6 more of these tournaments.

I was completely card dead towards the end, not that that was much different than the rest of the tournament. My total statistics…

During current Hold’em session you were dealt 214 hands and saw flop:
– 13 out of 25 times while in big blind (52%)
– 5 out of 25 times while in small blind (20%)
– 14 out of 164 times in other positions (8%)
– a total of 32 out of 214 (14%)
Pots won at showdown – 7 of 10 (70%)
Pots won without showdown – 12

You can definitely say that I played tight, and there were a few spots where I would have cashed in big time had I been more aggressive, but I erred on the side of caution and it seems to have paid off. The killer was when I got pocket kings late in the tournament and got a walk (everyone else folded before I had a chance to make a play, as I was the big blind).

I got A-10 in first position with just over $20,000 in chips with $2,500/$5,000 blinds, so I decided to push all my chips in and hope for the best. Pocket red eights and K-10 of clubs both called me. I flopped an ace, but K-10 flopped his flush draw and made it on the river, knocking me out.

I was definitely card-dead, but I did get pocket aces early in the tournament and nearly tripled up.

From that pocket kings hand (when I got a walk) on, here were my hands (s = spades; h = hearts; c = clubs; d = diamonds):

Kh 7c (1,500 small blind, folded to a +3,000 raise)
Jc 3d
4s 2h
3c 3s (folded pre-flop)
Kd 9c
Ks 6s
7h 6h
8h 6d (4,000 big blind, folded to +8,000 raise)
10s 2d (2,000 small blind, folded and the big blind got a walk)
5s 3c
8h 2d
Qs 3s
Js 9h
Kh 3h
10c 5d
Qs 4s (4,000 big blind, folded to +19,000 raise)
Qd 7h (2,000 small blind, called the other 2,000 and folded to a +36,000 raise)
Ks 2d
Jc 4s
Ah 7d (could’ve made my move here and it would’ve worked out with a board that read: [5c 7c 5d Jd 7h], but I didn’t since someone raised an extra 4,000)
Qc Jc (also could have made a move here, but I opted to limp in and hit nothing on the flop, so it was a good thing I didn’t)
Ad 3c
5d 5s (I pushed all-in and no one called)
10s 3d (5,000 big blind, folded to a +10,000 raise)
10s 4s (2,500 small blind, folded to a +15,000 raise)
Jh 7d
Kc 8s
9h 7h
Kh 2s
Jc 9s
Ad 10h (my execution)

Throughout the late stages of the game, it felt I was getting raised in my blinds a lot, so I decided to check that out. From the above, we see that 6 of my 7 blinds featured a raise, with the other one being a fold to the big blind with 10s 2d.

But before that (going from most recent backwards)…

Ac 10h (1,500 small blind, folded to a +6,000 and +2,600 (short-stacker) raises)
Qs 10c (3,000 big blind, got to go all the way to the river with straight checks and folded to a $3,000 river bet)
10s 2c (1,000 small blind, folded to +4,000 raise)
Ks 5d (2,000 big blind, got to go to the turn and folded to a $6,000 turn bet)
10h 3c (800 small blind, folded to +2,700 raise)
Jc 3h (1,600 big blind, everyone else folded and I got a walk)
Ad 9d (800 small blind, got to see the flop and folded to a $1,600 flop bet)
5s 2s (1,600 big blind, everyone else folded and I got a walk)
9d 7h (600 small blind, folded to +2,400 raise)
10d 3c (1,200 big blind, folded to +9,700 raise)
Jd 2c (500 small blind, folded to +1,000 raise)
8c 5h (1,000 big blind, checked to the flop, flopped top pair of eights, bet $3,000, called a +211 raise, and won against Ad 3c with a board that read: [3d 7s 8h 5s] [5c])
4c 4s (500 small blind, folded to +5,700 raise)
Kd 7s (1,000 big blind, got to see the flop and folded to a $3,400 post-flop bet)
Js 2d (400 small blind, folded to +6,100 raise)
Kd 5d (800 big blind, folded to +8,900 raise)
Js 7d (400 small blind, folded to give the big blind a walk)
10s 3h (800 big blind, folded to +800 and +1600 raises)
As 8h (300 small blind, got to see the flop and folded to a $600 post-flop bet)
7d 2d (600 big blind, got to see the flop and folded to a $600 post-flop bet)
As 6c (300 small blind, got to see the flop and folded to a $600 post-flop bet)
Kd Qs (600 big blind, got to see the river and won a $3,400 pot on a board that read: [Tc Jd Kc 8d 2c])
8s 3h (200 small blind, folded pre-flop)
Kc 8c (400 big blind, got to see the flop, checked the flop, raised by $900 a $300 bet on the turn, raised $4,150 all in and won a $13,475 pot with a board that read: [2c Jc Ts 4c] [Tc])

That’s a good portion of the meaningful blinds. The results:

  • Folded 10 of 24 blinds to pre-flop raises (42%)
  • Saw the flop in 10 of 24 hands (42%)
  • Saw the turn in 5 of 24 hands (21%)
  • Saw the river in 4 of 24 hands (17%)
  • Won 5 of 24 hands (21%)
  • Was given a walk in 2 of 24 hands (8%)
  • The big blind (other than myself) got a walk in 1 of 24 hands (4%)

Of the hands I listed above, only my pocket 4’s and KQ (2 hands — 8%) would have been considered good hands, with A10, A9, A8, A6, and possibly Q10 (5 hands — 21%) being considered marginal hands.

So, I was, I think more unlucky than usual in my blinds, both with the hands I was given and with the pre-flop raising.

Nonetheless, I’m happy with my finish. It’s almost 2:30 AM now and I have to get up at 7:30 AM.

Tracy, Tracy, Tracy…

I E-Mailed this to the good folks at Fire Joe Morgan, since they are experts at dissecting articles, but this article by Tracy Ringolsby of FOX Sports was eating away at my insides, so I had to rebut it.

I’ll approach this like FJM does: the author’s words in boldface, my words under it in regular font.

Then the simplistic work of “Moneyball” was published, taking a shallow view of the complex approach Billy Beane had taken to having success on a moderate budget in Oakland[…]

Moneyball, written by Michael Lewis, was about finding value in an area in which the current market deems worth less (note: not worthless) than other aspects. At the time the Oakland Athletics were reeling off NL West pennants, on-base percentage (OBP) was rather undervalued, so they picked up guys like Jason Giambi (OBP of .476 and .477 in 2000 and ’01, respectively; career .411 OBP), Scott Hatteberg (.374 OBP in ’02; career .363 OBP), and Erubiel Durazo (.374 and .396 OBP in ’03 and ’04, respectively; career .381 OBP).

[…]suddenly front offices were being filled with guys wearing pocket protectors.

I must have missed the memo where it said that anyone who values statistics over random, unverified assumptions (like grit and determination winning championships) is a pocket protector-wearing nerd. I also must have missed the memo where all anti-statistics journalists impersonate elementary school bullies, taking the lunch money from us nerds, too busy punching away at our calculators to actually watch the games.

Pocket protectors were last prominent in the 1970’s and ’80’s, so I cordially invite Tracy to join us here in the 21st century, where math and science have greatly advanced the human species.

I’m surprised Tracy didn’t throw in a slide rule reference. C’mon, Trace!

Now, maybe, the game is going to get back to its roots.

Ah, yes: the roots of baseball. Rough players (meaning their skills aren’t honed) with second jobs playing a game that kept the African-American players in a separate league. The game where the analytical approach hadn’t been heard of, where managers allowed their pitchers to ruin their arms by pitching 350 innings in a season, making one start every three days in a 154-game season. That was a much better game since there weren’t any nerds doing any thinking for us.

Now, maybe, some owners will realize that for all the efforts to find new and improved versions, round is the best shape for a tire, and a home-grown product is the best method for success in baseball.

What is the difference, really, between a home-grown product and a non-home-grown product? A player isn’t better for the Rockies because he’s been in the Rockies’ system for his entire Minor League career.

Some teams are better at scouting, drafting, player development, and such. The Pittsburgh Pirates are notoriously horrible at scouting, drafting, and developing pitchers. But their talent was home-grown, that’s why John Van Benschoten has been a rousing success in the Pirates’ rotation and hasn’t encountered any injury problems. Zach Duke has been progressively better with each passing season. Did I mention Cy Young candidate Paul Maholm?

What Tracy is guilty of is not heeding the “correlation is not causation” axiom. The Rockies made the World Series with a lot of home-grown talent; therefore, all teams should be promoting their Minor Leaguers instead of trading and signing free agents, right? The Yankees grew multi-MVP winner Alex Rodriguez. The Tigers grew MVP-candidate Magglio Ordonez. The Giants grew the best player in baseball history, Barry Bonds. See how wise Tracy is?

This is a team that tried quick fixes and high-priced free agents and failed, miserably.

What I infer from this is that signing free agents is a bad thing because it didn’t work out for the Rockies. What doesn’t work for one team most definitely won’t work for the other 29 teams. And the Rockies’ failure with free agents doesn’t have anything to do with their upper management, scouts, or injuries, does it? Nah, of course not. Free agents earn more money than young Minor Leaguers, so all free agents have to put up better numbers. Exhibit A: Alex Rodriguez, abysmal failure.

It’s a team that got caught up in overanalyzing statistical analysis and failed, miserably.

Notice in the article how Tracy illustrates how the Rockies used statistical analysis and then showed why it didn’t work out. No wait, that never happened.

Finally, general manager Dan O’Dowd, took a step back. He reshaped his front office, bringing in some old-school baseball minds to go with the new analytic types.

Yes, those smart old-school guys that measure everything in terms of a pitcher’s win-loss record and a hitter’s batting average. Those guys actually watch the games! Their analysis cannot be wrong, since it is based on human perception, which, as we all know, is perfect. Isn’t that why eyewitness testimony alone is enough evidence to convict a criminal?

Hey, anyone want to bunt that runner over to second base with no one out? That’s such a winning play. I know because an old-school guy told me so. Run expectancy charts? Feh!

Fifteen of the 25 players on their postseason roster are home-grown, tops among the postseason teams.

This is an excellent cherry-pick. I can do the same thing coming from the opposite direction. 19 of the 25 players on the post-season roster of the Boston Red Sox are not home-grown. Everyone: don’t home-grow your talent!

And they [won 21 of 22 games; the Wild Card; the NLDS; the NLCS] as a team.

As opposed to those un-home-grown Red Sox, who won the AL East as individuals. When the Red Sox were jumping up and down on the mound after clinching the East, you could hear Jason Varitek screaming, “Yay me!” and see Jonathan Papelbon holding a giant foam hand with “I’m #1!” written on it.

While Arizona manager Bob Melvin sits back and watches like he’s in spring training, making sure people get their work in[…]

While Melvin’s D-Backs are indeed a fluke (check out their run differential), this snipe at Melvin is unwarranted. I’m sure Tracy knows this, but the D-Backs won their division with a 90-72 record, best in the National League. I’m pretty sure Melvin doesn’t approach any game like a spring training game, let alone one in the post-season. And, if anything, Melvin is a genius with his bullpen management.

Rockies manager Clint Hurdle sees a chance to take command against an obviously less-than-full-speed Micah Owings. So with two out and two on, he sends up Smith to hit for rookie Franklin Morales, even though Morales had thrown only 64 pitches and allowed only one run.

Smith fights off a pitch up and in, sends it the opposite way, just inside the left field line for a two-run double.

What Tracy fails to mention is that this hit was one of those “lucky” hits that hitters sometimes get. Smith is left-handed, the pitcher Micah Owings is right-handed, so what do you expect most left-handed hitters do when they get a pitch right over the middle of the plate, like Smith did? Pull? Of course not. We always expect a weak blooper down the left-field line! (You can watch the hit here, titled “Smith’s two-run double”)

Gosh, that Smith is so clutch. That hit he got to set up Kaz Matsui’s grand slam in Philadelphia in the NLDS? A screamer right down the third base line (click here to see it under Oct. 4 titled “Smith’s infield single”).

There you go, folks. Another fine example of great journalism by a sportswriter. Stick to rodeos, Trace.

MLB in Cahoots with Criminals

If it wasn’t already blatantly obvious by their sickeningly frequent advertising, State Farm is, of course, a top sponsor of Major League Baseball. As such, State Farm plastered its name and logo all over AT&T Park at this year’s All-Star festivities in San Francisco. On MLB’s website, you couldn’t watch a 15-second highlight this season without having to sit through that tired commercial where a man reminisces about Hank Aaron, his father, and his childhood. Touching, because State Farm cares.

Just kidding. If they really cared, would they be screwing the victims of Hurricane Katrina out of policy payments? As Brian Ross and Joseph Rhee report from

State Farm Insurance supervisors systematically demanded that Hurricane Katrina damage reports be buried or replaced or changed so that the company would not have to pay policyholders’ claims in Mississippi, two State Farm insiders tell ABC News.


[Kerri and Cori Rigsby] say they saw supervisors go to great lengths to pressure outside engineers to prepare reports concluding that damage was caused by water, not covered under State Farm policies, rather than by wind.

They say reports that concluded that damage was caused by wind, for which State Farm would have to pay, were hidden in a special file and new reports were ordered.

Don Barrett of the Scruggs Katrina Group goes over an extensive list of State Farm’s misdeeds.

Remember State Farm’s legendary jingle, “Like a good neighbor, State Farm is there”? Now it’s ironic.

In this highly-corrupt era of capitalism we find ourselves in here in the United States, it would be remarkable to see Major League Baseball, a huge business, do the right thing by severing its ties with State Farm. Don’t hold your breath, though.

Instead, what both companies can do is have all of the proceeds from the All-Star festivities, for the duration of the contract, be given to the victims of Hurricane Katrina in the Gulf Coast. For years, we saw Century 21 give away houses at the Home Run Derby to people who, presumably, did not need a new house. State Farm could do them one better by giving houses to people who really need houses.

That, I think, is a reasonable proposition.

Crashburn Alley Itinerary and Anniversary

Since the Phillies’ season is officially over, and since I focus mainly on the Phillies, things will slow down slightly in terms of content posted here. I haven’t posted since October 1 (mostly since my thoughts on the Phillies’ collapse are pretty much the same as most of the other Phillies bloggers out there) but I do plan to put up a few thorough pieces right after the World Series on the Phillies’ work to be done in the off-season.

That will come in installments following the conclusion of the World Series, when the wheeling and dealing officially begins. I’ll try to stick to the schedule of putting up one new post per day highlighting each position and what the Phillies can do to improve.

Other than that, expect a slightly higher amount of non-sports-related topics until about March, when spring training exhibition games begin.In the meantime, I might create some “segments” like a video of the day.

On another note… today is the two-month anniversary of Crashburn Alley! I had been writing on the Internet, to my own website hosted by Tripod and to the FOX Sports blogs, for years prior to my purchasing of this domain, but I never really “blogged” (interacted with other writers, networked, etc. besides on FOX Sports) and I have to say that it was a huge mistake not to jump in sooner. I have been fortunate enough to associate with a bunch of great bloggers (you can find them in my blogroll to the right) who have been exceptionally helpful to me.

I have even been so fortunate as to have my work featured on’s main MLB page and on FOX Funhouse. Admittedly, my writing shouldn’t lay side-by-side with the work of writers like Dayn Perry, but I’m not complaining.

So, I just wanted to take this opportunity to thank everyone who has been gracious enough to put up with me, a blogging newbie, and I look forward to keeping this thing going for a long time. Hopefully, that “long time” includes witnessing a Phillies World Series championship at least once (I can dream).

Phillies Surmount 500-to-1 Odds Against — UPDATED

You read right. 500-to-1. They were that much an underdog on September 12, seven games behind the New York Mets in the National League East (Baseball Prospectus goes over some of the biggest collapses here, and mentions this year’s playoff hunt).

Today, on October 1, the Mets are officially out of the playoffs (the second-worst collapse in baseball history, after the 1964 Phillies and the worst since divisional play began in 1969), while the Phillies are officially in for the first time since 1993.

I’ve mentioned in other articles of mine the vicious rash of injuries the team has endured. I have also mentioned the insane luck against them when they lost to the Braves on September 5. And I have mentioned how many games the bullpen has blown.

And hell, even I was disheartened at one point. But I’m a fan of the Phillies — can you blame me?

The 500-to-1 odds really undershoots what the Phillies did, though.

  • They lost to cancer the one man most emblematic of the Phillies franchise — John Vukovich — on March 8 and wore “VUK” on their sleeves all season.
  • Jayson Werth thought his baseball career might have been over before he signed with the Phillies.
  • Before the season started, Jimmy Rollins declared that the Phillies were “the team to beat” and they started off 4-11.
  • Manager Charlie Manuel berated “journalist” Howard Eskin and was on the “hot seat” until about mid-season.
  • The coaching staff acted rashly and moved their then-ace Brett Myers to the bullpen to pitch the 8th inning (when Tom Gordon went down with an injury, Myers moved to closer).
  • Ryan Howard, the reigning NL MVP, had a horrible April (.390 SLG) and then missed two weeks from May 10 to 24.
  • Pat Burrell had a mind-bogglingly awful first-half of the season (.408 SLG).
  • They started the season with six starting pitchers (Garcia, Lieber, Hamels, Eaton, Myers, Moyer). By season’s end, only one of them would not spend a day on the disabled list — the 44-year-old, who ended up pitching Sunday’s game, the biggest Phillies game in 14 years. In addition, the Phillies set a club record for most pitchers used in a season (28).
  • More than a month after moving Myers to the bullpen, he got injured closing out a game in Florida and missed the next two months. By season’s end, nine Phillies have recorded saves (Myers, Alfonseca Gordon, Condrey, Madson, Mesa, Rosario, Durbin, Ennis).
  • Wes Helms showed himself to be a free agent bust, and saw his playing time significantly reduced in the last two months in favor of the offense of Greg Dobbs and defense of Abraham Nunez.
  • The franchise reached 10,000 losses on July 15.

And despite ALL of that…

  • The Phillies won the most games in a season (89) since 1993 (97).
  • Jimmy Rollins, en route to a possible and likely NL MVP award, recorded the fourth 20 2B/20 3B/20 HR/20 SB season in baseball history, joining Curtis Granderson (also achieved this year), Willie Mays, and Frank Schulte. In addition, he played in all 162 games, and set records in at-bats and plate appearances, surpassing Willie Wilson and Lenny Dykstra, respectively.
  • Pat Burrell followed up his awful first half with an amazing second half (1.016 OPS) and finished the season with at least 30 HR for the third time in his eight-year career.
  • Ryan Howard followed up his awful first half with an amazing second half (1.016 OPS) and finished the season with 47 HR and led the National League with 136 RBI.
  • The Phillies overcame the one-month loss of then-MVP candidate Chase Utley to a hand injury when Pat Gillick made a quick acquisition of Tadahito Iguchi, who instantly took to the red pinstripes.
  • The Phillies overcame the three-week loss (and light use following his return) of Shane Victorino, and the six-week loss of Michael Bourn (both lost in the same game in Chicago) with the help of Jayson Werth (.950 second-half OPS), who at one point hit safely in nine straight at-bats, breaking Pete Rose’s mark of 8 at-bats.
  • The starting rotation changed from Hamels, Moyer, Lieber, Garcia, and Eaton at the start of the season to Hamels, Moyer, Kendrick, Lohse, and Eaton by season’s end. Kendrick is a solid candidate for some third-place Rookie of the Year votes.
  • J.C. Romero put up an insane 369 ERA+. A 100 ERA+ is considered league-average.
  • The Phillies led the league in humanitarian efforts.
  • In their campaign against the Mets, the Phillies beat them in eight consecutive games, including sweeps of a four-game series in Philadelphia and a three-game series in New York.
  • 44-year-old Jamie Moyer, born in Sellersville, PA, pitched the biggest game for his hometown team since 1993. He went 5 and one-third innings, giving up only one unearned run on five hits and no walks, striking out six.

There were far too many great storylines for this year’s Philadelphia Phillies, and far too much going against them. Yet they persevered. It couldn’t have happened to a more likable group of guys or a more deserving group of fans.

Advantage: Phillies

The San Diego Padres and Colorado Rockies play a one-game playoff to determine the Wild Card winner at Coors Field tonight. The Padres will send Cy Young candidate Jake Peavy (176 ERA+) to the mound to face Rockies starter Josh Fogg (99 ERA+).

This is beneficial for the Phillies for a few reasons.

  • Both teams will be at the disadvantage of having played an extra game, adding to the risk of injury, and adding to the already high level of fatigue in most of the players.
  • If the Padres win, they will have burned their “ace in the hole” in Peavy until at least Game 3 of the NLDS. It’s even more beneficial when you consider that the Padres’ starting rotation hasn’t been great. Chris Young, for example, has a 5.96 ERA since returning from his injury. Meanwhile, the Phillies will have their ace, Cole Hamels, pitching Game 1 and likely Game 4.
  • While not a long flight, the Padres are at another disadvantage for having to go on the road. The Phillies get to rest until Wednesday.

Give ’em Credit

The Phillies’ 2007 run at the post-season will forever be linked to the biggest divisional collapse in baseball history by the New York Mets. Due to this fact, the Phillies will likely not be given much credit for winning themselves so much as winning by default because of the Mets’ inadequacies.

The Phillies played .623 baseball in August and September, and, as mentioned, beat the Mets in eight consecutive games. Not only was this due to the Phillies’ league-best offense, but the settling down of the pitching staff. They had their occasional bad games, but nothing like the first half when it was commonplace. Since September 13, the Phillies have given up 68 total runs in those 17 games, an average of exactly 4 runs per game, more than a full run better than their seasonal average of 5.07 runs per game.

While the Mets definitely were in a position to cinch the deal in the NL East, let’s give credit where credit is due — to the Philadelphia Phillies.

When Words Aren’t Enough

Yahoo! has some great pictures from the Associated Press, Reuters, and Getty Images.

The Phillies website has some great video footage.

When Words Are Enough

The blogosphere’s reaction to the Phillies and the Mets, looking towards the post-season:

When Words Are Too Much


[…]Hall of Fame announcer Harry Kalas sang “High Hopes” over the public address system.

You have to have seen and heard it to appreciate it. Kalas won’t be on American Idol any time soon, but it was a moment where every one of his off-key notes sounded infinitely harmonic.

Please advise me if a video of this is posted on the Internets!

CrashburnAlley [at] Gmail [dot] com.

UPDATE: Thanks to an E-Mailer, here is the Harry Kalas video!

Smoltz and CBP to Seek Counseling Together

As I’ve chronicled here and here, the Braves are far and away the best… at whining. They tend to do it a lot when two stars align: the Braves are playing in Philadelphia, and John Smoltz starts one of those games.

They did indeed align, and as expected, Smoltz whined after the game about the Phillies’ home ballpark.

Last night, the Phillies beat the Braves 6-4 and moved into a tie for first place with the ever-so-slightly collapsing New York Mets, simultaneously eliminating the Braves from playoff contention.

The Phillies needed to make no outs in putting up a four-spot in the first inning off of Johnny Boy.

NL MVP candidate Jimmy Rollins swung at Smoltz’s first pitch of the game and singled up the middle.

Speedster Shane Victorino, making his first start in a week, followed with a bunt down the third base line. Smoltz, rushing, threw errantly to first baseman Mark Teixeira and the ball rolled around in foul territory in right field. Rollins came around to score, and Shane Victorino landed at third base.

Chase Utley then hit a routine grounder to Teixeira, but he booted it, allowing Victorino (who was not going on contact) to score, and Utley to reach first base safely. And, as all the highlights have shown, Ryan Howard torched a Smoltz “didn’t really slide” slider for a line drive two-run home run down the right field line.

Smoltz, ironically, did not whine about this homerun (perhaps because the pitch was a mistake), but just in case he does whine about it, let’s get the facts out of the way. Howard’s home run would have gone out of Turner Field, too.

Admittedly, my method for proving this is rather rough (hey, Hit Tracker hasn’t put it up yet), but if MLB Gameday is in any way accurate, then it should at least drive the point home.

Howard CBP HR

In the above screenshot, we see where Howard’s home run landed in last night’s game at Citizens Bank Park. I will lay this on a screenshot of Turner Field.

Turner Field

I superimposed Turner Field on Citizens Bank Park, aligning them at home plate, and, indeed, Howard’s HR would have gone out in Atlanta, too:

Burrell TF HR

Smoltz didn’t whine about Howard’s hit, though. He whined about Burrell’s third-inning two-run (eventually game-winning) home run. From the Braves website:

Burrell’s ball isn’t a home run. But that’s just what this park can do for you. You get the ball in the air and you can get lucky. Obviously, they feast off it.

I’ll use the same rough experiment.

Burrell at Citizens Bank Park…

Burrell CBP HR

Burrell if he hit it at Turner Field…

Burrell TF HR

[Start Imaginary one-sided conversation with Mr. Smoltz]

Still a homer, John. Your claims are unfounded.

It couldn’t have been that you left a slider up in the zone (you can watch the home run here, under Thursday, September 27). And it couldn’t have been that Burrell put a good swing on the ball.

Six runs (five earned) in four innings. It’s got to be the ballpark.

You, Teixeira, and Kelly Johnson played superb defense throughout the game, right?

And if the ballpark is such a beacon for home runs, then your bullpen most definitely would not benefit from it right? It’s not like your bullpen pitched 5 scoreless innings of relief last night, allowing only two hits and two walks.

[End Imaginary one-sided conversation with Mr. Smoltz]

As the Braves find themselves watching the playoffs from home for the second year in a row, after 14 consecutive seasons of watching them first-hand, they might need to learn how to cope.

Phillies fans are always available to tell you how to deal with it.

The Most Exciting Three Days of the Season

Here are the match-ups for the Mets and Phillies as they begin the final regular season series with the Marlins and Nationals, respectively:

Friday, September 28

WAS (Redding, 123 ERA+) @ PHI (Hamels, 129 ERA+)

FLA (Kim, 79 ERA+) @ NYM (Perez, 128 ERA+)

Saturday, September 29

WAS (Chico, 92 ERA+) @ PHI (Eaton, 72 ERA+)

FLA (Seddon, 62 ERA+) @ NYM (Maine, 105 ERA+)

Sunday, September 30

WAS (Bergmann, 101 ERA+) @ PHI (Moyer, 89 ERA+)

FLA (Willis, 82 ERA+) @ NYM (Glavine, 103 ERA+)

The pitching match-ups certainly favor the Mets, but you never know.

In the Event of a Tie

Per the Phillies website, here’s how the tie-breakers will go down, if they occur:

  • If there’s a five-way tie — yes, it’s possible — with the Mets, Phillies, Diamondbacks, Padres and Rockies, New York and Philadelphia kick off the party with a one-game playoff on Monday at Citizens Bank Park to determine the NL East winner.
  • Meanwhile, the Rockies, Diamondbacks and Padres then grapple for the NL West. Colorado, by virtue of the best head-to-head record among those three, could choose whether to play two games at home or one game on the road.
  • Once the divisions are settled, the remaining trio must determine the NL Wild Card, starting another three-team playoff on Wednesday and Thursday. Colorado, if involved, would again have the best head-to-head record, and choose between two home games or one road game.
  • If it’s an NL West club, the Wild Card winner would start the playoffs in either New York or Philadelphia. If it’s an NL East team, the NL West winner hosts.

Gillick Done After 2008

Phillies GM Pat Gillick has impeccable timing. With a week left in the regular season, and with his team in a position to earn a playoff berth, he dropped the bombshell that he won’t be returning to the Phillies after the 2008 season, when his contract expires.

Pat Gillick

Even though he succeeded Ed Wade as GM of the Phillies, Gillick hasn’t enjoyed any popularity while in Philadelphia, and it’s justified. The blunders that have occurred under Gillick’s watch have done more to set the Phillies back than to set them ahead.

He let Brett Myers make his next start following his domestic abuse episode in Boston. He traded Bobby Abreu for rags. He gave Adam Eaton $24.51 million over three years and a mutual 2010 option worth $9 million. He signed Rod Barajas when he already had a catching duo of Carlos Ruiz and Chris Coste. He failed to upgrade the bullpen — an obvious problem as early as the beginning of last offseason — and Charlie Manuel has had to work with relievers found off the scrap heap (Jose Mesa, Antonio Alfonseca, among others) and rookies (Mike Zagurski, Francisco Rosario, among others).

Gillick’s offseason moves have been awful, but his mid-season moves have been a Band-Aid of sorts (Jamie Moyer, Rick White, Tadahito Iguchi, Kyle Lohse), so he hasn’t been all bad, technically speaking.

After dealing Abreu, Cory Lidle, Rheal Cormier, and David Bell in July of 2006, Gillick expressed no confidence in his team:

It will be a stretch to say we’ll be there in ’07. We’ll have to plug in some young pitchers and anytime you do that you’ll have some inconsistency. It’s going to take another year.

It makes no sense for Gillick to tell us all that 2008 will be his last season as a general manager. It makes even less sense to say that while his team is fighting for a playoff spot. With a week left, why not keep your mouth shut until the Phillies are eliminated from playoff contention, or from the playoffs (should they make it)?

Manager Charlie Manuel and shortstop Jimmy Rollins have already taken veiled shots at Gillick for his failure to give the team an adequate bullpen. Phillies fans don’t like him.

Just quit now. Based on Gillick’s quotes, it’s obvious being a GM of a Major League Baseball team isn’t his top priority, and if it has been that way for Gillick since he joined the Phillies, it’s evident. Don’t keep the team in limbo and give a reason for everyone to second-guess.

In hoping for Gillick’s ouster, we have to think about a successor. Speaking realistically, that successor will likely come from within the Phillies organization — namely Ruben Amaro, Jr. (who was candidate #2 for the Houston Astros GM job given to Wade) and Mike Arbuckle, both assistant GM’s.

Amaro presents a glass half-full or glass half-empty scenario. Is he a bad candidate because he worked under Wade and Gillick, learned from their antiquated notions, and is doomed to repeat them? Or is he a good candidate because he worked under Wade and Gillick, learned from their antiquated notions, and will not repeat them?

In an interview with Rob Neyer, Arbuckle gave one reason why he might be a good candidate:

Neyer: Do you have much use for the sabermetric approach that seems to be inching its way into baseball these days? Have the Phillies ever employed, or considered employing, somebody as essentially a statistical analyst?

Arbuckle: No, we haven’t. I do think there’s some value in that approach, but mostly at the professional level. At the amateur level, the competition level varies so much that you can outsmart yourself.

At the professional level, it adds something to the equation, but if you start saying that element is going to outweigh the experience of the scouts — most of the time, multiple scouts have seen the player you’re talking about — then you can get in trouble. I do think it’s a good supplementary tool, if you’re going to make a deal, that may clarify some gray areas.

While Arbuckle hasn’t hopped on the Sabermetric bandwagon as much as I personally wish he would have, he is at least open-minded to the “new school” method of player evaluation.

In an ideal world, however, the next Phillies GM will come from outside the organization, one who is not clouded by the notion that veterans are inherently better than their younger counterparts, or that you can slug your way into the playoffs without a solid pitching foundation, or that offseason acquisition mistakes can be patched up with July and August waiver pick-ups.

The most important aspect of the next Phillies GM is that he is not a yes-man for the Phillies front office, whose main concern is with the profit margins, rather than a .590 winning percentage over .540. The next Phillies GM cannot trade away valuable cogs because they are open about their displeasure with the management, as was the case with Scott Rolen and Curt Schilling, both of whom were traded for next to nothing.

Rolen turned down a 7-year, $90 million contract from the Phillies because he didn’t like the direction in which the franchise was heading.

Ed Wade referred to Schilling as “a horse every fifth day and a horse’s ass the other four.”

When we’re dealing with a city that hasn’t tasted a championship since 1983, dealing with key players that way is unacceptable.

So, here’s hoping that A) Gillick is fired/resigns after this season; and, B) The Phillies organization replaces him with someone quite capable of delivering.

While I’m daydreaming… is Mark Cuban interested in buying the Phillies?

UPDATE: Shortly after I posted this, I read the following via ESPN:

Phillies general manager Pat Gillick says he may or may not leave the team when his contract runs out next season.


“I think the reporter kind of got a little over zealous,” [Gillick — ESPN attributed this quote to Manuel, but I think they made a typo] said on XM Radio’s “Baseball this Morning” program. “We were talking about Charlie Manuel’s contract because it’s running out at the end of the season, and he asked about my contract, and I told him it ends at the end of next year and I’ll probably retire or do something else … it wasn’t any big deal. They’re trying to make a big deal more than it is. It’s basically my contract is running out and I don’t know right now. There is a possibility it could go past next year…”

Reading Material

I’ve been a bit busy lately and haven’t been able to write, but I’ll make up for it by directing you to some of the choice writing out there on the Internets.

The Phillies are off today, but the Mets and Padres are not.

Washington Nationals @ New York Mets, 7:10 EST

  • Starting for WAS: Matt Chico (91 ERA+)
  • Starting for NYM: Mike Pelfrey (81 ERA+)

San Diego Padres @ San Francisco Giants, 10:15 EST

  • Starting for SD: Chris Young (147 ERA+)
  • Starting for SF: Barry Zito (97 ERA+)

Hope for some losses tonight!

The 2007 MLB Awards Bonanza

It’s just about time for the Baseball Writers Association of America (BBWAA) to turn in their ballots for the yearly Major League Baseball awards. And it is also the time for us bloggers to opine on how staggeringly dumb some of these writers are by casting our own votes on the awards.

At this awards show, no one will be censored like Sally Field.

Sally Field

Some notes about how I determine the winners…

I make heavy use of Sabermetrics, and light to no use of “traditional” statistics like wins and losses, saves, batting average, and the like.

In addition, I intentionally do not take into account the player’s team and whether or not they have been in contention. It is my belief that a player’s contributions on a failing team are worth just as much, if not more than another player’s contributions on a winning team. This is a debate that always pops up around this time of year, so feel free to try to change my mind on it.

The statistics I do use can be found on websites like Baseball Prospectus, The Hardball Times, and Baseball Reference, among others. I will provide links to both the explanation of the statistic and to the page(s) I pulled the information from. I am using the statistics that are currently up on those websites as of September 20 at 10 AM EST, so it’s highly likely that the values will differ from the ones I will list.

Without any further ado, let’s dole out the trophies.

American League Most Valuable Player: Alex Rodriguez

Even using “traditional” statistics, this award is likely the easiest for which to decide the winner. “Pay-Rod” is fourth in the American League in on-base percentage (.416), first in slugging percentage (.646), first in OPS (1.062), first in runs scored (134), first in total bases (354), first in home runs (52), first in runs batted in (142), and eighth in walks (86).

Add to that his 89.0 VORP that leads the Majors, .427 PMLVr that ranks second, .337 EqA that ranks first in the American League, and 149 runs created that also ranks first.

Congratulations, Mr. Rodriguez, you have easily earned the AL MVP award in a year in which most expected you to fail, and still some expect you to fail when the Yankees reach the post-season.

National League Most Valuable Player: Hanley Ramirez

To non-Sabermetric-using baseball fans, my choice of Ramirez is suspect. He does not lead the league in any “traditional” statistical categories. He ranks 12th in the National League in on-base percentage (.390), sixth in slugging percentage (.568), and eighth in OPS (.958). However, he does rank second in the NL in runs (116) and hits (197), third in total bases (336) and stolen bases (50), and fourth in doubles (43) and extra-base hits (77).

Others have cited Prince Fielder, Matt Holliday, Chase Utley, and Jimmy Rollins as the deserving winner of the NL MVP award. Let’s take a look at some Sabermetrics.

He’s second in the Majors in VORP (89.0) behind Alex Rodriguez, his RAP ranks first in the National League (50.2), and his PMLVr ranks second in Major League Baseball (.427) — higher than Alex Rodriguez (the leader is his teammate, Jorge Posada).

It’s true that Ramirez’s defense needs improvement. He ranks last among qualified shortstops in the National League with a .776 RZR.

However, his offensive contributions, especially compared to his shortstop brethren, outweigh his below-average defense.

And, as I mentioned, the fact that the Marlins are last in the National League East division (65-87, 19.5 GB) is not something I consider.

American League Cy Young Award: C.C. Sabathia

Josh Beckett seems to be the favorite for this award, and I don’t know why. Sure, he leads the Major Leagues in wins, but that statistic tells you next to nothing. He’s got the fourth-best WHIP (1.129), sixth-best ERA (3.20) and the eighth-best strikeouts total (180) in the American League in 188.7 innings. Let’s have a look at Sabathia.

Sabathia has the sixth-best WHIP (1.145), seventh-best ERA (3.21), and the fourth-best strikeouts total (198) in the American League in 227 innings (tops in the league) — nearly more than 38 innings more than Beckett.

On the Sabermetric side of things, Sabathia is second in the Majors in VORP (63.4), behind only Jake Peavy. He has put up these great numbers while pitching in the most innings and despite an unluckily-high .317 BABIP.

In addition, Sabathia leads the American League with 128 PRC, and only trails Beckett by five-hundredths of a point in FIP (.323).

National League Cy Young Award: Jake Peavy

This award, like the AL MVP, is an easy one. Peavy leads the National League in quite a few “traditional” statistical categories, including ERA (2.39), WHIP (1.044), and strikeouts (225). He becomes even more impressive with the use of Sabermetrics. He also ranks sixth in innings pitched (203).

His 72.1 VORP not only leads Major League pitchers by far, but would rank fifth in the Majors if we include hitters. He leads the National League in PRC (138) and FIP by far (2.62).

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American League Rookie of the Year: Jeremy Guthrie

This one was tough to pick, as there wasn’t any really great candidates in the American League. Dustin Pedroia was my #2 pick, but I declined him because he’s simply a singles and doubles hitter with average defense.

Jeremy Guthrie has had a good year for a decrepit Baltimore Orioles team. He doesn’t have Cy Young statistics at all (3.65 ERA, 1.204 WHIP, but he does have a higher VORP than any other American League rookie (37.9) with the exception of Brian Bannister. Guthrie leads Bannister in PRC 79-72.

After Erik Bedard (a Cy Young candidate), Guthrie is the Orioles’ #2 pitcher and he looks to be a promising find for the team.

National League Rookie of the Year: Ryan Braun

Another easy pick. He, by far, leads Major League rookies in VORP (50.6) and, if not for Prince Fielder, is the Milwaukee Brewers’ MVP. He has put up in 405 at-bats what 95% of Major Leaguers can’t do in 600 at-bats. 31 home runs, 85 runs batted in, a .370 on-base percentage, a .637 slugging percentage, and a 1.007 OPS.

Let’s say Braun has the 548 at-bats A-Rod has (Braun played in his first MLB game on May 25, missing about the first two months). His home runs and runs batted in above translate to 42 and 115, respectively.

His .319 EqA ranks eighth in the National League, and his 28.0 RAP ranks fourth behind some excellent third basemen: David Wright, Chipper Jones, and Miguel Cabrera.

Braun’s defense is lacking — just a .565 RZR, easily last in the National League among qualified third basemen– but not even that makes the award’s recipient a tough call.

American League Manager of the Year: Joe Torre

His team has the fourth-best record in the American League, and Eric Wedge is deserving, too, but with what Torre has had to deal with following his team’s dismal first two months (22-29, 13.5 GB in fourth place in the AL East), he has done a remarkable job since (66-35, .653).

The starting pitching was falling apart. Mike Mussina might be done after this season. Roger Clemens wasn’t what they expected him to be. Kei Igawa bombed. Their best pitching prospect, Philip Hughes, got injured in the midst of a perfect game. None of their young pitchers did a good job filling in. They have used 28 different starting pitchers this season.

And there was the offense. Robinson Cano, Johnny Damon, Bobby Abreu, Jason Giambi, and Melky Cabrera all weren’t hitting for a while. Damon didn’t appear to be able to play center field effectively anymore, so Torre switched him to left field and moved Cabrera to center. Giambi was injured from the end of May until the beginning of August, so they’ve had to plug in Doug Mientkiewicz and Andy Phillips at first base. Nobody on the bench has really contributed much.

Yet the Yankees have the Major League-best offense, and their pitching is still middle-of-the-pack.

After the media was calling for George Steinbrenner to give him the boot in favor of Joe Girardi, Torre has earned the AL Manager of the Year award.

National League Manager of the Year: Charlie Manuel

Like Torre, Charlie Manuel has had a ton of injuries, a bad pitching staff, and media scrutiny to deal with all season long.

In this article, I listed the 15 Phillies to be put on the disabled list at the time. Since then, Cole Hamels missed time with a strained left elbow, and Antonio Alfonseca was described by Manuel as “out of gas.”

Manuel has had to make do with a horrible bullpen that GM Pat Gillick failed to improve during the off-season. In fact, the bullpen was so lousy that Manuel moved then-starter Brett Myers to the set-up role for Tom Gordon (Myers became the closer when Gordon was injured).

Myers’ statistics as a closer: 45.2 IP, 1.226 WHIP, 2.96 ERA, 56 K, 16 BB, 17 saves in 20 opportunities.

In addition, despite the injuries to 2005 Rookie of the Year and 2006 NL MVP Ryan Howard, 2007 MVP candidate Chase Utley, speedster Shane Victorino, and a horrid first-half for Pat Burrell, the Phillies have, by far, the National League’s best offense. First in runs, triples, walks, hit batsmen, on-base percentage, and slugging percentage. Second in at-bats, hits, doubles, home runs, and stolen bases.

When the Phillies lost to the Mets on April 17, Charlie Manuel blew up at “journalist” Howard Eskin during the post-game press conference, the team dropped to a 3-9 record, quickly 5.5 games behind the Mets for fourth place in the NL East. Now, the Phillies are 12-games above .500 — an 18-game swing — and are battling for playoff berths in either the NL East or in the Wild Card, as they are 2.5 GB the Mets and Padres, respectively.

Honorable mention to Bud Black, but this award isn’t even close — Manuel in a landslide. The Phillies should look to re-sign him at least for another season to finish out Gillick’s tenure (that is, if Gillick does come back for the 2008 season).

American League Rolaids Relief Man of the Year Award: J.J. Putz
His line: 66 IP, 0.667 WHIP, 72 K, 12 BB, 1.36 ERA

Add to that a 315 ERA+, a 34.5 VORP (behind only Rafael Betancourt and Matt Guerrier among relievers), and his 95.9 LOB%best among qualified relievers — as well.

National League Rolaids Relief Man of the Year Award: Carlos Marmol

His line: 64.2 IP, 1.098 WHIP, 89 K, 33 BB, 1.25 ERA

Add to that a 364 ERA+, a 33.2 VORP (best among NL relievers), and his 91.3 LOB% — behind only Takashi Saito among NL relievers — as well.

American League Gold Glove Awards

Format: Name, (RZR, OOZ) except for catchers (FPct, Assists) and pitchers (regular ZR, and RF)

C: Kenji Johjima (.998, 52)
1B: Kevin Youkilis (.835, 21)
2B: Aaron Hill (.876, 53)
3B: Brandon Inge (.711, 62)
SS: Tony Pena (.846, 68)
OF: Curtis Granderson (.921, 83)
OF: Coco Crisp (.910, 56)
OF: Torii Hunter (.897, 44)
P: Roy Halladay (1.000, 2.19)

National League Gold Glove Awards

C: Russell Martin (.989, 84)
1B: Albert Pujols (.846, 49)
2B: Chase Utley (.876, 47)
3B: David Wright (.699, 78)
SS: Troy Tulowitzki (.858, 82)
OF: Andruw Jones (.924, 78)
OF: Eric Byrnes (.918, 46)
OF: Carlos Beltran (.910, 62)
P: Roy Oswalt (1.000, 2.37)

American League Silver Slugger Awards

Format: Name (PMLVr)

C: Jorge Posada (.464)
1B: Carlos Pena (.263)
2B: Placido Polanco (.223)
3B: Alex Rodriguez (.427)
SS: Carlos Guillen (.178)
OF: Magglio Ordonez (.395)
OF: Vladimir Guerrero (.273)
OF: Curtis Granderson (.243)
DH: David Ortiz (.376)

National League Silver Slugger Awards

C: Russell Martin (.244)
1B: Albert Pujols (.283)
2B: Chase Utley (.365)
3B: Chipper Jones (.426)
SS: Hanley Ramirez (.394)
OF: Matt Holliday (.332)
OF: Barry Bonds (.365)
OF: Adam Dunn (.259)
P: Micah Owings (.245)

There you have it. Feel free to chime in with your picks, or tell me why I’m wrong.

Cardinals-Phillies by the Numbers

In case you missed it, the Phillies came out victorious in one of the most exciting games of the season (after that 11-10 win over the Mets).


0 – Number of reasons for ever having Abraham Nunez in the lineup

1 – Number of Rod Barajas’ at-bats, hits, runs, and RBI

1 – Number of position players still available in the 14th inning — Rod Barajas, who delivered the game-winning RBI single

1 – Number of Cardinal extra-base hits

1.5 – Number of games the Phillies trail the Mets and Padres by in the NL East and Wild Card, respectively

2 – Number of pinch-runners used each by the Phillies and Cardinals

2 – Number of triples and stolen bases for Jayson Werth (the last person to achieve this feat in the same game was Larry Walker in 1996)

2 – Number of pitchers used by Tony LaRussa to pinch-run

2 – Number of blown saves in this game

3 – Number of 14th inning runs the Phillies scored

3 – Number of innings the Phillies’ ace pitched in his return from the disabled list

3 – Number of pinch-hitters used by the Cardinals

3 – Number of Cardinals pitchers who were in the game, but did not pitch (Wainwright as a pinch-hitter; Reyes and Piniero as pinch-runners)

4 – Number of Phillies relievers used after Cole Hamels to not yield any runs

4 – Number of hits the Phillies had through 12 innings of play

5 – Number of hitless at-bats for Ryan Howard

5 – Number of pinch-hitters used by the Phillies

5 – Number of consecutive losses for the Mets

6 – Number of Phillies fans confident in Jose Mesa when he came in to pitch in the 12th and 13th innings

6 – Number of consecutive wins for the Phillies

6 – Number of catchers used (Ruiz, Coste, Barajas, LaForest; Molina, Stinnett)

7 – Number of people still awake watching the game at its conclusion, around 1:15 AM EST

8 – Number of total hits in the game for the Phillies in 49 at-bats

8 – Number of pitchers used by the Phillies

8 – Number of combined pinch-hitters used

9 – Number of strikeouts from the Phillies’ #1-5 hitters

9 – Number of Phillies relievers to earn a save this season (Clay Condrey earned it in this particular game)

10 – Number of scoreless innings pitched by the Phillies bullpen (Myers allowed one run in the 10th inning)

11 – Number of pitchers used by the Cardinals, a National League record

19 – Number of total pitchers used by both teams

21 – Number of scoreless innings of 28

25 – Number of Phillies players used

28 – Number of Cardinal players used, tying the National League record

53 – Number of combined players used, tying the National League record

168 – Number of days passed since the Phillies were this close to the lead in the NL East

304 – Number of minutes the game lasted

481 – Number of combined pitches thrown

42,170 – Paid attendance at Busch Stadium in St. Louis, MO