Wednesday, December 31, 2008

An Open Letter To The Residents Of New York City

We have reached the time of year when it gets colder outside, and some of you may have noticed that something is different this time of year, something sent to us from the heavens. As I hail from Vermont originally, I am more than qualified to inform you about this strange new presence in your life (Not as qualified as, say, Bjork, but still fairly knowledgeable). It is called snow. It is similar to rain, in as much as both are precipitation that falls earthward from the heavens. However, snow tends to drift slowly, whereas rain falls fast and hard. This is because rain is actual water, while snow is partially frozen water, and much lighter than rain. This is why rain, when falling on you, soaks your clothes through quickly, leaving you cold and miserable. Snow, on the other hand, does no such thing. It settles on your coat, from which it can easily be brushed off by either yourself or the wind (Which is ever-present in NYC). What this means in practical terms is that when it is snowing, YOU DO NOT NEED YOUR UMBRELLA. Many of you seem unclear on this point, which is very unfortunate, as you seem to double as the group who has very poor motor skills, and therefore no actual control over the placement of said umbrella. Here's the deal. I come from a very long line of myopic people. Poor eyesight is a treasured heirloom in my family. Therefore, I wear contact lenses. These are great. I can see, and unlike glasses, these also give me peripheral vision. All I have to do to have these magical inventions cure my eyesight is to put my fingers into my eyes twice daily. Once to insert the contacts, and once to remove them. After I do this in the morning (Often before drinking coffee. I really have no idea how I manage), I spend most of the rest of the day trying not to have any other foreign objects enter my ocular cavities, including the tips of your umbrella. If you examine your umbrella closely (Go ahead! I'll wait!), you will notice that it has spiky tips to it, commonly made of metal. This makes them really hurt when you stab me with them, and as umbrellas are unnecessary in the snow, I was hoping we could enjoy our winter without me having to continually duck out of the way to preserve what little eyesight I have remaining.

Thank you.

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Just For Fun

Money spent in free agency by the New York Yankees this year: $423.5 million.

Money spent by the other 29 clubs combined: $181.64 million.

And just to pile on a little bit, money spent on contracts for the entire 25-man major league roster by the 2008 AL Champion Tampa Bay Rays from 2000 to 2008: $337.9 million.

If anyone cares, only major league deals were counted, not minor league deals with spring training invites. The details of the Taveras contract haven't been released yet, so the hell with him. Players from Japan signing MLB deals are included (Hello Tazawa! Please be awesome). When in doubt, Cot's Contracts is the Bible.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

The Holidays

So, as the one or two of you out there who religiously read my posts have realized, this week has been pretty much a wash. For fairly obvious reasons, I've been busy. We'll be back to 4+ posts per week starting Sunday, unless my Greyhound™ trip is involved in a fiery inferno.

And Merry Christmas to all two of you, except for Forrest.

The Impending Financial Apocalypse

Bernard Madoff has nothing on the Yankees.

Friday, December 19, 2008


And now for the other new pitcher, AJ Burnett. This is a more controversial signing than Sabathia, even though the attached pricetag is much smaller. Analysts seem to disagree on Burnett's value, some placing him as a very good pitcher who could become one of the best in the league if everything clicks (Keith Law, of ESPN) to feeling Burnett cannot be relied on for anything, including watching pies cool on windowsills (Steven Goldman, of the YES Network). In all probability, Burnett's results will lie somewhere in the middle of these two extremes. One of the first things to note about Burnett is his high strikeout rate (9.39 K/9 last year, third among qualified starters). However, Burnett also brings more control issues to the table than most high-strikeout pitchers. Among starters who struck out more than 8 batters per nine innings last year, Burnett's rate of 3.50 BB/9 ranks him 11th out of 17, with the only people worse than him being either very young (Tim Lincecum, Edinson Volquez, Johnny Cueto and Chad Billingsley), terrible (Oliver Perez) or apparently exempt to every single law of pitching and likely to cause me heart failure (Daisuke Matsuzaka, damn his eyes). In spite of this wildness, Burnett has a saving grace. Many high-strikeout pitchers are fly ball, and therefore home run, prone, as kicking back to put a little something extra on a pitch causes them to elevate it in the zone. Not so with Burnett. Out of our earlier group of 17, AJ's GB/FB ratio ranked second by a hair at 1.52. So, although he does put extra men on first, he also keeps the ball both in the park (I have yet to see the ground ball that could go over the fence. Although that is something I would absolutely love to see), and in position to get twin killings. While this doesn't get rid of the negative factors associated with his high walk rate, this does definitely help to mitigate the damage, and on a good team with a good defensive infield (Such as, say, last year's Blue Jays (Though oddly enough, AJ's BABIP was a very-unlucky .328 last year in spite of this) (Also oddly, the Blue Jays, despite posting a good team UZR, were fifth-worst in the league in double plays turned. Apparently David Eckstein's scrappiness quotient (SqA) isn't high enough (RIP, FJM) to rescue them)), the combination of strikeouts and ground balls probably would serve to elevate Burnett into at least the second tier of MLB starters. Unfortunately for AJ, he is going to be pitching in front of the Yankees patented Middle Infield Defensive Vortex of Suck. This shouldn't come as a great surprise to anyone out there, but Derek Jeter and Robinson Cano are both somewhere between bad and awful on defense*.

*Let's use a footnote-ish thing here to go into specifics. Last year, Derek Jeter posted his second-best UZR/150 (Ultimate Zone Rating per 150 Games) ever, being merely 0.4 plays worse than the average shortstop over the course of the season. Now, UZR/150 data has only been collected since 2002, and it is somewhere between possible and probable that peak-era Jeter posted better numbers than the aging version this data has been collected about. Still, projecting forward based on 7 years of data and factoring in a bit of an aging curve, calling Jeter a below-average defensive shortstop for next year seems like a very safe bet. The other half of the double play combination, Robinson Cano, has been all over the UZR/150 map in his four professional seasons, posting UZRs ranging from 8.3 (Which is very solid) to -16.9 (Let's play Manny Ramirez at second base!). He's been below average three of those four years, and scouting reports are not exceptionally kind to him either (Tom Tango's Fan Scouting fielding report actually has him given the exact same grade as Derek Jeter this year). Summary - They're bad at fielding.

And while getting away from the Blue Jays' double-team turning prowess can only help Burnett, he's going to the team that ranked one spot ahead of the Jays last year on that list, and sports a worse outfield D to boot. So while the Yanks are getting a very good pitcher, the odds of him making a leap to a new level seems pretty low considering his supporting cast. And this is only considering when he pitches. As opposed to Sabathia, who is an injury risk because of the history of other pitchers rather than himself, Burnett has spent what often seems like the majority of his career in the trainers room. If I were an oddsmaker (Which I most definitely am not), I would set the odds of both Burnett and Sabathia making it through the next five years with good health below five percent. But based on the way the Yankees are acting this offseason, I'm not sure if they care too much about that. It seems like as long as they get 60+ starts out of Burnett and Sabathia this year, they'll be happy, and let the chips fall where they may down the road.

Thursday, December 18, 2008


Unfortunately at this point, there is no way for me to get a refund from the city, so I might as well take a look at what I've unwillingly helped to buy. The big free agent prize here for the Yankees is CC Sabathia, a man for whom that designation of large could mean several things. Sabathia has unquestionably been one of the five (possibly two) best pitchers in the majors over the last two years, but that is in no way a guarantee that he will continue to be so going forward, especially considering the high injury rates among major league pitchers. At the same time, he's one of the best pitchers to ever be available as a free agent, and is still relatively young. Going forward, he's a very safe bet to continue being an ace barring injury, and he has a clean history in that regard. However, he has been worked extremely hard these last two years (over 25 more innings than any other pitcher, and that's not even counting the postseason), and then there is the matter of his ever-ballooning weight. He was listed at 250 until recently, when that was updated to 290, and reportedly weighed in at 311 pounds during the physical required for his new blockbuster deal. Those two things add up to as many red flags as you'll ever see for a pitcher with a clean bill of health, although Sabathia (Apart from seeming to wear down at the end of 2007 and a (brief) poor start to 2008) has shown no ill effects. At the same time, although it is entirely possible that there is someone out there who is a physical marvel and can defy the laws of usage that govern everyone else's body, what the Yankees have just done is place a $161 million dollar bet on both that man existing and their knowing who he is. I may not know that much about gambling, but this seems like a poor bet to make. Every pitcher who has signed a seven-year deal in the history of baseball (Extremely small sample size here) has struggled with injuries throughout the deal except Barry Zito, who continually makes his employer wish he would get hurt. The best way this could work out for the Yankees is for Sabathia to exercise the opt-out he has after year three of the deal. This would mean both that he pitched well enough over the first three years that he believes a larger deal is possible on the market (Why this is good for the Yankees seems self-explanatory), as well as removing the riskiness of a mega-deal for an aging (At that point) pitcher from the payroll. Of course, Sabathia could blow out his shoulder in Start #1, never pitch again, and have an option to put the Yanks on the hook for 7 years of nothing. This is why player options are somewhere between suck and blow for teams. I intended to tackle both deals here, but this got too long. Burnett will be up next.

Monday, December 15, 2008

The Yankees And The Subway System

The Yankees have bought themselves a brand-new, shiny pitching rotation. I do not take issue with this. They have the money to do so, and rather than roll it over into a perpetually self-renewing endowment (We call this The Harvard Model), they have chosen to use it to upgrade their roster. Fine. This sucks for fans of non-Yankees teams, but you deal with it. However, I live in New York. This is the part that gets me. Not that I am surrounded by Yankees fans and their continual borderline-obscene trade proposals (Whaddaya mean the Padres declined Melky and Matsui for Peavy? Did they hear we'd pay $5 million of Matsui's salary? (Full disclosure: I suspect that somewhere there is a Red Sox fan trying to build a package for Taylor Teagarden based around Julio Lugo. But at least I am not regularly subjected to this)). Rather, it is with the new stadium (Read as: Cash cow) that is allowing the Yankees this new stream of income to spend as they see fit. This stadium is being largely publicly funded by the city of New York, because the stadium will bring in lucrative new dollars to the city, paying for itself in the process. The only problem with this line of thinking is that it is not true. Not even close. What a new ballpark funded by the public does (Beyond removing the threat of the team skipping town. Which, while normally a real concern, is not even fucking close to being remotely possible in this case. What, the Yankees threatened to move to South Carolina? [Grape Ape] off) is line the pockets of the team(s) that play there, at the expense of the sucker (Much more can be found regarding this point here, written by someone much smarter and better at math than I am) that ponied up the cash (Bloomberg!). Which, to a (very) small extent here, as a New York City taxpayer, is me. This is [a dirge played on the bagpipes]. I demand the right to at the least get a swing at AJ Burnett's knee with a Wiffle™ Bat if I'm going to help bring him here. But instead of getting this, what I am getting is the city slashing a property tax rebate from the budget (I rent. Whatever) and cutting its funding to the MTA (Whose mismanagement is another story that I won't be getting into here), causing them (The MTA. Not the city. I probably could have worded that better) to try to make up the projected large hole in their budget for next year by kicking around the idea of raising their prices. Under their preliminary plans, starting next year an unlimited Metrocard© for one month will cost approximately $100 (Up from $81), and each individual ride on the subway will go from $2 to $3. [Samantha Who] you, CC Sabathia and AJ Burnett. [Bananaphone] you both.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Mein Kampf

So, in the continuing quest to read only Important Books (This is a lie. Mostly), I'm currently working my way through Mein Kampf (This earns me lots of nice looks on the subway). Seeing as how this is where Hitler essentially laid out his masterplan, it may be the most important writing of the 20th century. This is a label it earns solely for the contents, however, as the prose is considerably less competent than, say, that last sentence. Hitler's preferred method for writing is extremely stream-of-consciousness. Not in the Joycian, Everything I'm Writing Has Significance That You Couldn't Understand With A Team Of University Professors To Assist You (Especially If They Teach Science) way. More like the I Can't Organize My Thoughts, So I'll Write Them In The Order They Appear Inside My Brain way (Kind of like, say, this blog). This makes for a frustrating read most of the time, the rare exceptions being the places where it leads to unintentional comedy (The best of these so far being the part where Hitler, discussing his academic upbringing (I could have been a great artist, but I was far too good at architecture to waste my gifts concentrating on another discipline) states that he was always turned off as a youth by anti-Semitic tracts because they failed to address the issue scientifically, and then one page later states that Jews produce "nine tenths of all literary filth, artistic trash and theatrical idiocy". It must be scientific! There are numbers in it! Holy [avocado]!). Where the book earns its keep is in Hitler's discourses on propaganda and nationalism, both of which are presented well and, in light of the uses he later put both these tools to, should be underscored by the Jaws theme music. Anyway, the real interesting moments of the book come when I'm reading something of this sort and find myself thinking "Hey! That's a good point!" Which is instantly followed by the thought "Awwwww. I just agreed with Hitler."
So that's fun.

Hi Jezzica!

I think you spelled your name wrong.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Dempster Signing

Ryan Dempster recently re-signed with the Cubs for 4 years, $52 million. Yeah, I know it sounds exorbitant to those of us who are mortal and cannot throw a leather sphere 98 miles per hour past a man wielding a finely honed tree limb who starts every morning by drinking a protein shake consisting of two parts steroids, one part bull semen. But by baseball's salary scale, this really isn't that bad. Dempster was a legitimate ace last season, and the Cubs had a decent amount of money to throw around when this signing happened (Dempster probably had nothing to do with the Tribune® bankruptcy). But I just don't see it continuing. His strikeout rate has been good throughout his career, but his walk rate has always been far higher than it was last year. Maybe his increased reliance on his fastball (56% of pitches in 2008, 46% in 2007 (46%?!? For a closer? [Bulimia])) helped with his control, but his ability to draw swings at pitches out of the strike zone diminished, which can't possibly be a good thing. Anyway, after that brief digression into alluded numbers (If you don't trust that I've done my homework, [sweep the living room] off), there is one further factor:

2007 Innings pitched: 66 2/3
2008 Innings pitched: 206 2/3

His arm is going to fall off. Which sucks for the Cubs, but probably even more for him.

Why Not?

This one time, when I was quite a bit younger (Probably around 8. I'm not really sure), I went to a local attraction we had in the next town over from me called Santa's Land (How this place stayed open is beyond me. My town had about 1200 people living in it, and we were not exactly half an hour away from a thriving metropolis. Maybe they sold coke in the elf workshop or something). Anyway, this place was basically a mini zoo, with a very limited animal selection (Holy (word)! Deer! Just like in the woods!) and some simple Christmas-themed attractions, as well as a mainly breakfast-based restaurant called the Igloo Pancake House (Whose primary menu item was chocolate chip pancakes with a scoop of vanilla ice cream on top, served with pure maple syrup (At least this is what I always ordered. Hey, I was eight). It's a wonder I'm not diabetic). The two things they had that could not be considered entirely native to the region in the zoo-ish area were lemurs and a camel. One of these was significantly more exciting than the other. But there is only so much capering about a small enclosure one can watch before it becomes stupefying, so after a while I would inevitably drift over to the camel pen to watch the severely bored animal walk around and poop. But this day was not like the others. For on this day, I walked over and the camel had a steely glint in its eye, a look of resolve plastered across its snout (Or whatever you call a camel's face). As I approached the fence, it approached me from the opposite side, until we were a mere ten feet apart. And that is when the camel reared back its head and spit on my shirt. And that's why I hate camels.


Greetings and salutations. It is with great pleasure (Mostly on my part. After reading an opening as bad as that one is, there can be no pleasure on your part) that I welcome you to this little piece of the internet, where I will write pretty much anything I feel like, and possibly some things I don't (If I'm feeling overly masochistic). Odds are the majority of postings here will be about things that make me happy (The Red Sox, books, alcohol, (crappy) jokes that are probably offensive to anyone with good taste) or things that make me more [globalized] than they probably should (Hell if I know, Julio Lugo). There will be way too much baseball and way too many digressions, and nothing resembling coherency. So why should you come here? Off the top of my head, probable reasons include you (personally) knowing me and/or being related to me, a strong inclination towards incoherency or a dislike of yourself, or possibly a lost bet. I'm not sure which of these applies to you, but if all three do, then may God have mercy on your soul. Amen.
So welcome! It's great to have you (personally) here, and I hereby pledge that if I ever figure out these computer things any better, I shall track you (personally) by your IP address and steal your identity.