Blog Archives

October 29, 2007

Baker Gets Bum Rap Concerning Wood, Prior

OK, so the Reds have hired Dusty Baker as their new manager, and half of Reds Nation has gone ballistic, with the chief complaint against him apparently being that Dusty ruined Mark Prior and Kerry Wood when he was in Chicago.

Before you subscribe to the theory that something Baker did somehow derailed the career of Mark Prior, you might want to read this analysis by Chris O’Leary, a part-time pitching mechanics analyst and consultant who developed methodology for analyzing pitching mechanics that was used by one major league team for the 2007 MLB draft. In that analysis, O’Leary demonstrates that Prior’s arm troubles are the result of numerous flaws in his delivery and motion. Even if Dusty never managed an inning for the Cubs, Mark Prior’s arm was bound to fall off anyway.

Besides that, some digging I’ve done on the web reveals that Prior’s medical problems seem to have begun when he had a collision on the basepaths with Marcus Giles while advancing to second base on a ground ball during a game in 2003, on which play Prior may have separated his shoulder. In any case, he missed almost a month for something that has nothing to do with Dusty Baker or pitch counts, and afterward he apparently altered his delivery and throwing motion to compensate for pain in his throwing arm in a way that further contributed to his own arm troubles.

As for Kerry Wood, he was a medical trainwreck before Dusty Baker ever put on a Cubs uniform. Two days before the 1995 MLB draft, when he was a 17-year old high school player, Wood threw 175 pitches in a doubleheader, then was drafted by the Cubs, and a year later, sat out a month as a minor leaguer because of a tender elbow. He made it to the majors in 1998. In August ’98 he sprained his elbow but, with the Cubs in the wild card race, he worked through the pain in the season’s final weeks. Then he tore a ligament in his right arm during his first outing of spring training in 1999 and was done for the year, undergoing Tommy John surgery in May 1999 – four years before Baker took over as manager.

While I couldn’t find an analysis of Wood’s pitching motion similar to the one for Prior that I linked to above, I do know from watching him myself that he has a bad habit of throwing across his body, which I’m sure has contributed to some of his injury history…and so has the fact that this is a guy who fires the ball to the plate as hard as he can every time he takes to the mound.

Why am I posting this? Regardless of what you think of Dusty, he’s been hired to manage the Reds for the next three years, and once he puts on that uniform, he’s one of us. I wasn’t thrilled they hired him either, and the whole Wood/Prior thing was the main reason why. But like many of us who are Reds fans, I don’t follow the Cubs very closely (Seriously, who’d wanna?), so I wasn’t watching the careers of Prior and Wood, before or during Baker’s tenure as manager. I accepted what was coming out of Chicago’s media on the subject as fact.

But after doing some more reading since the Reds hired Dusty, it’s plain to me that the pundits in Chicago were wrong. I don’t know what their axe to grind with Dusty was, why they hung the blame on Dusty for Prior and Wood’s medical problems. I don’t know what other peoples’ beef against Dusty may be, either. I do know that if it has to do with Prior and Wood, you may want to do some more research before you nail Dusty to the cross despite the fact that he has yet to manage an inning in a Reds uniform.

Dusty Baker is not the reason for the injury problems of Mark Prior and Kerry Wood.

Mark Prior and Kerry Wood are the reasons for the injury problems of Mark Prior and Kerry Wood.


Update Nov. 2, 2007: This thread subsequently produced an e-mail from Chris O’Leary advising that on his web site, he has an updated analysis of Prior’s mechanics that readers here might also be interested in.

October 18, 2007

Good News for a Change (Obviously Not Reds Related)

It looks like the MLB Players Association (MLBPA) lost their case about players' stats being personal property. That's good news, not only for fantasy sites, but for blogs and other places that utilize that information.

The case didn't make much sense to me. How could there be ownership of publicly available information?

August 31, 2007

Real Men Wear Pink

On Tuesday, August 28, the Louisville Bats wore special pink jerseys in support of the fight against breast cancer. The jerseys have all been signed, and are now up for auction.

Ryan Jorgensen, Joey Votto, and Jay Bruce are tied for the lead at $260.

Ryan Jorgensen:

Mark Bellhorn's jersey is next, with a $245 bid, but don't count those chowderheads out yet. Bellhorn's item has gotten the highest bid in all Bats charity auctions this year, often with a late surge.

Paul Janish:

Joey Votto and Aaron Herr:

Marcus McBeth with the strikeout:

Jeff Bannon:

Anderson Machado:

Even Buddy Bat wore a pink jersey:

Proceeds will be donated to the Louisville chapter of Susan G. Komen for the Cure. Auction ends at midnight, Sept. 3.

August 28, 2007

Bad News/Good News On the Reds’ Chances

There's a lot being written these days on the fact that the Reds are only 6-1/2 games out in the division, and speculating on their chances of catching the Cubs/Brewers/Cardinals and capturing the weak NL Central.

Let's face a fact here. This is a team with a starting rotation of Harang, Arroyo, TBA, TBA, and maybe - with an outside chance as the fifth starter - TBA. So we aren't looking at a team like San Diego that has solid pitching and wondering if it has enough offense to catch the D-Backs and hold off the Dodgers and Rockies in the NL West. No, we're looking at a team with Harang, Arroyo, and the Louisville Bats and wondering if they have enough offense to overcome that and make a Cinderella run in a weak division.

That's the BAD NEWS. The GOOD NEWS is that sometimes, this does happen in baseball. In 1978 the Yankees were 14 games behind on July 20 and won the division. In 1995 the Mariners were 13 games behind on August 3 and won the division. In 1973 the Reds were 11 games behind on June 30 and won the division. Every once in a while it just seems like the baseball gods get up one morning and decide to sprinkle some team with fairy dust.

In 2007, the Reds are 6-1/2 games behind. When Pete took over, they were 20 games under .500 and it's taken them two months to get to where they're now only 10 games under .500. For the Reds to win the division, the Cubs, Brewers, and Cardinals have to not just play .500 ball during September, they have to basically have the wheels come off in order for the Reds to have a shot.

That, again, is the BAD NEWS. The corresponding GOOD NEWS is, that's not out of the realm of possibility, especially if there's a team involved that the baseball gods have sprinkled with fairy dust. Cinderella teams always seem to have things like that go their way. And the Reds do have six games left against each of those three teams…but the thing is that if you play a division opponent and go 2-1 in a series, you only pick up one game in the standings, so the Reds need to come up with series sweeps against these guys.

BAD NEWS: The Reds have only swept four series all season.

GOOD NEWS: All of them have been under Pete.

A look at the Reds' remaining schedule for the regular season reveals:

BAD NEWS: The Reds have a three-game series in GABP against the Mets, against whom they lost 3 of 4 last time the two teams met (pun intended), although that was in New York.

GOOD NEWS: They have a four-game series against the Giants (who suck), a three-game series against the Astros (who suck, and who threw in the towel yesterday, firing not only their manager but the GM as well. Coincidence? Or a move orchestrated by the baseball gods to insure that their fairy dust wasn't going to go to waste?), and of course, four games these next three days against perennial NL Central power Pittsburgh. So, the toughest series to win might be the Mets, and other than that, each remaining series provides the Reds with an opportunity to either gain ground on a divisional opponent who is ahead of them in the standings, or fatten up against a losing team.

It's a tough row to hoe, but who knows? If the baseball gods recently watched a rerun of Cinderella, had an overabundance of fairy dust on hand, and spilled a few tons of it on the Reds, we might be seeing one of the greatest Cinderella stories in baseball history shaping up right now. After all…the team that won this “weak” division last year also went on to win the World Series.

We'll know in a week or two. If the Reds get through this week with their current position intact, and then sweep the Mets at GABP Sept. 3-5, look out for these guys.


August 12, 2007

Klue For Krivsky: Keep Keppinger!

Yes, I know the word “clue” begins with a C. That's called literary license; it is also called alliteration, beginning rhyme, head rhyme, or initial rhyme, to save you from having to scurry for your dictionary or grade-school English textbooks. But since you're here to read about baseball, not get an English lesson, let's talk about Jeff Keppinger, shall we?

With Keppinger hitting .354 and carrying a .302 lifetime major league average according to his page on Baseball Reference as I post this, it occurred to me to compare his early stats to those of another player, now retired, who was also considered primarily a slap hitter, just for what I'll call “grins and giggles” in case there are kids reading this. I'll call this now-retired player Player X.

Keppinger made it to the majors as a rookie in 2004 with the Mets, and since the Mets already had Matsui and Reyes in the middle infield, Wright at third, and guys like Wigginton, Garcia, and McEwing in the infield mix as well, Keppinger got buried, then traded to the Royals.

Kansas City had Grudzielanek, Graffanino, and Berroa in the middle and former first-rounder (by Oakland) Mark Teahen at third. Besides, they're the Royals, the guys who took LaRue off our hands for us, and gave us Keppinger for Russ Haltiwanger, who's now 23 and still pitching in Class-A ball (but at least he has one of baseball's most comical names this side of Dick Pole, eh?).

That's after they sent Ruben Gotay to the Mets to get Keppinger in the first place. Gotay's currently hitting .343 for New York. Anybody still wonder why the Royals have the third-worst winning percentage in the AL? No? Good! Now let's get back to Keppinger again.

Finally he comes to Cinci for his third major league season, ends up with a chance to play because some of the guys ahead of him got hurt (Lopez, Castro, Gil) or were on the bereavement list (Gonzalez), and has made the most of it so far.

So now let's compare Keppinger's early career numbers to those of Player X. Here are their respective BA/OBP/SLG for their first three years as major leaguers:

Player X's rookie year: .298/.337/.389
Keppinger's rookie year: .284/.317/.379

Player X's second year: .309/.355/.372
Keppinger's second year: .267/.323/.400

Player X's third year: .351/.410/.444
Keppinger's (So far): .354/.407/.532

As you can see, Keppinger's major league numbers so far are somewhat comparable to those of Player X.

“So what,” you ask?

Well, you see, Player X was a guy who stuck around for a few more years after that, and did fairly well. So well, in fact, that a couple of weeks ago he was summoned to Cooperstown, NY where, in front of the largest crowd in the history of the institution, he was summarily inducted into the Baseball Hall Of Fame in his first year of eligibility.

Player X was Tony Gwynn.

Now, don't get me wrong here, I am by no means am I pushing Jeff Keppinger as a future HOFer. Maybe if he keeps hitting like this for the next 15 years, I will start, especially if by some miracle he is still in a Reds' uniform then. But right now, it's safe to say that Jeff Keppinger sure as shootin' doesn't look at all out of place in the major leagues…and that the Reds might want to hang onto this guy, just in case!