Sunday, September 16, 2007

I am too stunned to properly form words

I've got Ninja Warrior on G4 playing as I read this Braves book, and this yelling in Japanese is all that's keeping me sane. "When we come back, a model and a transsexual will walk into Ninja Warrior."

Yes. That's how bad this is.

I've come to the conclusion that Shanks is misunderstanding the Moneyball approach, as he refers to it. He says it's about taking college players over high school players, on-base percentage over makeup, and apparently not taking the best player available (like the Braves).

One of my favorite (I might be a masochist) parts:

Author Preface:
...Then I heard about a book by Michael Lewis called Moneyball. It focused on the Oakland A's and their reliance on computer technology in shaping its major league roster and its farm system. Several people in the Braves' organization warned me not to read it. "It'll get your blood boiling," they warned. "They just do things differently than we do." I resisted for awhile, but then went ahead and read the book.

The differences outlined in the book were amazing. As someone who had watched a minor league system spit out players using on philosophy, it was incredible to read about a wholly different methodology. Some may say I'm being closed-minded, but the brash disregard for scouting in its truest sense as portrayed in Moneyball was just as insulting to me as it was to so many scouts around the game. As it was explained in the book, the A's, and the 'moneyballers,' apparently care more about on-base percentage than the makeup of a player, and even though I knew the Braves paid attention to OBP, it wasn't the telling factor in choosing a draft pick or a possible left fielder. The philosophical differences were staggering.

This is where I stop to laugh, then re-read to make sure I wasn't missing a key word like, say, "NOT!" or "PSYCH!"

...nope. He's still serious.

Because it's been difficult for me to get my mind around the fact that Shanks read Moneyball and failed to pick up on the fact that makeup is VERY important to the A's organization, I'll quote an extensive passage from The Book Itself, illustrating this fact.

Lark is a high school pitcher with a blazing fastball. He's a favorite of one of the older scouts, who introduces him in a language only faintly resembling English. "Good body, big arm. Good fastball, playable slider, so-so change," he says. "A little funk on the backside but nothing you can't clean up. I saw him good one day and not so good another."

"Any risk he'll go to college?" asks Erik.

"He's not a student type," says the older scout. "I'm not sure he's even signed with a college."

"So is this guy a rockhead?" asks Pitter (Chris Pittaro)....

"Ah," says the older scout, thinking about how to address the question. It's possible for a baseball player to be too stupid for the job. It's also possible for him to be too smart. "He may be too smart," is a phrase that will recur several times over the next week,

"He's a confident kid. But--"

"But," says Erik.

"There might be some, uh, family issues here," says the old scout. "I heard the dad had spent some time in prison. Porno or something."

"Can he bring it?" someone finally asks. The air clears.

"I can see this guy in somebody's pen throwing aspirin tablets someday," says the older scout. "They guy has a cannon." ... This old scout likes high school kids and refuses to apologize for that fact,

"I'm worried about the makeup," says someone.

"What does his profile say?" asks someone else.

A young man sits quietly off to one side at the room's lone desktop computer. He punches a few keys. He's looking for Lark's results on the psychological test given by Major League Baseball to all prospects.

"Not good," he says, at length. "Competitive drive: one out of ten. Leadership: one out of ten. Conscientiousness: one out of ten." He keeps reading down the list, but no matter what the category the kid's score is always the same.

"Shit," Bogie finally says, "does he even have a two in anything?" Bogie is the oldest scout. In 1972, scouting for the Houston Astros, Bogie administered what he believes to have been the first ever baseball psychological test, to a pitcher names Dick Ruthven. (He passed.)

"Bad makeup," says someone and no one disagrees.

It goes on like that for awhile, saying that "bad makeup is a death sentence" and so on and so forth. What was it again that Shanks wrote?

Oh yeah.

"As it was explained in the book, the A's, and the 'moneyballers,' apparently care more about on-base percentage than the makeup of a player..."

I beg to differ, Bill.

On another point, something about the A's only drafting college players, Shanks' attempt to prove this philosophy wrong -- even though it ... I dunno ... doesn't actually exist?! -- made me laugh out loud.

The inconsistencies in the Moneyball book make Gillick question its relevance. Gillick points out that while Lewis takes great pleasure in mocking someone in Beane's draft room known as 'the fat scout,' he fails to mention that the same scout, John Poloni, scounted and signed one of Oakland's best players for the first half of the decade, right-hander Tim Hudson. And with all the college talk, it's also conveniently omitted that Eric Chavez, Oakland's best player, was a first round pick out of high school.

Couple things.
1. We can't allege that Lewis took "great pleasure" in mocking John Poloni for his weight.
2. I don't know if convenience is why Chavvy's signing is omitted. Maybe it's ... irrelevance? Billy Beane didn't become the GM until 1997. Eric Chavez was drafted and signed in 1996. [I should note that Beane was indeed in the organization's front office at this point and no doubt part of the decision, but he was not the decision-maker.]
3. I'm also entertained by the fact that Shanks writes "the Moneyball book."

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Dan Haren, Part Two

"The ERA leader is Haren, but he doesn't have enough wins." - Tigers broadcaster.

Enough wins for what? You mean, he doesn't have enough run support.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

What about Dan Haren!?

I suffer not-so-silently when it comes to the subject of Dan Haren being in the running for the AL Cy Young. I mentioned him in my very last post and then ventured to in order to check out game times. mocked me with their pieces on the CY awards and who's in the running.

For the AL: Wang, NYY; Beckett, BOS; Sabathia, CLE
Dark Horses include LACKEY and Escobar, LAA.
Honorable mentions were Carmona, CLE; Bedard, BAL; Putz, SEA; Borowski, CLE; and Papelbon, BOS.

I'll break this down for you. With the exception of Bedard (who's out for the season anyway and so won't get it), every single one of them is on a contending team. Putz, Borowski, and Papelbon are relief pitchers.

I'll name one pitcher who has better numbers than every single one of the abovementioned men.


What does Dan Haren have to do to get recognition?

  • He could pitch every day to prevent a lesser pitcher, like Joe Kennedy, from losing games for the team. By the same token, he could pitch complete games to avoid leaving decisions up to the injury-laden bullpen and Huston Street.
  • Haren could also bat for himself, surrendering the right to a designated hitter. Who knows, he might be the next Barry Bonds.
  • He could play gratis for the A's, freeing up $12.65 million for better pitching or hitting. I'm sure the addition of Tim Hudson would boost the pitching staff. Alex Rodriguez could be the DH if the infield joined Haren in playing gratis.
  • Haren could add a D to his name and twenty-five to his number in order to shock batters, umpires and radar guns into recognizing the resurrection of Rich Harden's fastball in the body of a Californian four inches taller and thirty pounds heavier than the Canadian, supplementing enough height and weight to add three miles per hour to the four-seam thereby topping it out at 103 mph, challenging Joel Zumaya for the crown of Scariest Fastball Ever.
Maybe then he'd get some recognition. Or maybe those guys could start WATCHING HIM PITCH.

Grand Slams and Billy Beane, this is stream of consciousness

I don't have a lot to look forward to in the remaining days of this baseball season. Brandon Backe's starts, Hunter Pence in the lead-off spot, Oakland rookies playing to get traded, and Dan Haren's run at the AL Cy Young are about it.

The A's hit two grand slams last night. After reading the "Author Preface" of Scout's Honor: The Bravest Way to Build a Winning Team by Bill Shanks, I was hoping during the third inning with the bases loaded and two outs that Suzuki, who'd hit the first grand slam the inning previous, would hit another. Then I could say, "lookit the kid, two grand slams in two at-bats, what was that about the fat Braves catcher and two grand slams in a month?" But no dice. Groundout to third. Dan Johnson hit the other one in the ninth inning. I was sound asleep by then, but I'm listening to it as I type now.

The weather has turned cooler, finally. I was hoping it'd stay warm for longer, but I'm in Michigan, that would be a wishful thinking. The temperature is very fall baseball (or the same temperature I've associated with fall baseball) and I can feel October just out of reach. Which teams are going? Which teams will fall at the end? Will the winner of the National League Central have a winning record? Will Boston win it all -- again?

These are questions we all want answered, and they will be by the time November rolls around. To fill the time between now and then, I will be reviewing, in chunks, the aforementioned book about the Atlanta Braves. This is purely for my entertainment, and yours, too, I trust.

I've already done a preliminary skim of the book, utilizing the index in order to spot check for A's, Moneyball, and Billy Beane references. I got a good laugh out of that.

Monday, September 10, 2007

At least Ausmus still puts out.

Sometimes it really sucks not being in your team's market. Last week was one of those times. I got many IMs and phone calls that went along these lines:

-Hey, Skye, did you see Ausmus and his surfboard?
-Skylar! Naked Ausmus!
-Dude, did you get Houston coverage on today? Roy said some pretty funny things.

This is also one of those times I'm thankful for the internet.

-No, I hadn't, but now I have.
-I wish he was naked.
-No, I didn't. So did Brad Lidge and Mike Lamb.

"I was kind of embarrassed to throw to him now. Every time I see him behind the plate now, I'm going to think about that picture. He don't look like he's the manliest guy here right now." - Roy Oswalt

"Maybe we're all just jealous, but at the same time, there's a certain limit to what can be presented, and I think he's maybe stepped over the lines on that one." - Brad Lidge

"I had to get my own copy and keep it forever. I put it up in my game room at home next to my World Series pictures because these are things that I'll miss when I retire. It won't be the game. It will be shirtless pictures of Brad Ausmus." - Mike Lamb

In related news, the Astros are last in the division and their E# is down to 9. The first National League team eliminated from playoff contention was Florida.

[Thank you, Raisa, for those wonderful quotes.]

Saturday, September 8, 2007


1. Adam Melhuse re-signed with the A's not too long ago after having been DFA'd by the Rangers.

2. Eric Chavez has been shut down for the season to get shoulder and possibly back surgery. He's had a torn labrum for 10 years and has a bulging disk in his back. His "tendinitis" problems this year with his forearms were fabricated -- he's had nerve problems.

3. Houston's magic number is down to 13. Wandy is still bad on the road. The Astros are still unable to hit and now Ransom is playing shortstop. Where is Mike Lamb?

4. Eliminated teams are the Orioles and the Devil Rays, with the CWS magic number at 1. Let's see if the Twins and Indians can get wins to make it official.

Thursday, September 6, 2007


I was reading Cicero's First Catilinarian Oration and stumbled upon a word that was at once familiar and mysterious.

Cupio, patres conscripti, me esse clementem....

My eyes dashed across the page to the facing vocabulary and my senses revolted at the sight:

clemens -ntis merciful.

Sure, Cicero. More like opposite of.

Sunday, September 2, 2007

But the Astros never run!

On September 2, 2007 in Chicago, IL at Wrigley Field, Jason Kendall allowed THREE Astros baserunners to steal second base.

Ty Wigginton
Hunter Pence
Eric Bruntlett

Where are you, A's fans praising the defense of Kendall's arm? I'm waiting.

Astros update: Following the Wrigley series, the Astros are 15 under and 10 back. The Magic Number is 17.