Saturday, March 12, 2005

The Day after

Memo to Zack Day: You're only as good as your last start

Or even your last two, as Day was shaky in his exhibition opener. Yesterday, he descended to "putrid," allowing six runs (three earned) in two innings. He surrended long flies to David Eckstein and So Taguchi back-to-back to start the second inning.

The Post headline ("Tumbling Into Limbo") sounds like a failed sitcom title, but Dave Sheinin's article attempts to match the image. (Well, the process is actually the reverse, but never mind.) The angle Sheinin takes:

With John Patterson and Jon Rauch making increasingly strong cases for themselves this spring, Day, 26, needed a strong outing against the St. Louis Cardinals to retain what is seen as a slim lead in the fifth-starter battle. Instead, his performance suggested whatever lead he might have had is now gone.

Quotations from Frank Robinson paint Day's status as extremely dire:

"Nothing is solid around here. I don't mean that as a threat," said Manager Frank Robinson when asked about Day's status in the rotation. "Especially coming off last year [when Day was 5-10 with a 3.93 ERA], he's got to come down here and perform. Have I taken him out of that spot? No. But still, it's not a lock. We have some other guys who are throwing the ball better right now."

Frankly (eh, no pun intended), I do not at all understand Robinson's use of the introductory clause "Especially coming off last year . . . " Sure, Day's won/lost record was 5-10, but it's not like he stunk the joint up. The 3.93 ERA was fine---second among Expos' starters after LIVAN!---and he posted a respectable 105 ERA+. He's pitched 285 innings in his big league career and has a fine 113 ERA+ to show for it. This is not to say that Day is a sure thing for continued effectiveness; he really needs to up the strikeout rate a bit, for one. Nevertheless, it's borderline ridiculous to cite a pitcher's won/lost record as support that he needs to improve, when the guy in fact was
the most limply supported starting pitcher in the game last year (2.47 runs per game). Jeez, guys, scrutinize The Great Loaiza instead.

Interestingly, Ken Wright provides a rather different angle in
the Wash. Times . Wright mentions near the end of his story that Day's job is not completely secure (Robinson: We're going to make decisions at the right time, and that's down the road a little ways."), but focuses largely on Day's frustrations with his own performance and adds a bit of a not-an-excuse-but-a-reason element to the mix:

This was the first time backup catcher Gary Bennett has caught Day. Early in the game, Day came off the mound to make sure he and Bennett had their signs straight. Apparently, they did not. "He put down a slider, and I don't have a slider," Day said. "I've never thrown to him before, so it's kind of new for me.

I've
noted my opinion previously that the Post's spring training coverage has been deeper, more reasoned, and more sophisticated than that of the Times so far. But that opinion is mainly a reflective of Barry Svrluga's excellent work; Sheinin strikes me as having a more superficial understanding of the game. At any rate, perhaps Sheinin has an accurate take of Robinson's feelings, or perhaps he was duped into believing a motivational technique. Make no mistake, however, that it is a Times writer who provides the needed bit of perspective:

Although it's risky to read too much into a bad -- or good -- exhibition outing,
. . .
---I'm a bit late to the party here, but
Tyrell Godwin has been getting some attention lately. On Thursday, Barry Svrluga did a nice profile, focusing mainly on his path to professional baseball (the valedictorian of his high school class, Godwin passed up a combined $3.1 million in bonus money from the Yankees and Rangers to get his degree from North Carolina, where he injured his knee playing football). Godwin seems like a neat guy, and Svrluga's article motivates me to root for him. But Svrluga's article is also sober as to Godwin's prospects of making the team as a Rule V draftee from the Blue Jays, and Godwin could only manage a .253/.326/.355 batting line (with 110 strikeouts) as a 24/25 year-old in his second season at Double-A. Thus, I'd say "sobriety" is the operative word here.

And
now the Times is on the Godwin beat. It's a more recent article, written after Godwin enjoyed some success at the plate against the Cardinals (the same game that Day got slaughtered), and Mark Zuckerman is taking the "heat-is-on-Endy" angle. Nevertheless, both articles cite the opinion of one of the only guys whose opinion counts: Frank Robinson. And Robinson is, well, sternly sober about Godwin's odds.

---
I devoted a bit of space to the story of one Mike Vechery recently, although I didn't really know much of the story; if anyone's interested in a full treatment of the story, DCRTV Dave links to a DC City Paper article on the subject. (I'd like to the actual article, but the URL is longer than Dkembe Mutombo's full name, so my chances of a successful link would be slim, considering my struggles with MLB.com links.) I'm glad Mr. Vechery's story has been presented by a fairly prominent source; it is an unfortunate yet fascinating one.

---Is there a pitching analog to the
Bill James saw concerning "old players' skills"? I have no clue, but this guy takes a look at it from the perspective of the Royals' youngster, Zach Greinke:

While this is not a perfect analogy by any means (essentially because "old-pitcher skills" are not negative as are some "old-hitter skills") I think what Greinke has in abundance are “old-pitcher skills”. The ability to locate his pitches and change speeds are skills that one normally finds in crafty veteran pitchers who have had to adjust to declining physical skills or injuries. Pitchers like Frank Tanana, who became an off-speed pitcher after being loaded with innings early in his career, come to mind. What Greinke does not possess are skills which include velocity, movement, and an “out” pitch. These
are the kinds of skills that often get young pitchers promoted in the hopes that they’ll develop control and “learn how to pitch”. By all accounts Greinke has already learned to pitch to a large degree and so his ceiling is not as high as a pitcher with comparable statistics who got the job done with a nasty slider and a 98 mile per hour fastball.

So in short, I’m not saying that Greinke won’t be even better in 2005. Indeed, his skills should serve to make him a much more consistent pitcher in the long run, a fact that PECOTA captured in its assessment that he has a 0% chance of collapse (along with his few innings at a young age, and no injury history). However, I am speculating that he is closer to his maximum performance at his young age than some people might think. Only time will tell of course.

An interesting thought (although I'm not exactly sure if it's not a wordier way of saying, "Golly, his stuff isn't all that great."). And my boss is a huge Royals' fan, so I guess I better touch up on my Greinke.

(Credit to Baseball Primer for the link.)

---
The Sports Law Blog is providing rather extensive coverage of the issues related to the congressional 'roids hearing. Recommended reading.

---
Welcome back to Chris from Capitol Punishment. The "Shooting Dead Horses; Beating Fish In A Barrell" post contains some wonderful, dripping, Inning-Endy-related sarcasm and, as an added bonus, sort of slams Dave Sheinin.

---
The Eucalyptus blog provides one of the neatest Nats-related running features: birthdays for former Washington baseball players. The March 10th edition amazingly references three guys who had cups of DC coffee in the 1920s---even more amazingly, two guys debuted (and did nothing else) within a week of each other. As Mel Allen used to say, "How about that?"

---Finally, guess where I'll be on April 16th? Why,
Section 518, I do believe. (Might not sound like much to you actual Washingtonians, but I am a giddy Richmonder at the moment. As Buzz Aldrin knows, second comes right after first.)

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