Baseball Notes: Looking Out for Number One

baseball notesWhen it comes to baseball pitchers, most fans focus on pitch speed. This makes sense. The 100-mph-fastball is a pop culture/athletic touchstone, and who hasn’t been to a carnival in central Ontario and tried to throw three hard pitches at the same velocity while your ten-year-old brain realizes the km/h readings on the gun have little meaning to your life? But in general, if you throw the ball faster, it’s harder to hit, right?

One of the biggest baseball stories through the first half of the season is the noticeable (and noticed, obviously) drop in pitch velocity for flamethrower Justin Verlander. Coupled with middling success (when compared with recent, historic-level years), falling pitch speed is the ready response for writers attempting diagnoses of Verlander’s struggles. (C.C. Sabathia has fallen under similarly themed scrutiny.)

While the real reason for Verlander’s struggles likely exists within a more complex mix of factors, the popular focus on pitch speed provides a good entry point for introducing two other pitching components that probably are more important than velocity alone and that are easy for casual fans to understand and track. (That’s the whole point of this series of posts, after all.)

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The DET Offensive: Interleague Play

It has been a tough first half of the season for the Detroit Tigers, who are struggling just to get to .500. I wrote before that the best way to get out of a slump is to invite the Royals to your yard. That sort of worked, but it didn’t really cure any ills in the longer term. After this month, though, I have a new recipe: play the National League.

The Tigers began interleague play on June 8 in Cincinnati, and they won each of their interleague series except for the last one, taking two of three from the Reds, Cubs, Rockies, and Cardinals and avoiding a sweep in Pittsburgh with a game three win against the Pirates, the team with the second-best home record in all of baseball. The Reds, Cardinals, and Pirates are good, and the Cubs and Rockies are quite bad, but Detroit’s performance on a given night seemed to have little correlation to the strength of their opponent. MLB, unlike the NFL or NBA, is a situation in which any team can beat any other team on a given day, but I think this is more a reflection of the Tigers’ internal struggles.

Injuries continue to be an issue, the most troublesome example of which is all-star catcher Alex Avila’s knee and leg problems. Fortunately, Gerald Laird has proven to be a more than serviceable backup, but Jim Leyland consistently and accurately insists he has yet to have his best lineup on the field for any meaningful stretch of games. Utility man Don Kelly also is out as a result of flinging his leg into a barrier at dead-sprint speed.

On the positive side, Doug Fister looks to be healthy and back on the path towards pitching effectiveness. Ditto on the latter for Max Scherzer and Rick Porcello. The shining star continues to be Austin Jackson, who is hitting very well in the lead-off spot while recording zero errors in center field.  Keep reading…

ALDLAND Podcast

After some time off, ALDLAND’s podcast is back with a vengeance.  Euro 2012, Liverpool’s new coach, baseball, and some big news from one of the co-hosts.  It’s all here in the latest ALDLAND podcast.

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MLB Free Agency 2011

I was hoping that this article would still be topical by the time I started writing it yesterday night, and lo and behold the only free agent of consequence to sign on November 3rd was Juan Rivera.  I have literally no idea who he is.  I watch at least a hundred Mariners games each year (MLB.tv FTW), plus a good number of Phillies games and even as much of a Tigers game as I can stomach now and then.  Between that and fantasy baseball, I feel like I have a pretty good handle on who’s who in the MLB and I had literally no idea who this guy was.*  So basically he wasn’t going to be on this list anyway.
 
Here is a list of ten of the top free agents and where I think they will sign:
 
Albert Pujols
2011 team: Cardinals
2012 team: Cardinals
Why: Everyone has been jawing all season long about Pujols testing the market, but I think a lot of that was ESPN puffing the subject up so they had something else to talk about during Sports Center besides whether Tom Brady having longer hair than Aaron Rodgers makes him a better QB.  When all is said and done, I think this is going to turn out like the Matt Holliday-STL deal where there weren’t a ton of other serious suitors for the money and the player didn’t want to leave St. Louis anyway.  Add in that two of the big free agent spenders, the Yankees and Red Sox already have top tier 1Bs and you don’t have anyone to seriously compete with the Cardinals at the price Pujols wants.  So in the end St. Louis will end up overpaying a bit, talking heads who said that Pujols would sign for 300 million will complain about how St. Louis overpaid, St. Louis fans will complain about how they overpaid, but inside everyone will be happy.
Outside shot: Real Madrid?  At that price, I don’t know.
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