Sunday, 25 October 2009

Rethinking Pavano

I used to despise Carl Pavano. Even though I would normally take great delight in the pitching-related mishaps of the Yankees (just thinking about Kei Igawa or Ian Kennedy still makes me chuckle) Pavano's case just seemed too extreme for me to make fun of somehow.

The stories of Pavano neglecting his team-mates, spending too much time living the New York high-life, and just generally proving an Eric Chavez-esqe financial albatross (admittedly on a team much more capable of shouldering that burden) around the Yankee's already pitching weak necks are well known. Also, while we're at it, it is pretty much Pavano's fault 'the Boss' had to spent $28,000,000 on bringing back Clemens.

However Pavano's performance this year has me rethinking my judgements of him.

While its certaintly not the case that Pav's 14-12 5.10 ERA stat line from 2009 is going to get him any Cy Young votes it should certainly be food for thought for the voters of the Comeback Award. Comeback is actually very apt, that's what Carl has done, he has returned to the level (and actually a higher level) that he previously played at.

Pavano's 2004 was an aborition - his 18-8 3.00 ERA record was the only time he'd been a winning pitcher (excluding an 8-4 record over just 97 innings in 2000). Pavano's 2004 was like Maris' 1961 - a freak occurance that will happen just the once and certainly no indication that the guy was on the fast-train to Cooperstown.

Signing Pavano to that enormous multi-year deal is the Yankee's own stupid fault. You simply do not overpay that much for someone who has only ever had one good season and not expect to get burnt. While Pavano's attitude and hustle may indeed be shaky he is certainly not solely to blame in that fiasco.

In 2009 Pavano has achieved his 3rd ever winning season, pitched nearly 200 innings and proved to everyone in baseball that he is a competant number 3 or 4 starter - which frankly was all he ever was to begin with.

Comeback complete.

Saturday, 10 October 2009

Why the Sox will get swept

The Red Sox are going to get unceremoniously dumped out of the playoffs tomorrow night and they only have Terry Francona and John Farrell to blame...well that and a complete lack of offense and shoddy D.

The Sox intend to send Clay Buchholz to the mound in Game 3 at Fenway. Why? This should be Dice-K's spot in the rotation.

While the Japanese Megastar has had a less than outstanding year bouncing back from injury he has been extremely solid in his last few starts, including a beauty last week against the Indians that it was my pleasure to actually be in attendance to witness.

Buchholz however got whalloped by the Indians and has proven a model of inconsistancy and poor pitch selection throughout his Red Sox tenure.

Daisuke may not even pitch in Game 4 if there is one (highly unlikely). The plan seems to be to start Jon Lester again on short rest for that game.

This makes absolutely no sense. Just about the only chance the Sox have in Game 3 is that the Angels will be sending LHP Scott Kazmir to the mound in lefties-graveyard Fenway Park. Buchholz, as a righty, might, and its a big might, be able to squeak out a W if the likes of Jason Bay, Youk and V-Mart can get the right-handed offence motoring at home. The likelihood then after in Game 4 is that the Halos will be forced to put another lefty on the mount in Joe Saunders. Why then would Francona want to offset the obvious advantage of starting another RHP like Dice-K against Saunders by using a LHP on short-rest in Lester. The same Jon Lester who got hit hard by, and walked a ton of Angels hitters in Game 1.

Even Wakefield would be an improvement on Buchholz in Game 3 or Lester in Game 4 and watching Tim pitch makes me as comfortable as going to the dentist.

Friday, 9 October 2009

Big Papi is dead, all hail Big Papi

David Ortiz is not done….yet.

I spent 5 days in Boston last week and had the distinct pleasure of getting to go to Fenway to watch all 4 games of the Indians series.

Of all the amazing things that stand out about that trip and my trips to the ballpark instead, one eclipses all the others: David Ortiz is still the man in Boston.

I’d have thought that given the as yet still unanswered (at least to anyone’s satisfaction) steroid allegation and the woeful start to 2009 Big Papi endured, that his popularity would have waned in Boston.

No chance! As I watched Sunday’s day game I saw crowds of people in the seats next to me (Left Field Section) cheering as Big Papi went deep, willing him to hit the final 2 bombs that would have propelled the affable Dominican to 30HR and 100RBI for the year.

Still Ortiz finished with 28HR and 99RBI. This is a disastrous year?

Part of the problem with Ortiz is the misconception that, given his high profile status and visibility, he is amongst baseball’s top earners, commanding a Jeter/A-Rod-esqe salary. He does not.

Ortiz earns around $12,000,000 a year from the Sox. Granted this is not chump change, but he is certainly not the best payed player on the team (that distinction goes to J.D. Drew and the less said there the better). Frankly, given A-Rod’s less than stellar performance in 2009 which would you rather have; $30M for 30HR and 100RBI or $12M for 28HR and 99RBI. Whilst A-Rod has added value owing to the fact that he can play in field everyday and hits for a higher average, is it really worth an extra $18M to buy .50 points on a BA and league average 3B defence?

Before this turns into a fluff piece on Ortiz let me stress the purpose of this post. Yes, David Ortiz is still an offensive threat and worthwhile player but David Ortiz should no longer be these things for the Red Sox.

I’ve been arguing most of the year that the only place the Sox could ship Ortiz was Oakland. This was whilst Ortiz was 0-too many to count and the As still had an underperforming Matt Holliday on their roster.

Ortiz to Oakland still works. While the Sox would have to retain a significant portion of Ortiz’s salary the big man would be a good fit on a team that has been crying out for a big power bat since the cruel demise of Eric Chavez and the disappearance of Frank Thomas.

Ortiz is still a big OBP guy (this is Billy Beane’s team we’re talking about), his .332 OBP is nearly 100 points up on his admittedly woeful .238BA. That is a higher OBP that the As 2009 average (.328). At that plus the fact that Ortiz has proven he can still (consistently) produce in the clutch, unlike Oakland’s last ageing slugger acquisition: Jason Giambi.

Ultimately, with the possibility of the Red Sox acquiring Matt Holliday as a free agent appearing once again a possibility it is vital that Theo gets rid of Ortiz, after all the Sox gain very little in replacing Jason Bay with Holliday. The prospect of platooning Bay and a Holliday free from the Coors-Field-Effect murmuring that dogged his achievements in the past at LF and DH is one likely to make all of Red Sox Nation salivate.

So, Ortiz should be an A.