Saturday, May 25, 2013

Moving June 1

As many of you know, I recently took at job at the Northwest Herald in Crystal Lake. That necessitates a move, as the commute from North Aurora to McHenry County has quickly grown tiresome -- especially as the summer road construction season gets underway.

I'll be spending most of my next week packing up my apartment in advance of a move to Crystal Lake next Saturday, June 1.

I won't have time to blog, so I'm just going to put this little writing project on hiatus for the time being. Once I get moved and settled, I'll have much more time to watch baseball, read about baseball, do research about baseball and write about baseball.

That will hopefully lead to a better blog as we move into the summer months and the pennant races heat up. I'll talk to everybody again in June.


Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Don Mattingly must know he's getting fired

Many observers would probably nominate the Los Angeles Dodgers as the most disappointing team in baseball to date.

There is no arguing the Dodgers are getting a horrible return on their investment. Their payroll is $217 million. Meanwhile, coming into Wednesday's action they were 5-18 in May and 18-26 overall. Only the New York Mets and the woeful Miami Marlins had worse records among National League teams.

The more I think about it, though, we shouldn't be surprised the Dodgers are struggling. They have a bunch of guys who are former All-Stars, sure, but those same All-Stars were all traded to Los Angeles for a reason. Namely, they were overpaid malcontents that other teams wanted gone.

The Boston Red Sox (27-19) are a better team and probably a happier clubhouse now that Adrian Gonzalez, Carl Crawford and Josh Beckett are the Dodgers' problems. The Marlins may stink, but at least they don't have to put up with the lazy, half-ass play of Hanley Ramirez anymore.

Los Angeles manager Don Mattingly is in the final year of his contract, and most people believe he'll be taking the fall for the underachievement of this overpaid roster soon.

Mattingly must know it, too, because he let his players have it Wednesday.

"We got to find a team with talent that will fight and compete like a club that doesn't have talent,'' Mattingly told the Orange County Register. "I felt we got more out of our ability [last season]. I don't know about being tougher, but I felt we got more out of our ability.''

Mattingly did not directly criticize Dodgers management, but he did make comments that seem to be an indictment of the way the roster was put together.

"There has to be a mixture of competitiveness,'' Mattingly said. "It's not, "Let's put an All-Star team together and the All-Star team wins.' It's finding that balance of a team that has a little bit of grit and will fight you. And also having the talent to go with it. All grit and no talent isn't going to make you successful. But all talent and no grit isn't going to get you there either.''

Indeed, real baseball is not fantasy baseball. The Dodgers are finding that out the hard way this season. 

Monday, May 20, 2013

Gordon Beckham: His absence makes us grow fonder

Jim Margalus had a nice update this morning on the status of two injured White Sox players -- Gordon Beckham and John Danks.

I doubt Beckham's surgically-repaired left wrist is back to 100 percent yet. It may not be 100 percent for the rest of the season, as evidenced by the video of him shaking the bee stings out of that thing after fouling a pitch off during his rehab stint with Charlotte Sunday.

But, Beckham is also 5-for-9 since joining the Knights, which suggests he'll be well enough to come back to the Sox sooner rather than later. That's especially true since second base has become a sinkhole for the Sox in Beckham's absence.

Jeff Keppinger and his .197 batting average have gotten the majority of the starts at that position since Beckham got hurt the second week of the season. Tyler Greene has played there as well. Greene has hit a little bit (.283 average), but his defense has been abysmal. For that matter, Keppinger's defense has been poor too. His lack of range at second has cost the Sox on numerous occasions over the last month.

That poor play at that position has Sox fans clamoring for Beckham's return. Hawk Harrelson is overstating it a little bit when he says Beckham is the best defensive second baseman in the American League, but there's not much question Beckham makes a lot more plays than either Keppinger or Greene.

When Beckham was healthy, quite a few people were ripping him because he has never lived up to his potential with the bat. He's hit .230 and .234, respectively, in each of the last two seasons. Some fans wanted him gone.

Well, for the last month, he has been gone, and we all see the results. His replacements haven't provided anything resembling an offensive upgrade, and there's no question the defense at second base has been markedly worse.

It's funny how people are now realizing just how important Beckham is to the team. No, he is not the franchise savior he was made out to be when he was first drafted and called to the big leagues. However, he provides well above-average defense at a middle-of-the-diamond position. He doesn't hit for high average, but he will contribute 20-25 doubles and 10-15 home runs from the bottom part of the batting order.

The Sox can do worse and have done worse at that position in the past (see Jimenez, D'Angelo). If you judge Beckham on what he is instead of what he was touted to be, you'll start to understand he brings legitimate value to a team. That's something we all should have learned by watching Keppinger and Greene bumble around the field like a couple of idiots over the last several weeks.  

Friday, May 17, 2013

Verlander-Darvish duel never materializes

Well, so much for the pitching matchup of the century, huh?

As early as last weekend, I was hearing some national commentators salivate over Thursday's scheduled showdown between Detroit ace Justin Verlander and Texas ace Yu Darvish.

It was understandable to a point. Darvish entered the contest with a 6-1 record and a league-leading 80 strikeouts. Verlander was off to a mediocre 4-3 start, but hey, that 1.93 ERA was nothing to sneeze at, right?

I think people were going a little over the top, though, when they claimed this pitching matchup was the biggest one in Texas since Nolan Ryan beat Roger Clemens 2-1 in 1989. Those two guys are 300-game winners. Both Verlander and Darvish have a ways to go before they can be considered in that class. (Although, I'll admit Verlander might be on his way.)

Much to the surprise of many experts, the Rangers defeated the Tigers 10-4 Thursday night. Neither pitcher was on top of his game, and Verlander was downright awful. He didn't survive the third inning, allowing eight earned runs. Darvish, meanwhile, was shaky early. He allowed four earned runs over his first four innings, but settled down to retire 15 of the final 16 Tiger hitters he faced. He threw a career-high 130 pitches over eight innings to earn his seventh victory of the season.

The third inning of this game lasted a lifetime. The Tigers got three runs in the top half off Darvish, before the Rangers responded with seven runs in the bottom half. During the third inning, Verlander and Darvish combined to throw 74 pitches, giving up 12 baserunners and 10 runs. So much for that pitcher's duel.

Word to the wise: Don't ever think you've got baseball figured out. When you expect an epic pitching battle, you're probably going to end up with a slugfest.

Jeff Keppinger walks!

It only took 141 plate appearances, but White Sox infielder Jeff Keppinger finally drew his first walk of the season Thursday night.

The offending pitcher was Angels right-hander Michael Kohn, who somehow was wild enough to walk Keppinger on four pitches. Not only that, the bases were loaded at the time.

Keppinger's walk in the top of the eighth inning forced in the eventual winning run in a Sox 5-4 victory. Yet another example of how you should expect the unexpected in baseball.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Predict the date of Jeff Keppinger's first walk

Here at the The Baseball Kid, we like to salute horrendous play whenever the opportunity presents itself. Tonight, I'd like to discuss White Sox infielder Jeff Keppinger.

Can you believe this guy hit .325 as a member of the Tampa Bay Rays last season?

Keppinger has looked nothing like that player this year. Through 37 games and 132 plate appearances with the Sox, the veteran is batting .177 with a .174 on-base percentage.

You read that right. Keppinger's on-base percentage is even lower than his godawful batting average. How did that happen? Well, Keppinger has yet to draw a single walk this season. He does, however, have two sacrifice flies. Sac flies do not count against your batting average, but they do lower your on-base percentage. Keppinger has no walks or HBPs to lift his OBP, so that explains it.

There is now a Twitter account dedicated to Keppinger's inability to draw a base on balls. You can follow it at @DidKeppWalk.

I'll go ahead and make a prediction here. I've got Keppinger drawing his first walk of the season on May 24. I'll bet one of the Miami Marlins pitchers will be dumb enough to walk him.

Anyone else got a prediction?

Monday, May 13, 2013

Adam Dunn is not in a slump

Based upon the title of this blog, you probably think I've completely lost my mind. White Sox 1B/DH Adam Dunn is batting .137 entering play on May 13. How can I possibly claim he's not in a slump?

Well, just for fun, let's break down Dunn's numbers -- month by month -- since he joined the Sox. For purposes of this exercise, we'll evaluate Dunn's play by using one old-guard statistical measure (batting average) and one new-wave statistical measure (OPS):

April: .160 avg., .567 OPS
May: .204 avg., .743 OPS
June: .136 avg., .498 OPS
July: .145 avg., .546 OPS
August: .155 avg., .441 OPS
Sept./Oct.: .128 avg., .508 OPS

April: .231 avg., .881 OPS
May: .230 avg., .976 OPS
June: .181 avg., .770 OPS
July: .211 avg., 788 OPS
August: .176 avg., .691 OPS
Sept./Oct: .200 avg., .676 OPS

April: .148 avg., .617 OPS
May: .103 avg., .316 OPS

In 13 1/2 months as a member of the Sox, Dunn has a .179 batting average with a .683 OPS. You have to give him one thing -- he's been consistent from month to month in compiling these sorry statistics.

You'll note the bolded figures in April and May of 2012. Dunn's career OPS is .863. Those two months are the only two during his time in a White Sox uniform where he has met or exceeded his career OPS.

Dunn's career batting average is .238. He has yet have a single month where he has equaled or exceeded that figure as a member of the Sox. Forget about hitting career norms over the course of the season. He hasn't done it for even one month.

Where am I going with this? Well, I'm saying that anyone who is hoping for Dunn to bat .238 with a .863 OPS probably has a long wait. He's not that player anymore, and the last 13 1/2 months worth of data shows it. When a player has played below career norms for 13 1/2 consecutive months, that's not a slump. That's evidence that a player is simply washed up.

You could argue Dunn is slumping because his May 2013 numbers are poor even by the low standard he has set with the Sox. But for the most part, the lousy hitter he is today is more than likely what you are going to see until his contract finally expires at the end of the 2014 season.

For the Sox and their fans, you've got 289 more games to watch the awful mess that is Adam Dunn.

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Carlos Zambrano signs with Long Island Ducks

Former Cubs pitcher (and notorious lunatic) Carlos Zambrano has signed with the Long Island Ducks of the independent Atlantic League, according to multiple reports.

Zambrano pitched in the majors last year with the Miami Marlins, going 7-10 with a 4.49 ERA. He was a free agent this past offseason, but drew little or no interest from big-league clubs because, well, he's not that good anymore. 

The Atlantic League is like the Land of Misfit Toys. There are a lot of former MLB players hanging around, hoping to get one more shot at The Show.

Left-handed pitcher Dontrelle Willis and former White Sox catcher Ramon Castro will be among Zambrano's teammates. Other names you might know on the Ducks' roster are Ian Snell, Josh Barfield, and of course, Beltin' Ben Broussard.

Of course, the first player I think of every time the Long Island Ducks are mentioned is Jose Offerman. Who can forget this 2007 on-field assault that resulted in Offerman's arrest?

A couple years after this incident, Offerman was banned for life from the Dominican Winter League for punching an umpire:

OK, so maybe Zambrano isn't so crazy after all. He's a solid citizen in comparison to Jose Offerman. Big Z may have assaulted his catcher and destroyed an innocent Gatorade machine, but at least he hasn't been arrested or banned for life by any league.