Monday, June 07, 2004

Nine by Nine, 06.06.04

1. First things first, Derek Lowe looked quite good yesterday. Yeah, he didn't pitch that deep, and he did give up the bomb to Mike Sweeney, but his stuff looked quick. The lateral movement that we've discussed before was replaced with a nice, sharp horizontal one, and ground balls were not finding holes. The one pitch that was hit quite hard, Sweeney's home run in the first, was a hanging curve and not a flat sinker, which is good news, I guess. That pitch was actually sort of a turning point. Before it, DLowe was tentative, concerned about how the game would turn out. He looked to be aiming the ball, hoping this wouldn't be another afternoon of disaster. But after he gave it up, he settled, almost saying "ok, that's out of the way." From there on, Lowe was very tough. He attacked the strike zone hard, and even with distinctly mediocre umpiring (one of the most uneven games this season) he kept ahead in the count. For a pitcher who has had a lot of trouble out of the stretch, it's somewhat egg and chicken - did he pitch well because he kept runners off base, or did he keep runners of base because he pitched well? Not really clear. But his sinker was moving, and he was throwing it for strikes. That's the important first step, and it will win more times than it won't. Tony Cloninger said over the weekend that you're going to look up at the end of the season and Lowe's going to have 16 or 17 wins, and I'll bet you dollars to donuts he's right. For now, he's going in the right direction.

2. Ken Rosenthal posted this annoying rumor this weekend, which details a scenario in which the Yankees could send Contreras to Florida for Carlos Beltran. Uh..... what? How exactly do you trade away a wildly overpaid 4th starter, and get back an All-Star centerfielder? Even if you do pay most of Contreras' contract, it doesn't make sense. The Marlins, who apparently would use Jose as a set-up man, are so desperate for relievers that they'd rather have an unproven, non-closer than just keeping Beltran themselves? Have they watched Contreras? He makes inconsistent look consistent. If Florida could nab Beltran and felt like financially they had move him again, why wouldn't they at least go for an established, dominant reliever? Guardado? Dotel? Hawkins? Farnsworth? Heck, I'd rather have Williamson than Contreras, wouldn't you?

One other thing about Beltran, now that we're discussing it - why is he so good again? Great player, sure. All-Star, absolutely. But I'm not sure his presence swings the AL East (or any division) power structure one way or the other. Having watched him several times now, he strikes me as more of an Andruw Jones than a Barry Bonds. Which is nice to have, but how much does it cost? He's only had an OPS over .900 once.

3. I don't know about you guys, but The Ninth is getting a smidge tired of the law firm of Crespo, McCarty, Martinez & Dinardo. Yesterday's lineup had last season's number nine hitter batting third, and Kapler, Crespo, and Reese kickin' it in the caboose. I'm less angry than I am bored. It's just not fun watching these guys. And is Cesar really the best utility man available? Yeah, he had a nice spring, but the guy is a mess offensively. As Dave Moss would say, this guy couldn't find his bat with two hands and a map. Well, he'd say that, but he'd mean something else. I accept that utility guys don't hit, but two 2 RBI in 75 AB's is a punchline, not a statistic. I know that Theo could've improved this slot if he wanted to - so why didn't he want to? And then, when you're done with the offense, you have more uninteresting mediocrity in the bullpen. Please - Burks, Nomar, Trot, Willy, BK - come on back. It's just not as fun without you.

4. In the second inning Terry Kraft called a pitch over McCarty's shoulders and 3 inches off the plate a strike. Probably one of the worst calls I've ever seen. Just because he's a bad player, and it's early game, doesn't mean you get to ad-lib on the strike zone Ter. That wasn't a strike, and you know it. Oh, and by the way, you stunk the rest of the game too.

5. Boston scores runs best when one of the opponents punches his teammate in the face while trying to throw the ball. That really gets a rally going.

6. Does anyone else realize that Billy Superstar Beane has traded away the last TWO Rookies of the Year? Angel Berroa, last year's #1 freshman, left Oakland in the three way trade that brought the A's Johnny Damon. Two years ago, the AL ROY was Eric Hinske, who was sent away by Beane for lovable closer Billy Koch. It should also be mentioned that both Damon and Koch spent only one season each in Oakland. Not a lot of bang for your quality rookie buck. There were defensible reasons for these trades, but that's a lot of cheap talent to be letting get away.

7. Is there anything less logical than Royal fans booing Johnny Damon? Guys - he was traded! From a team that had Jeff Suppan, Mac Suzuki, Blake Stein, Chad Durbin, and Jay Witasick as its starting five. What was his fault exactly?

8. Nomar Garciaparra is leading AL shortstops in All Star voting, despite having very similar numbers to recently deceased U.S. President Ronald Reagan. The Ninth feels that Schill, Manny, and Foulke are locks for the team, while Tek, Ortiz, and Wake all deserve consideration. If, however, Nomar and Damon make the squad due to somewhat questionable voter judgement, it'll hurt the bubble players.

9. God Bless the Pistons. Do what the Spurs should've done and knock those Lakers out. Bums.