Tagged: New York Yankees

Virginia Is For  Lovers

Cla Meredith

Cla Meredith (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

… sidearmers.

Yep, the state that has a better Target than the one closer to me here in DC, which is the only reason I ever go down there Commonwealth of Virginia is known for many things, but at the top of the list should be ‘state that produces a buttload of sidearm pitchers’.

Sorry, lovers!

Virginia is an underrated state with respect to the talent produced by the state’s high schools and colleges – hitting luminaries such as the Upton brothers, Mark Reynolds, Ryan Zimmerman, and David Wright all call the 10th state admitted to the Union (as well as the Tidewater region) home. An impressive list, indeed, especially if you like strikeouts home runs. For a more exhaustive list, you can have a look at this list of Virginians (by birth) who played in the MLB.

Overall, there have been 271 Virginians who have suited up for a major league team, which is 1.5% of all players who have made an appearance in the pros, good for a tie for 18th place with Kentucky with respect to states that produce the most MLB players. However, it was an old New York Times article on Virginian sidewinders and New York Yankee bullpen buddies Clay Rapada and Cody Eppley that got me thinking about their Virginian pitching brethren, which led me to think of Javier Lopez and Cla Meredith.

Hmm. All sidearmers. A curious co-inky-dink.

With that in mind, let’s dig deeper, and see what kind of sidearmers Old Dominion has recently produced out of their 1.5 percent share of MLB’ers.

My criterion was this – list the number of sidearmers, who were confirmed sidearm or submarine style pitchers who have made an appearance since 1980, and see who had VA ties. I only went as far back to 1980 in order to personally confirm that a guy truly was a sidearmer; plus, with the little research I did, it allowed me to concentrate on true sidearmers, versus guys who would occasionally change their arm angle here and there to get a tough hitter out, which seemed to be en vogue in the 1960’s and earlier. This criteria threw out the old timers, obviously, but also kept guys like David Cone off of the list.

All of that being said, this Baseball Reference Bullpen link was my first stop, but its listing was limited by what could be gathered from the book The Neyer/James Guide to Pitchers. In essence, the list is a good historical reference, but anyone post 2002ish won’t be listed, so for those folks, I did a little Google-fu and came up with this exhaustive* list of non-Virginian sidearmers:

Brian Shouse

Peter Moylan

Randy Choate

Brian Fuentes

Mike Koplove

Pat Neshek

Darren O’Day

Joe Smith

Brad Ziegler

Tim Dillard

Steve Cishek

Vinnie Pestano

Pedro Feliciano

Jeff Nelson

Again, Google was my friend with this list, so if I have missed someone, I’d love to hear about it and would be happy to edit as needed.

We have our list, sort of, of sidearmers from 1980 to present.  Counting up all of the pitchers from the Baseball Reference link and from my research, we have a total of 33 pitchers, 1980 to present, who threw sidearm/submarine. Here are the 6 sidearmers I could find with VA ties (stats courtesy of Fangraphs):

Name W L SV G GS IP K/9 BB/9 HR/9 BABIP LOB% GB% HR/FB ERA FIP xFIP WAR VA link
Javier Lopez 23 11 12 563 0 392 5.95 3.97 0.44 0.301 71.40% 57% 7% 3.83 3.9 4.19 3 HS, Univ VA
Mike Venafro 15 10 5 307 0 253.1 4.65 3.34 0.53 0.294 69.60% 56% 12% 4.09 4.18 4.58 2.5 HS, JMU
Cla Meredith 14 14 1 286 0 283.1 6 2.54 0.76 0.309 74.50% 66% 15% 3.62 3.89 3.54 1 birth, HS, VCU
Brad Clontz 22 8 8 272 0 277.2 6.81 3.89 0.97 0.294 71.30% 4.34 4.45 0.2 birth, HS
Clay Rapada 8 0 0 148 0 91 8.11 4.85 0.99 0.267 72.30% 44% 11% 4.15 4.4 4.3 0.2 birth, HS, VA St
Cody Eppley 2 3 0 71 0 56.2 6.19 3.49 0.95 0.311 70.10% 60% 18% 4.61 4.3 3.78 -0.1 VCU

I have also included their tie to Virginia – for those curious, Lopez was born in Puerto Rico, while Venafro was born in Maryland and Eppley is a Pennsylvanian.

This gives Virginia 18% of the sidearmer share since 1980, an impressive percentage.

Overall, it’s a mildly underwhelming list of names and talents; however, that is the life of a sidearmer. Typically converted to a sidearm delivery in the minors after not having much success getting hitters out with a more traditional over the top release point, the sidearmer very often is a hanger-on, making the most of his newly learned quirkiness to keep a job. Relegated to the bullpen and a life of one out appearances against the opponent’s best hitter, the role is one of little fanfare but much spectacle. Spectacle arising not only from an unorthodox release point, but also the lack of radar gun luminance from your fastball and the normally high pressure relief situations you find yourself thrust into.

While I will leave the poetic prose and explanations as to why there exists this marriage between thankless bullpen role and the denizens, former and current, of the Commonwealth of Virginia to others, I do leave you with one request.

If my Maryland in-laws ask, I never wrote this.

Photo courtesy of southernbelle.mlblogs.com

Photo courtesy of southernbelle.mlblogs.com

*and by exhaustive, I mean ‘what could I find by Googling ‘sidearm pitchers’ for about 15 minutes’

The Cautionary Tale of Joba

Ross Detwiler

Ross Detwiler (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

As the 2012 offseason begins to wind down, so does the list of available free agents, and the number of possible roster spots that the likes of Michael Bourn and Kyle Lohse could possibly fill for a team in 2013. It’s a time of desperation, a time of fitting square pegs into round holes, not only for players and agents, but also baseball writers.

With Rafael Soriano joining the likes of Tyler Clippard and Drew Storen at the back end of the Washington Nationals bullpen, it appears that, aside from possibly adding a short inning lefty arm to complement Zach Duke, the Nats are set in terms of their relief corps.

Ken Rosenthal doesn’t seem to think so, and mentions a scenario having the Nats signing Kyle Lohse, then sending lefty starter Ross Detwiler to the ‘pen being bandied about. Great idea, right? Add a solid #4/5 starter, then have a great shutdown lefty, in the form of Detwiler – win/win!

No.

As Dan Kolko mentioned in his article, Detwiler was drafted as a starter, and is just now coming into his own as a starting pitcher, after several years of being bounced from the starting rotation to the bullpen. A trip back to the bullpen would send the wrong message to Detwiler, who is just now beginning to live up to the promise he showed when the Nationals made him their first pick in the 2007 MLB Draft, out of Missouri State University. Anecdotally, tall pitchers tend to take more time to develop, as it takes time for them to consistently replicate their pitching mechanics, pitch to pitch. Lefthanded pitchers are also notorious late bloomers, for an assortment of reasons. Knowing that Detwiler is both tall and lefthanded, we simply see the ramifications of the natural progression of a tall lefty; good things come to those who wait.

…and wait the Nationals should – all while exhibiting patience and staying true to their blueprint for 2013, which should have Detwiler as their #5 starter. A return to the bullpen could prove catastrophic for Detwiler and the Nationals, not only from the psychological  aspect of a ‘demotion’, but also from a long term perspective. If the Nats need any historical inspiration to keep Detwiler in the starting rotation, they don’t have too look far back into the annals of baseball for a cautionary tale. They only need to go as far back as 2011.

June 16, 2011, Joba Chamberlain had Tommy John surgery, ending his season, and by the looks of it, his career as a starter. Like Detwiler, Chamberlain was drafted as a starter out of college, going back and forth between starting and relieving since coming up to the New York Yankees in 2007. Spending most of 2007 as a reliever, Chamberlain spent 2008 primarily in a bullpen role, mixing in 12 starts throughout the year. In 2009, the Yankees used Chamberlain almost exclusively as a starter, making 31 starts, chalking up 156.1 innings, and enjoying a 9-6 record, with a 1.8 fWAR. After losing out on a rotation spot to Phil Hughes the following season, the Yankees powers that be again changed their minds, and scrapped plans to have Chamberlain as a fixture in the starting rotation, and used him in the bullpen, primarily as a set up man for Mariano Rivera.

Post surgery, Chamberlain has been further relegated, now to a middle inning reliever, pitching 20 innings in 2012 to the tune of a 0.1 fWAR, 11 hits per 9 innings, and 1.55 WHIP. While there is still time for Chamberlain to continue to recover from Tommy John surgery, and to fully accept and acclimate himself to the bullpen role he sees himself in for the foreseeable future, Chamberlain’s career is one indelibly marred by the indecisiveness of the Yankee front office.

Success in baseball remains an exercise in vision and perseverance. For Chamberlain and the Yankees, only one half of this equation was satisfied, and led to the promise of Chamberlain as the keystone of future Yankees starting rotations to be left unfulfilled. For the Nationals, it is imperative for them to stay true to the vision they had in 2007, with Ross Detwiler as a starting pitcher; they cannot be sidetracked by a myopic pursuit that would peg him as a short inning reliever for 2013.

Detwiler’s time is now, and it’s time for him to be a starter.

Birds of a Feather

Orioles Magic. The steady hand of Buck Showalter. The veteran presence of former HDIB? blog post subject Nate McLouth.

All possible reasons for the resurgent 2012 season the Baltimore Orioles have enjoyed. A 93-69 record, good for 2nd place in the AL East, and a Wild Card berth, which, after a stunning victory over the Texas Rangers in the so-called play in game, gave them the pleasure of facing the New York Yankees in the ALDS, all fly in the face of the black and white numbers of the O’s season.

A +10 run differential, and a 82-80 Pythagorean Win-Loss Expectancy, all point to Baltimore having no business in the postseason; judging by those numbers, they don’t have the look of a playoff contender.

While on the subject of looks–

Did someone say ‘LOOKS’?

…damnit sit down, Nick Markakis, we’re not talking about you.

So how about those looks. Using ol’ Nick as our model, it looks that this year, the O’s have reverted back to their old cartoon bird logo, which was first seen back in 1965. From ’65 until 1988, the goofy bird adorned the noggins of many an Oriole, even Lenn Sakata, whose 1983 Topps baseball card adorned the spokes of my Mongoose bike, and made it sound pretty rad.

Sorry, Lenn, you deserved better, but 7 year old radinsky36 didn’t know any better. If I could take it all back, I’d have used Charlie Kerfeld’s card.

However, in 1988, until 2011, the Orioles had the ornithologically correct bird for their mascot, which was also the logo used from their inaugural season of 1954, until 1965.

Markakis, get away from the mirror, and show the good readers of HDIB? the old hat.

I’m all about birds, and I’m not talking Orioles *wink*

OK, that’s enough out of you #21. Go have a seat, and try not to strain anything along the way.

Prior to the outstanding season of 2012, the last winning season Baltimore enjoyed was in 1997, coincidentally the last year they saw the playoffs. 15 years of ineptitude, 15 years wearing the ornithologically correct logo…

Could the 2012 magic be due in part to the reverting back to the cartoon Oriole logo?

Let’s go to the numbers, courtesy of Baseball-Reference.

First, the ornitholgically correct years – 1954-65, then 1988-2011. Table me!

Year G W L Ties W-L% Finish Playoffs
2011 162 69 93 0 0.426 5th of 5
2010 162 66 96 0 0.407 5th of 5
2009 162 64 98 0 0.395 5th of 5
2008 161 68 93 0 0.422 5th of 5
2007 162 69 93 0 0.426 4th of 5
2006 162 70 92 0 0.432 4th of 5
2005 162 74 88 0 0.457 4th of 5
2004 162 78 84 0 0.481 3rd of 5
2003 163 71 91 1 0.438 4th of 5
2002 162 67 95 0 0.414 4th of 5
2001 162 63 98 1 0.391 4th of 5
2000 162 74 88 0 0.457 4th of 5
1999 162 78 84 0 0.481 4th of 5
1998 162 79 83 0 0.488 4th of 5
1997 162 98 64 0 0.605 1st of 5 Lost ALCS (4-2)
1996 163 88 74 1 0.543 2nd of 5 Lost ALCS (4-1)
1995 144 71 73 0 0.493 3rd of 5
1994 112 63 49 0 0.563 2nd of 5
1993 162 85 77 0 0.525 3rd of 7
1992 162 89 73 0 0.549 3rd of 7
1991 162 67 95 0 0.414 6th of 7
1990 161 76 85 0 0.472 5th of 7
1989 162 87 75 0 0.537 2nd of 7
1965 162 94 68 0 0.580 3rd of 10
1964 163 97 65 1 0.599 3rd of 10
1963 162 86 76 0 0.531 4th of 10
1962 162 77 85 0 0.475 7th of 10
1961 163 95 67 1 0.586 3rd of 10
1960 154 89 65 0 0.578 2nd of 8
1959 155 74 80 1 0.481 6th of 8
1958 154 74 79 1 0.484 6th of 8
1957 154 76 76 2 0.500 5th of 8
1956 154 69 85 0 0.448 6th of 8
1955 156 57 97 2 0.370 7th of 8
1954 154 54 100 0 0.351 7th of 8

To cut to the chase: 35 years, with 11 winning seasons, *2* playoff appearances, *1* first place finish. On average, the ornithologically correct era was a losing one, with 75 wins being an average season.

Now, on to the cartoon bird years — table, please!

Year G W L Ties W-L% Finish Playoffs
2012 162 93 69 0 0.574 2nd of 5 Tied in LDS (1-1)
1988 161 54 107 0 0.335 7th of 7
1987 162 67 95 0 0.414 6th of 7
1986 162 73 89 0 0.451 7th of 7
1985 161 83 78 0 0.516 4th of 7
1984 162 85 77 0 0.525 5th of 7
1983 162 98 64 0 0.605 1st of 7 Won WS (4-1)
1982 163 94 68 1 0.580 2nd of 7
1981 105 59 46 0 0.562 2nd of 7
1980 162 100 62 0 0.617 2nd of 7
1979 159 102 57 0 0.642 1st of 7 Lost WS (4-3)
1978 161 90 71 0 0.559 4th of 7
1977 161 97 64 0 0.602 2nd of 7
1976 162 88 74 0 0.543 2nd of 6
1975 159 90 69 0 0.566 2nd of 6
1974 162 91 71 0 0.562 1st of 6 Lost ALCS (3-1)
1973 162 97 65 0 0.599 1st of 6 Lost ALCS (3-2)
1972 154 80 74 0 0.519 3rd of 6
1971 158 101 57 0 0.639 1st of 6 Lost WS (4-3)
1970 162 108 54 0 0.667 1st of 6 Won WS (4-1)
1969 162 109 53 0 0.673 1st of 6 Lost WS (4-1)
1968 162 91 71 0 0.562 2nd of 10
1967 161 76 85 0 0.472 6th of 10
1966 160 97 63 0 0.606 1st of 10 Won WS (4-0)

Oh my. What a difference a logo makes.

The cartoon bird tale of the tape:

24 years, 8 first place finishes, 20 winning seasons, an 88 win season on average, 9 playoff appearances, 6 World Series appearances, winning 3 of them, including one in the first year of the cartoon logo.

The evidence is fairly damning – cartoon bird makes the Orioles world go ’round, and is the bringer, on average, of 13 more wins than boring, normal looking Oriole logo.

When first unveiled, Baltimore won it all with the cartoon Oriole in tow. Could history repeat itself, with a fourth championship brought to Charm City, courtesy of the re-unveiling of the old logo?

If it does, it will be (cartoon) Orioles Magic.

How Do I Rehab? A Very Special Nick Johnson…Special

 

Given the genealogical manure that this blog sprouted from, I would be remiss to not give a mention to our fallen How Do I Baseball? warrior, Orioles first basemen Nick Johnson, and his most recent setback – another 15-day DL stint for a wrist sprain, which has now been extended to a 60 day rehab vacation.
I will defer the hyperbole, and the flotsam and jetsam of How Do I Baseball?’s Chairman of the Board’s career to the fine people of Deadspin for the moment, as they did a wonderful job of capturing the essence of Nick Johnson’s siren-like baseball qualities. However, I will leave you with this, their visual homage to #36:

Never forget.