Monday, May 10, 2010

Back in the saddle

After an extended weekend of Yankee baseball, I feel like I finally have my baseball legs under me again. Some thoughts:
  • I'm really fine with Joba in the bullpen. This may surprise some. However, the Yanks did what I wanted them to do: they gave Joba a real chance to start and he just didn't seize the day. They've only got five starting pitcher slots and so it's time to give Phil Hughes a chance. I have no problem with that. But:
  • Let's not kid ourselves, this is emphatically not the same Joba that everyone remembers, despite all the assertions to the contrary from ESPN's crew this evening. A few years ago, Joba hit triple digits out of the pen. Tonight, he was 95-98. That's great, but it's not awesome. More importantly though, his slider is just not the same pitch. To my eye, his slider a couple years ago had a brutal, slashing, darting late action. It was hard, heavy, and just bored in on batters' feet. The pitch he was throwing tonight was nothing like that. It was a decent change of pace from his fastball: an 86-88 MPH pitch with good break, but much more arching than biting. With that stuff, Joba can be a good relief pitcher for many years, and maybe be a great one for a few, but he's not gonna be 2007 Joba with it.
  • Magglio Ordonez really bailed Jim Leyland out with his nice catch in the eighth. Leyland, in my opinion, really turned in a headscratching performance managing his pen. I thought extending Joel Zumaya into the eight was fine, but then I thought he was only doing it for one batter, since the next two guys were a lefty and switch hitter. Zumaya faces the righty, finishes with 25 pitches, and then Coke gets the next two. Then you can get Valverde to close it. Easy. Instead, Leyland had Zumaya go after the righty, lefty, and switch hitter. He got none of them out, and so Leyland ended up extending Zumaya too far, burning an extra pitcher on top of Zumaya, Coke, and Valverde, and got bad matchups to show for it. Bizarre. Why extend Zumaya so far without a reasonable backup plan?
  • Small sample size disease lives. ESPN is doing a nice job introducing viewers to some more saberesque concepts this year, but it's just amazing how much people continue to treat 100 plate appearances as meaningful. They just aren't. *sigh* That said, when Bill Simmons announces that he's aboard the sabermetric bandwagon, it makes you realize that we've come a long, long way.
  • I've given a lot of thought to my baseball fandom over the last few months. Work and other interests (video games, economics) have crowded out a lot of my baseball consumption. There's nothing wrong with that; I love my job (and video games and economics), but since I only write a baseball blog, it means that I just don't have a lot about which to blog. I've come to two realizations. First, I think all the analytical low-hanging fruit is gone in sabermetrics. There is a lot of awesome work being done out there in the sabermetric community, but it now takes ten times as long to fully understand all of it, not to mention actually doing it. I think this is a normal progression for most fields of scientific inquiry. Anyway, I just don't have that kind of time anymore, if I ever did (or maybe I'm just not as motivated to understand it). Because of this, I find myself just wanting to watch baseball, unencumbered by the feeling that I'm falling behind the curve. I'm not quite there yet; I really felt naked watching the game tonight, realizing that I didn't know any of the relevant analytical measures for the players involved or even just basic baseball news from the last few weeks. It was odd. I haven't been in that position in years. I haven't switched into a state where I can just check news and stats without being compelled to also read for a few hours about the latest research. I've lumped the two together for so long that when one goes, the other goes with it. But it didn't matter. Baseball is still awesome even when you don't know Austin Jackson's WAR or Jose Valverde's Fair ERA. I suppose I always knew this, but it's good to have it confirmed.
  • I should be going to a game Wednesday. I'm excited about that. I've got plans to see a game or two in Toronto and a game or two in Cleveland. I'm excited about that. Heck, there's an off chance I could get to New York or Chicago. That would be exciting. I'm just not that excited about baseball analysis right now, and I don't know why.

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