Thursday, May 27, 2010

Where Are They Now?: A Tribute to the Lloyd McClendon Era

By Marks and Lil Marks

The year is 2001.  Fans around Pittsburgh are optimistic about a fresh start as the Pirates move into a new stadium called PNC Park.  People convinced themselves that things would be better.  Surely a new stadium will bring in enough revenue to start fielding a contender.  Enter former Bucco sensation, Lloyd McClendon.  We have compiled a list of what Lloyd’s former players are up to these days.  Enjoy.

2001 Pittsburgh Pirates

Jimmy Anderson: Works with Bobby McKinney in a batting and pitching clinic in Virginia.  As shown in this picture, he is best described by his nickname from an article on Deadspin, “Jabba the Jimmy Anderson.”

Joe Beimel: This left hander currently pitches for the Colorado Rockies.  If you have never seen “The Legend of Joe Beimel,” do yourself a favor and listen to how he gained a cult following in Los Angeles.

Mike Fetters: Now that he is no longer intimidating hitters with his neck jerk pitching ritual, he is a sports agent in Beverly Hills.  Interestingly, we discovered that the reason for his huffing and puffing, also known as controlled hyperventilation, is to help him relax and overcome asthma problems that have caused him to hyperventilate between innings in the past.

Mike Lincoln: After missing nearly four years with two different ulnar collateral ligament surgeries, Lincoln returned to the Majors in 2008 with the Cincinnati Reds.  Lincoln recently played a role in the Reds meltdown, where the team blew a 9-1 lead against the Braves on May 20th.  Although this Wikipedia entry was immediately taken down from the website we have to believe it has some validity, “a fan in Coldwater, OH was arrested that afternoon for hanging an effigy of Lincoln in his front-yard tree. Matt Loughridge's neighborhood will never be the same.”  We could not find an article that would either confirm or deny these allegations.

Josias Manzanillo: Manzanillo suffered a gruesome injury in 1997 while pitching for the Seattle Mariners.  He took a Manny Ramirez line drive to the groin without a cup on, which led to an operation to remove one of his testicles.  Manzanillo claimed that he never pitched the same again after Manny exploded his nut sack.  He honorably retired in 2005 after not making the cut for the Boston Red Sox.  On December 13, 2007, Manzanillo was one of many athletes mentioned in the Mitchell Report.  Kirk Radomski, who dealt steroids and HGH to many major league baseball players, claimed that Manzanillo was the only player he ever witnessed taking steroids.  Fun fact: Manzanillo is the 17th of 18 children.

Terry Mulholland: He is currently part owner of a biker bar in Scottsdale, AZ called “Dirty Dogg Saloon.”  That title leaves a lot to the imagination, so I’ll let anyone that is curious have a look at the Dirty Dogg Crew.

Todd Ritchie: Todd has children named Karley (15), Kyndall (10), Kamdyn (8), Kallyn (6), Kannon (3) and Krayton (3).  It is speculated by some that the 7th child will be named Krayon.

Scott Sauerbeck: On May 30, 2006, Scott Sauerbeck and Lily Miller were arrested by police after his 1966 Lincoln Continental convertible, driven by Miller, was observed weaving at 3:45 a.m.  Police allege that Miller and Sauerbeck attempted to avoid arrest by parking the car and hiding in some bushes in a residential backyard.  Sauerbeck claims that he was looking for the command of his curveball. 

Ryan Vogelsong: Some might remember that WHYGAVS referred to Vogelsong as “The White Flag” since when he entered the game it was like throwing the white flag.  Well the White Flag has just finished with his third stellar season in Japan, where his career record overseas was 11-14.  He played for the Orix Buffaloes in 2009 after completing two seasons with the Hanshin Tigers in 2007 and 2008.  Vogelsong is currently playing for the Lehigh Valley Iron Pigs, the AAA affiliate of the Philadelphia Phillies.  So far in the 2010 season, he has a 1-1 record with a 4.08 ERA.  Vogelsong was relegated to the bullpen two weeks ago after his first seven starts resulted in an ERA of 4.81 and only one outing where he lasted six innings.

Dave Williams: After struggling in 2006 and 2007, Williams chose to sign a contract with the Yokohama BayStars in 2008.  He was released after seven starts and was last pitching in Washington’s farm system in 2009.

Kevin Young: He now lives in Arizona, where he helps the Scottsdale Cal Ripken Baseball league and is the Director of Baseball for Protégé Sports.  At the time of his retirement in 2003, he was the last player to leave the Pittsburgh Pirates who had played on a winning team with the club (he was a rookie in 1992).  Not only was he named as an HGH user in the Mitchell Report, but some suspect that his bat was juicing as well.

Humberto Cota: He tested positive for PED on May 28, 2008, but that hasn’t stopped him from trying to get back into the big leagues.  Since leaving the Pirates, Cota has signed minor league contracts with the Washington Nationals, Colorado Rockies, and Cincinnati Reds.  Surprisingly he has not made a major league squad since leaving the Pirates in 2007.  He is currently a desirable free agent for any team that needs an average defensive catcher with a .233 career batting average with no power.

Keith Osik: Owns and operates "Keith Osik's Major League Instruction (MLI)," a private indoor baseball teaching facility.  Osik is also currently the head baseball coach at Farmingdale State College, (Division III).

Abraham Núñez: On March 5, 2010, Nunez signed a contract to play for the New Jersey Jackals of the independent Canadian-American League.  This league has six teams and only plays 92-96 games per year.  This level of play is comparable to AA.

Emil Brown: After not playing in the majors from 2002-2004, Brown enjoyed a career year in 2005 with the Royals.  Despite leading the team in RBIs for three consecutive years (Carlos Beltran is the only other Royal to ever achieve this feat), the Royals did not make Brown an offer for the 2008 season.  Since then he has played briefly with the Oakland Athletics and New York Mets. 
On July 30, 2007, Brown shot Kansas City reporter Karen Kornacki in the eye with a BB gun.  From the video, you can see that the reporter was talking to his teammate, Tony Peña Jr.  The Royals called it "an accident."

Derek Bell: On April 20, 2006, Derek Bell was charged with felony cocaine possession and possession of drug paraphernalia, after police found a warm crack pipe in the back seat of his car during a traffic stop.  He was arrested again on December 2, 2008, facing three counts of possession of drug paraphernalia and one count of failure to appear in court on another charge of possession of drug paraphernalia from earlier in the year.

Go Figure…Pittsburgh Pirates facts from the 2001-2005 seasons
Total players that have been on the 25 man roster
Players that have remained on the team for all five years
Total All-Stars (league minimum)
Lloyd McClendon's career managerial win-loss percentage

Join us next week as we continue our three part series, Where Are They Now? A Tribute to the Lloyd McClendon Era.

The Presidents of the United States of America – We Are Not Going to Make It

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Luck against Morton

By Mike
If you had to describe Pirates starter Charlie Morton, you would probably include words like “embarrassing”, “horrendous”, or “abomination”. Unless you’re Buccos GM Neal Huntington, “unlucky” probably wasn’t one of them, as he related in a recent interview for the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (
I’ll take a look at Morton’s peripheral stats to figure out what Huntington is talking about and if there is any merit to this. Like last time, I’m pulling my info from and feel free to leave a comment if you need me to go into detail about the philosophy behind them. Don’t be shy, because I’m sure there will be more than a few.
At face value, it doesn’t look like Morton could be pitching any worse. In nine starts this season, he is 1-8 with an ERA of 8.71. He only has 41.1 innings pitched, which means he’s averaging less than five innings each start. He doesn’t have enough innings to qualify for official statistics even though he hasn’t missed a start all season. That’s bad. Out of 126 pitchers who have over 40 IP this year, he’s dead last in ERA. Ryan-Rowland Smith is second worst at 7.29; almost a run and a half lower than Morton. So what is so unlucky about all this? There are three peripherals that are really jumping out that can actually explain most of this.
First is BABIP, which I spent a lot of time on in my last post. Since I did get a few questions on this, I thought I’d take a few sentences to explain this a little more. The formula is (hits-home runs)/(at bats-strikeouts-home runs+sacrifice flies). BABIP works as a pitcher’s stat just like a hitter’s stat, where it should hover around .300 (I did look into the history of BABIP a little more and found that no season in MLB history has had a BABIP fall outside the range of .293 and .303.) The only real difference is that a pitcher’s BABIP will more likely level out around .300, where a hitter’s natural speed or line drive hitting ability could raise their BABIP in the .320s or .330s.
Charlie Morton’s BABIP is an absurd .365. Even if he had a AAA team playing defense behind him, there’s no way that is sustainable and will almost assuredly fall relatively quickly. His high BABIP is correlated with his high left on base percentage (LOB%). Right now, he’s allowing over half of all men on base to score with a LOB% at 49.2 percent. To put that into perspective, the MLB average usually sits in the 71-72 percent range. In 2008, the worst LOB% was a tie between Brian Bannister and Greg Maddux at 64 percent. Last year, the worst LOB% was Carl Pavano at 66.1 percent. This stat is even unluckier than his BABIP and will have to drop sooner than later. 
For the third stat, let’s think back to the basis of BABIP. In the denominator, we’re subtracting out his home runs given up. So far, he’s tied with seven other pitchers at 10 home runs, and only Dan Haren has given up more at 12. So it would be reasonable to conclude that Morton’s low LOB% is due to all the home runs he’s given up, correct? Well, even his home runs have been relatively unlucky. His home run to fly ball ratio (HR/FB) is a lofty 22.2 percent. Statistical analysis of HR/FB concludes that pitchers have very little impact in this ratio (they can only really control GB/FB) and has more to do with variables such as ballpark’s outfield walls (Citizens Bank, Great American Ballpark, green monster at Fenway) and  weather/atmosphere (altitude at Coors Field, wind currents toward right field at Yankee Stadium). MLB average hovers around 10 percent.
In 2008, Braden Looper had the worst HR/FB in 2009 at 15.8 percent (which is high in itself, even at Miller park), with second worst being Rick Porcello at 14 percent. Morton’s 22.2 percent, again, is extremely high, and should regress back to the mean. Morton having a HR/FB is not sustainable, unless he actually tries to give up home runs (think Home Run Derby).
Well now that I’ve gone through these three peripheral stats indicating how unlucky Morton really has been so far this year, we need a way of not only quantifying this, but also a means of predicting what his ERA should be. We can achieve this by utilizing his expected fielding independent pitching (xFIP). A correlation study has been performed on all pitching statistics, standard and advanced, and xFIP has the strongest correlation to future performance. Meaning, xFIP is the most accurate statistic in predicting future pitcher’s performance. xFIP is a pretty complex formula that includes HBP and BB, as well as giving a value for the number of fly balls a pitcher gives up. Then, a constant is multiplied to normalize the discrepancy for a high or low HR/FB ratio. The result is the pitcher’s xFIP on an ERA scale.
(Note: If this normalization step is taken out, you get the basic FIP, which is used more for assessing current performance and not predicting future results).
Finally, we arrive at Charlie Morton’s xFIP of 4.25, which would put him at league average. Other pitchers with a xFIP around 4.25 are C.J. Wilson, Josh Beckett, Clayton Kershaw and Johan Santana. Morton’s xFIP is also better than that of Zach Duke (4.41) and Paul Maholm (4.68). 
Now, what will the Pirates do with Charlie if he still blows up? He won’t make it through June if he still gets demolished, but he needs to have more starts at the major league level to figure out if his statistics will regress toward the mean or if Charlie just doesn’t have what it takes. His stuff is filthy when he’s on, with sharp curveball and a fastball that averages 92.8 mph, good for 18th best in the league, just a couple tenths below Tommy Hanson and David Price. 
When he’s on, Charlie Morton is a fun pitcher to watch. I’m hoping he can figure it out, because he’s the only pitcher on the current staff that could be a major part of the future. That is a BIG if though, since he hasn’t left himself for much more room for error.
…and if you’re able to follow any of what I just wrote, I’ll be extremely impressed.
The Dirty Heads - Lay Me Down

Monday, May 24, 2010

Manuel doesn't like interleague play

Apparently Philadelphia Phillies manager Charlie Manuel does not like interleague play. It's not that it's against the tradition of the game, but that he thinks his team and others get tougher schedules then the rest of the league.

The full articles is here:

While Manuel's frustrations are somewhat justified, it's hard to feel bad for the two-time defending National League champions. Especially when the outcome of the schedule (the Phillies play the New York Yankees, Minnesota Twins and Boston Red Sox  this year) results in more entertaining baseball for the fans.

No one really wants to see the Phillies play the Kansas City Royals, or the Yankees play the Pittsburgh Pirates. They would most likely be blowouts and display the difference between big and small market teams. Fans want to see the best of the leagues play each other and get some kind of preview to the World Series.

Manuel should embrace the opportunity to see how his team measures up against higher levels of competition. Would he make any comment if the Phillies got to the play the Royals, Baltimore Orioles and Chicago White Sox this season? Probably not.

In a more general note, I enjoy interleague play. It gives fans of the different leagues and opportunity to see teams they normally wouldn't, which is a good thing. The baseball purists out there hate it, but I don't understand why. No major sports league in America made it so teams from the different conferences/leagues played each other during the regular season. It has also been a great success for attendance and ratings, meaning the fans actual like it.

Interleague play is one of the best things baseball has done in recent memory. Now if only they can get rid of that stupid DH thing.

John Fogerty - Centerfield

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Really Cleveland?

This video left me speechless. Just when you think Cleveland can't get any more pathetic, they go and make this video. Was Drew Carey too busy with the "Price is Right" to contribute his golden pipes?

Andy Kim - Rock Me Gently

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Ramirez out of line

Florida Marlins shortstop Hanley Ramirez is one of baseball's best players. He hits for power, average and has had seasons with more than 50 steals. But his recent comments toward his manager are wrong and portray him as a selfish jerk.

The reason for Ramirez's anger is that he was pulled from a game against the Arizona Diamondbacks after missing a catch in shallow left field, accidentally booting the ball 100 feet farther into the outfield and then proceeding to lightly jog after the ball as two runners scored and the batter ended up on third. Ramirez was replaced once the Marlins got out of the inning.

His manager, Fredi Gonzalez, told reporters that the shortstop's effort was unacceptable and he would have benched any player putting forth similar efforts. Instead of being a leader for his team and taking responsibility for his actions, Ramirez acted childish, blamed his lack of hustle on having a sore ankle and went on to verbally attack his manager.

"That's OK. He (Gonzalez) doesn't understand that (playing hurt)," Ramirez told "He never played in the big leagues."

Maybe Gonzalez never played in the majors, but you can't question his coaching ability. In three years with a team payroll of less than $40 million, Gonzalez led his team to 71, 84 and 87 wins. For Ramirez to call him out for never playing in the majors, and to even go as far as to say that he lost respect for Gonzalez his decision, is not the actions of a team leader. They are the actions of a man who is out for himself.

Conflicts will arise during the 162-game season, they're inevitable with all the egos floating around. But Ramirez's statements should have been reserved for Gonzalez's office, not the media.

The stud shortstop also through his teammates under the bus rather than apologize to them for his poor effort. He said his teammates haven't apologized for "dogging it" in making 36 errors, so why should he? Well, he should because the Marlins invested a lot of money in him and expect him to be a leader, not a player who thinks he can do whatever he wants and not answer to anyone.

Cameras will never catch Derek Jeter dogging it after he makes an error; they'll never even have a chance. I remember him going head first into the stands to catch a pop-foul against the Red Sox in the regular season a few years back. That's what leaders do. They show every one else how the game should be played, and then hold their teammates accountable when aren't working hard. But here is Ramirez, a player I have enjoyed watching for years, letting his talent go to his head.

If I'm the Marlins, I suspend him without pay for three games. Not for the lack of effort; he was already punished accordingly for that, but for the blatant disrespect he is showing his teammates, manager and organization.

Jackson Browne - Running On Empty

Salary cap analysis and predictions for the 2010-2011 Pittsburgh Penguins

By Greg

(Greg had a really nifty graph here with where the Pens' money is tied up next season, but it wasn't compatible. Believe me when I say it was awesome and had an effective use of Christmas colors.)
The total cap hit for next year’s Pittsburgh Penguins is currently $45.108 million. The NHL salary cap is expected to remain at $56.8 million, which leaves the Penguins with $11.692 million to work with. However, there will be some cap room that is not utilized in order to make a deal at the trade deadline. Approximately $6-7 million will go to restoring the defense, which leaves $4-5 million to sign three wingers.

Unrestricted Free Agents:
2009 Salary
Ponikarovsky, Alexei
Guerin, Bill
Fedotenko, Ruslan
Cooke, Matt
Gonchar, Sergei
Eaton, Mark
Leopold, Jordan
McKee, Jay

High chance of return: Matt Cooke, Mark Eaton, Jordan Leopold
Some chance of return: Bill Guerin, Jay McKee
No chance of return: Alexei Ponikarovsky, Ruslan Fedotenko, Sergei Gonchar
Prospects who can make an impact:
Eric Tangradi
Ben Lovejoy
Mark Letestu
RFA (2012)
Deryk Engelland
Chris Conner
Dustin Jeffrey
Nick Johnson
Simon Depres

Here is a look at the Penguins’ current lineup to give perspective on what they are missing:
Chris Kunitz – Sidney Crosby – ???
Pascal Dupuis – Evgeni Malkin – ???
??? – Jordan Staal – Tyler Kennedy
Mike Rupp – Maxime Talbot – Craig Adams
(Healthy scratch: Eric Godard)

Brooks Orpik – Kris Letang
Alex Goligoski – ???
What does King Shero do now?
Priority No. 1: Get a solid defenseman without breaking the bank.
This is easier said than done, but it’s the most important aspect of the offseason for the Penguins.  Anton Volchenkov is the top free agent on defense.  He will be asking for $4-5 million per year, which the Pens cannot afford.  It looks like Shero will be targeting Dan Hamhuis, a defenseman that he helped the Predators draft in 2001.  At the age of 27, he is entering the prime of his career and would fit in well with this youthful Penguins team.  Hamhuis would give the Pens a defenseman with grit and toughness that they desperately need.
Priority No. 2: Resign Matt Cooke.
This guy has an edge and tenacity that the Penguins need more of in their lineup.  There is no way they can afford to lose him.  He hits, scores, kills penalties, agitates, creates energy and provides leadership.  Cooke's contract that has just expired was 2 years for $2.4 million.  I know that Shero doesn't like giving long term deals, but Cooke will only be 32 years old next season.  If he wants a 3 year deal, give it to him.  He might be the best bargain on the team if we can get him for under $2 million per year.
Priority No. 3: Sign a top-six forward.
A lot of people want this to be the Penguins’ top priority.  I don’t.  Think of it this way…Crosby won the Rocket Richard (and deserves to win the Hart) while playing with a 38 year old right winger and a left winger who missed 32 games en route to the worst year of his career.  Everyone seems to be crying for a big free agent signing or even trading Geno for a winger.  I realize that Sid and Geno can’t polish crap, but signing a top scoring winger won’t make up for a defensive pairing of Leopold and Goligoski.
Bill Guerin is a great locker room presence and can grow an amazing mustache, but it’s apparent that he’s no longer top line material.  See ya Billy…thanks for helping us win the Cup.
If the Penguins sign Matt Cooke and two solid defensemen, they will probably only have $2-2.5 million left to sign a scoring winger.  I’m not going to embarrass myself and start throwing out names for a top line winger because I have no idea what Shero has up his sleeve.  Nothing against Ruslan Fedotenko, but hopefully the next winger we sign is better than Ruslan Fedotenko.  
The other top-six forward is probably going to be Eric Tangradi.  Dustin Jeffrey, Mark Letestu, and Nick Johnson all had better stats than Eric Tangradi this year in WBS, which is pretty much all I can go from since Tangradi has only played one game for the Penguins.  However, Tangradi is the only player in this group that has a shot at being used in a top-six role next year.  The trio of Jeffrey, Letestu, and Johnson will only see significant ice time when players are injured or if Matt Cooke is not re-signed.  Eric Tangradi might not be ready yet, but I think he’ll start the season with the team because it will save the Pens a lot of cap room.  
My proposed lineup for next season:
Chris Kunitz – Sidney Crosby – ???
Pascal Dupuis – Evgeni Malkin – Eric Tangradi
Matt Cooke – Jordan Staal – Tyler Kennedy
Mike Rupp – Maxime Talbot – Craig Adams
(Healthy scratch: Eric Godard)

Brooks Orpik – Kris Letang
Alex Goligoski – Dan Hamhuis
Mark EatonBen Lovejoy
(7th Defenseman: Deryk Engelland)
Pink Floyd – Money