Saturday, March 15, 2008

Rule Change Proposal Comments

As we're dealing with the flurry of messages and decisions endemic to free agency, hopefully we'll all remember that there are proposals to be voted on. It would also be good if there could be some discussion of the proposed changes before the voting, so people can make informed decisions. I'll start the ball rolling with some thoughts:

2 - Reduce the number of AM players
If you read my earlier post, you know I like this one. I'm for phasing out AM players completely, and the logical next step in that process is to reduce the number to either 1 or 2 next year (having gone from 5 to 3 this year). As others have noted, the lack of impact players in the rookie draft pool really draws out the process of turning around a bad team. Plus, the most astute managers tend to also be the best at picking AMs, so dynasty teams tend to get reinforced.

3 - Update dollar amounts
I've been through at least two of these now, and I'd really, really like it if I didn't have to do it again. (I'm talking about rescalings, not a restructuring like when we went to the Y1-Y2-Y3 system.) I really don't care whether our salary structure comes anywhere near matching that of Major League Baseball; that target will never sit still anyway. I want a system that's easy to use and understand, and which balances the different types of costs in a way that makes sense.

Multiplying everything by 3 isn't going to make the system easier for anyone. Not that most of us will have trouble remembering to adjust the numbers before comparing contracts across different years, but it's one more thing to worry about.

Just as with previous updates, it's not just a matter of multiplying everything by a fixed number. If this proposal passes, AM, M0 and Y1 contracts will be cheaper (relative to the revenue stream) than they are now, while Y3 contracts will be more expensive. Should we make those changes? I don't know, but if we do, we should do so explicitly, not as a side effect of/footnote to a general round of inflation.

4. Scale fines to level of overuse
A very good idea, and long overdue; frankly, it's ridiculous to charge the same amount for a ticky-tack foul as for using, say, Barry Bonds full time. I'd like to see the ranges widened somewhat, and/or based on percentages of a player's allotted usage instead of fixed PA/IP amounts. But the proposal before us is certainly better than what we're doing now.

6. Protecting NT players from the draft
This is a no-brainer for me; I actually thought we already required this. The only change I'd make is to allow NT players to be left unprotected as long as the owning team pays the NT cost if the player is claimed by another team.

7. Drafted veterans must be signed to U contract
The problem with this is that it's not always obvious which players are affected. Sure, if the guy had 200 AB the year before, you'll probably know about it. But suppose he pitched 50 innings in 2002, then had a couple of Tommy John surgeries before finally getting back to the majors last year. And suppose you didn't really start paying attention to baseball until 2003. It's going to be an unpleasant surprise when you draft him, then learn that you can't sign him to a Y1 contract.

The nice thing about the present system is that all players in the draft pool are treated equally, regardless of their history. I'd like to keep it that way.

9. Drafted players can be signed MTM
We always had this option (at least once MTM contracts were introduced in the first place) until the overhaul of the contract system. I don't know if the MTM option was removed deliberately or if that was an oversight, but I see no reason for the removal. The MTM contract is the ideal vehicle for a player who doesn't have enough PA/IP to keep on the roster the whole year, and doesn't figure to have any future in MLB. Why shouldn't you be able to use it on a draftee?

Where did the name Chuckanut Bay Tubas come from?

So, why the Chuckanut Bay Tubas? Good question. The answer is that I wanted to pay homage to the early portion of my undergraduate studies. Coming out of high school, I was a really good tuba player. Believe it or not, when played properly the tuba can be quite a beautiful solo instrument, with more range than any other brass instrument. I decided to go to Western Washington University to pursue my undergraduate degree in music performance (never mind the fact that after two years I switched to physics, that's a whole 'nother story).

So, Western Washington University is located in beautiful Bellingham, Washington. I thought about naming the team the Bellingham Tubas, but that didn't quite do it for me. So then I thought about Bellingham Bay Tubas, as Bellingham Bay (part of the Puget Sound) is quite beautiful to look at. However, that name really didn't quite work for me either. Just south of Bellingham Bay is Chuckanut Bay, which is a great place to canoe or kayak. Chuckanut Bay Tubas had a nice ring to it, so a new franchise name was born!

So there you have it. Not a made-up name at all. It pays homage to my early years as an undergratuate student and now joins the lineup of great names for my strat teams:

RRBL: Madison Warthogs - went to grad school at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, have some warthog slippers.

NASA: Renton Microbrews - grew up in Renton, Washington and I love beer.

BLOC: Redwood City Atom Smashers - currently live in Redwood City, California and part of my current job is to collide protons into other atoms to make radioisotopes.

BRASSWORLD: Palo Alto Robber Barons - an homage to my employer's location and the mascot that the student body wanted when Stanford University decided that Indians was no longer a politically correct mascot.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Gold League Division Series: (1) Diamond vs. (4) Chuckanut Bay

Game 1: Chuckanut Bay 4 at Diamond 7
The Diamond Gems defeated the Chuckanut Bay Tubas by a score of 7 to 4 at Coors Field. Diamond had 4 runs cross the plate in the bottom of the 6th inning when they had 5 base hits. The key offensive moment was provided by Alfonso Soriano who made the Diamond fans a happy lot when he doubled bringing in two baserunners. Diamond out-hit Chuckanut Bay for the game, 13 hits to 5. Pat Neshek (1-0) got credit for the victory, pitching 1 inning and allowing no runs. J.J. Putz recorded the save, his 1st. The losing pitcher was Livan Hernandez (0-2). He was hit hard and gave up 9 hits and 2 walks in 5 innings.

Game 2: Chuckanut Bay 2 at Diamond 1
Kevin Millwood went 8 strong innings as the Chuckanut Bay Tubas defeated the Diamond Gems by the score of 2 to 1 at Coors Field. Chuckanut Bay took the lead for good in the 3rd inning plating an isolated run utilizing 2 base hits. Chuckanut Bay had only 6 hits for the night. The victory was credited to Millwood (1-1) who went 8 innings, allowing no runs. Takashi Saito earned his 2nd save. Josh Johnson (0-1) took the loss.

Game 3: Diamond 14 at Chuckanut Bay 6
Lance Berkman ripped 4 homeruns and had 9 RBI as the Diamond Gems outscored the Chuckanut Bay Tubas 14 to 6. Berkman really lit it up for Diamond. The Chuckanut Bay fans let him have it for what he did to their boys. He belted a three-run homer in the 1st inning, blasted a two-run home run in the 2nd inning, smashed a bases-empty 'big-fly' in the 3rd inning and lofted a three-run bomb (his 4th of the post-season) in the 7th inning. Diamond finished with 15 hits while Chuckanut Bay ended up with 7. Chris Capuano (1-0) got the win allowing 4 runs in 5 innings. John Maine (1-1) suffered the loss. He served up 4 homeruns in his 5 innings. 'They made a couple of mistakes and I took full advantage,' Berkman said 'next time I'm sure they'll pitch me tougher.'

Game 4: Diamond 7 at Chuckanut Bay 1
In a lop-sided win the Diamond Gems ripped the Chuckanut Bay Tubas by a 7 to 1 count. Scott Rolen had a good evening at the plate. He doubled bringing in two baserunners in the 1st inning and bombed a two-run dinger (his 1st of the post-season) in the 3rd inning. For the game Diamond out-hit Chuckanut Bay 12 to 5. Chien-Ming Wang (1-0) picked up the victory, allowing 1 run in 5 innings. Livan Hernandez (0-3) absorbed the loss. He allowed 10 hits and 5 walks in 5 innings.

Game 5: Diamond 7 at Chuckanut Bay 8
In an exciting finish the Chuckanut Bay Tubas pulled out a win over the Diamond Gems by a score of 8 to 7 at Busch Stadium. The deciding run was scored by Chuckanut Bay in the 9th. After an out was recorded, Geoff Jenkins blasted a solo shot (his 2nd of the post-season) giving
Chuckanut Bay the win and sending the home town fans into a frenzy. Chuckanut Bay managed 12 hits in their victory. Takashi Saito (1-0) picked up the victory, allowing 3 runs in 1 inning. Adam Wainwright (0-1) was charged with the loss in relief. Dave Dick was just happy to get a win, 'We've had such a bad streak of games -- boy, it's great to get the monkey off our back. Now maybe we can relax a little and play the kind of baseball of which we are capable.'

Game 6: Chuckanut Bay 9 at Diamond 2
The Chuckanut Bay Tubas had very little trouble at Coors Field downing the Diamond Gems. The score was 9 to 2. Chuckanut Bay came up with 5 runs in the top of the 2nd inning when they had 4 base hits. The early run support proved sufficient for Paul Byrd (2-0) and Chuckanut Bay. That was all the run support Byrd required. Chuckanut Bay had 8 hits for the night. Josh Johnson (0-2) was given the loss. He allowed 5 runs and 4 hits in 1 and 2/3 innings.

Game 7: Chuckanut Bay 9 at Diamond 1
In an embarrassing outing for the Diamond Gems pitching staff, Chuckanut Bay Tubas flexed their collective muscle amassing 9 runs as Livan Hernandez (1-3)with help from the bullpen held Diamond to 1 run. Chuckanut Bay set the tone of the game in the first inning when they tallied 2
runs on 1 hit. The early run support proved sufficient for Hernandez and Chuckanut Bay. That was all the run support Hernandez required. Chuckanut Bay had a total of 8 hits for the game. Chris Capuano (1-1) absorbed the loss. Chuckanut Bay scored big getting 4 runs off him in 2 and 1/3 innings.

This series was one in which one team got a lot of luck and as a result won the game. Both teams scored 39 runs in the series, showing how even the matchup really was despite some lopsided scores. Game 7 really could have gone either way, but I seemed to get good luck in the form of home run splits and Vaughn was getting bad luck in the form of two errors by a 2e6 shortstop, hitting into a lineout DP to kill an early rally, KRod giving up two bases-loaded walks, etc.

Honestly, if these teams played another 20 games, I bet Diamond wins around 14 out of 20. I just happened to catch a couple of breaks. Chuckanut Bay looks forward to matching up with Green Bay or Plainsfield in the next round.

Sunday, March 09, 2008

The Look of the Face

In a word, grim. Very grim.

A combination of expired contracts and failed prospects has left the Face with a badly depleted lineup and a virtually nonexistent pitching rotation. Going into free agency:
- David Eckstein's B contract has expired, making him a URFA. Ben Zobrist was released, so the closest thing to a replacement is AM Brent Lillibridge, who has yet to play in the majors.
- Once-promising second baseman Jorge Cantu has fizzled, and Ryan Freel lost much of the year to injuries and ineffectiveness (plus he's an RFA).
- In the outfield, Luis Gonzalez went URFA, Freel and Milton Bradley are RFAs, and Mark Kotsay was even more injured and ineffective than Freel. Former prospects Laynce Nix and John Rodriguez were released, leaving nothing in the pipeline.
- Worst of all is the rotation. Doug Davis, Jarrod Washburn and Kenny Rogers all finished out their contracts, and prospects like J.P. Howell and Seth McClung took steps backwards. Ubaldo Jimenez and Edgar Gonzalez will pick up a little of the slack, but they and (God help us) Tomo Ohka are the only starters we have at this point. That's 240 innings total, scarcely more than you normally expect from your #1 starter alone.

Not much waits in the wings, either. Adam Jones is a coming star, but Alberto Callaspo's upside is a middle-of-the-pack second baseman, Scott Moore's is a mediocrity at third, and Guillermo Quiroz will get about 400 at-bats in a 5-year career as a third-string catcher if he's very, very lucky. Dioner Navarro is expected to break out; if he does, and Mike Napoli takes charge in Anaheim, one of them can be traded. That's about it.

I should be able to repair some of the damage with free agents, as I lead the league in both bank balance and margin. But to actually put together a winning team that way, I'd need four regulars and four rotation starters, half of them stars and the other half at least league average. A couple of relievers wouldn't hurt either; I haven't mentioned my bullpen, but suffice it to say that Joe Borowski is my closer. It's possible to get all that from free agency, but you need a much bigger budget than mine. (A team called the Iowa Roscoes went Steinbrenner on the league and bought an All-Star squad a few years ago, but they had over $90M to work with.) No, I'm going to have to just hope for enough warm bodies to field a team and allow me to go for prospects with upside in the rookie draft.