My line of work is basically all Internet, so I stumble across some strange things. Today, it was a Wall Street Journal article about how baseball teams are using the wisdom of fans to make decisions. We know, thanks to Peter Gammons, that front offices read blogs. This piece goes a little deeper, citing a few specific instances of teams using the aid of fans for strategic advantage.
The first is of a Cardinals program called One for the Birds, wherein fans send in bios of lesser-known college players. The powers-that-be then review these fan submissions and send scouts to check out the most interesting of the crop. This is absolutely free for the Cardinals to try out. While they’ll have to spend the money to actually scout the players, they’ll have a decent idea of who’s worth it and who’s not. The pay-off for a real discovery by these means would be astronomical.
And then there’s the infamous Internet story of U.S.S. Mariner’s open letter to M’s pitching coach Rafael Chavez, urging him to fix Felix Hernandez’s pitch selection. Through a simple analysis, Dave Cameron, the site’s author, determined that King Felix was far too reliant on the fastball. The letter was penned on June 27th, the day after Felix got lit up by the Red Sox for five runs in 5.2 innings–a far cry from his near-no-hitter back in April. He ended up tossing 16 innings over his next two starts, allowing just two runs, both in the first bout. The funny thing is that he struck out only seven over those two starts, which isn’t usually Felix’s game. However, he only walked three, which surely aided in his success.
This actually plays right into the philosophy espoused in the book Wikinomics, which, coincidentally, I’m in the middle of reading. It’s about harnessing the awesome power of mass collaboration. Which is really what we do here on baseball blogs. We talk, you comment, and we’re all a bit more knowledgeable as a result. While some baseball front offices tend to shun blogs, some are embracing them as source of collective knowledge. We at RAB — Mike, Ben, myself, the commenters, hell, even the lurkers — might not have more knowledge than Damon Oppenheimer and Brian Cashman. But because we’re all working together, we might think of something that the two of them couldn’t. And that, my friends, is how we’re all doing part to help our beloved Yankees.
When I railed on the Daily News’ Spring Training coverage yesterday, most of you who chimed in agreed with my critique of the paper’s over-the-top attention to Spring Training details. Thursday’s game — highlighted by a horrendous pitching effort by Yankee ace Chien-Ming Wang — gives us another chance to evaluate how the New York sports media covers March.
Today’s story comes to us via Tyler Kepner of The Times. With a headline “Girardi Says Wang Has Work to Do,” Kepner’s piece explores Wang’s terrible start today in the context of Spring Training.
“His sinker was up, his slider was flat,” Manager Joe Girardi said. “He was in bad counts. They were aggressive, and they weren’t missing. You don’t ever like to get your butt kicked, but it’s a spring training game. We’re trying to get arm strength and we’re trying to get him ready for the season, and we’ve got work to do.”
Wang said he had to work on shortening his stride to the plate. He said his stride was too long because he was trying to throw too hard. “I will fix it quick,” he said…
The pitching coach, Dave Eiland, said: “It’s early, so he’s feeling strong. He was just under some pitches, so they were staying up and he wasn’t getting that late movement on his sinker. He did throw some good changeups. I try to take the positive out of everything. It was a rough day for him, but I think he’ll be O.K. He knows what he needs to do.”
That’s all there is to it. There’s no need to harp on Wang’s previous bad outings or his subpar ALDS appearances. A few quotes from the manager, one from the pitcher and one from the pitching coach all recognizing that Wang is working on getting his mechanics and arm angle where it should be for the season. That is how to cover Spring Training.
The world of New York media is a tough one. Some of the harshest and most popular blogs exist to dissect the media arena in this city. But for sports, be aware of what you read. Spring Training is a time for practice; it’s not a time to be concerned about how some bad outing in Florida stacks up against career experience. Worry in April; worry in May; enjoy it in March.
Another day, another mediocre Yankee reliever popping off about Joe Torre’s bullpen management skills.
Today’s contestant is Krazy Kyle Fansworth. He of the 1.45 WHIP and 4.80 ERA had this to say about his former boss:
“I always have confidence in myself, definitely,” he said. ” But it’s tough when you do lose the confidence from your manager to maybe prepare yourself day in and day out when you have no clue about anything.”
Farnsworth criticized the way the Yankees handled him last season, saying no one asked him if he could pitch on consecutive days or in the middle of an inning, two things Torre was reluctant to do. The Yankees decided unilaterally on “The Farnsworth Rules,” according to the reliever.
“I know that’s been going on in the past, especially last year,” he said. “They decided not to use me back-to-back days. They never came up to me and asked me. I don’t know why that came about.”
While I can understand why members of the Yankee bullpen were skeptical of Torre’s bullpen patterns, this is another example of a crappy pitcher bemoaning a fate that was largely in his hands. In 64 appearances last season, Farnsworth managed to throw just 14 one-two-three innings. He gave up walks; he gave up hits; he nibbled; and he was eventually replaced by Joba Chamberlain. Is it really surprising that Torre didn’t want to use him?
I’d be thrilled if Farnsworth could rediscover himself in 2008. A halfway decent season by the Farns could allow Joba to move seamlessly into the starting rotation without significantly weakening the Yanks’ late-inning pitching. But right now and forever really, Farnsworth only has himself to blame. If he didn’t like how Torre didn’t have confidence in him, it was because he didn’t show anything confidence-worthy on the mound last season. Prove us wrong, Kyle.
After opening the season with seven home games, the Yanks embark on a killer April road schedule. Over the subsequent three weeks, they will play 18 of 20 games on the road. With only two days off in April this year, it’s going to be a grueling month on the road, and the main culprit behind the delays is, according to Ed Price, the Pope and his April 20th Yankee Stadium mass. Got that, Benedict? It’s your fault the Yanks are on the road; how about we get something in return? I’ll take wins. · (14) ·
After a few days of TV coverage, Yankee fans find themselves without a way to watch or hear today’s game. Fear not, however; a little digging on MLB.com can point you to the pitch-by-pitch Gameday for today’s game. It’s not nearly as prompt as it is in-season, but it’s better than furiously refreshing a live blog. · (8) ·
Now that everyone and their mothers — or at least mine — reads baseball blogs, the media, under pressure from the competition, is paying closer attention to the results of Spring Training outings. This is sadly to the detriment of the Spring Training process.
Exhibit A in this era of over-reacting media is Mark Feinsand’s overly dramatic piece about Joba Chamberlain’s outing in today’s Daily News:
Joba Chamberlain called it “just one of those days.”
Of course, Chamberlain had never experienced a day like this since joining the Yankees last August, at least one without midges around.
The hard-throwing 22-year-old allowed two runs on two hits – one of them a towering two-run blast by Twins outfielder Garrett Jones – in two innings, giving up twice as many earned runs as he did in his 19 outings last season.
Harping on less-than-stellar outings by Chamberlain and Ian Kennedy, Feinsand spends a story talking about the struggles these two had yesterday. Missing from the story is any mention of the fact that these are the first two innings these pitchers have thrown against Major League hitters since last season. Missing from the story is a nod toward the purpose of Spring Training: refining mechanics, getting a feel for the strike zone. Missing from the story is a mention of the fact that these outings came on March 4 and not October 4.
Instead, Feinsand compares this outing to one of Joba’s Minor League appearances in which he gave up three home runs. This coverage needs perspective. Yankee fans shouldn’t expect an undefeated Spring Training; that’s not the point. Rather, these pitchers use the time to get out the rest, to get their throwing in, to get in shape. By the time April rolls around, these guys are ready to go.
If, in June, Joba and IPK are still struggling, then we can worry. But two less-than-perfect innings during the first week of Spring Training hardly warrant an alarm. Is this really where we are with sports coverage today?
Little known fact: When the new Yankee Stadium opens, the Doomsday clock on old Yankee Stadium will strike eleven.
That’s right; when the Yankees move across 161st St. to their new digs, plans to dismantle and tear down the House that Ruth Built will kick into overdrive. With just over 13 months to go before that fateful date, the Yankees and the City of New York are already planning the long, commercial good bye.
According to USA Today’s Paul White, an official within the Department of Parks and Recreation has confirmed that the Yanks will auction off some of the stadium and then tear it down. The article provides some details about the post-Stadium plans for the historic site:
Though details are still being worked out, the Yankees expect the stadium will be replaced by a complex of three fields, one for softball, one with Little League dimensions and one for high school and college games. A running track will ring the field, and 12,000 trees will be planted to form the outline of the old stadium around the facility.
As for the rest of the stadium, it doesn’t sound like too many people are losing sleep over this destruction. Even the Hall of Fame, according to White, acknowledges that Yankee Stadium lost its heart and soul when George Steinbrenner renovated it in the 1970s:
Even the Baseball Hall of Fame, which certainly will be in line ahead of the public, doesn’t have any grand expectations.
“Remember, everything was new after the (1973-74) renovation,” said Jeff Idelson, Hall of Fame vice president. “We already have Babe Ruth’s locker and one than was used by (Joe) DiMaggio, then (Mickey) Mantle and Bobby Murcer.”
Idelson said Hall officials haven’t discussed what they might want from the old stadium but expect no problems, especially considering Yankees owner George Steinbrenner is a member of the Hall’s board of directors.
As for the auctions, expect a lot of lower level seats to go. The Tier seats are attached to the step behind them and do not rest flush on the ground. While my dad owns a seat from the old Yankee Stadium, it will be tough for the team to sell seats that don’t sit flat. A few years ago, when the team replaced seats, they sold groups of three for $1500 each. The last seats should sell for significantly more.
Despite the renovations, it will be a sad day in New York when Yankee Stadium is torn down. In 1923, the Yanks erected this ballpark in the Bronx and have brought unparalleled sports success to the field. They marched Hall of Famers through the outfielder and perfect games past the pitchers mound. They’ve had their ups and downs, but it’s all baseball history. And soon the Stadium will be lost to history. I will mourn that day.
The St. Petersburg Times is reporting that David Price, the first overall pick in the 2007 draft, will take the mound for the first game action of his professional career this Saturday when the Rays visit Legends Field. The big lanky southpaw reminds me a bit of Andy Pettitte, but he’s got much better pure stuff (low-90s heat, wipeout slider and sinking changeup). The game is on YES, and should be fun to watch regardless of who’s throwing for the Bombers.
(hat tip to Jason at My Baseball Bias) · (1) ·