Friday, September 19, 2008

The Friday Flotsam
(*)The Twins are not the only ones with bullpen woes down the back-stretch of the season.  Phil Rogers reports that Ozzie Guillen is having just as much difficulty as Ron Gardenhire has with his bullpen.  Rogers highlights the White Sox the Sept. 15 loss to the Yankees in which Mark Buerhle went six innings, giving up two runs.  When pressed with the decision to have the left-hander Buerhle face Xavier Nady -- who had already homered off of him in the game -- Guillen decided to go to Ehren Wasserman.  Wasserman walked Nady and then got an out on a sacrifice bunt.  Guillen then swapped Wasserman for Horacio Ramirez.  Ho-Ram immediately provided Wilson Betemit with a pitch that he drove for a ground-rule double, scoring Nady from second and putting the Yankees out front 3-2 on their way to a 4-2 victory.  "I need to be a genius again," Guillen said. "I lost my title the last two weeks. I've never gone to the mound so much. If I got paid by how many times I go to the mound, I wouldn't need my salary. Every two hitters I go out."  Though the Sox have had the same poor showing from their relievers as the Twins have had, the White Sox hold the advantage in that they have been 4-4 since August while the Twins bullpen has had an atrocious record of 4-14.
(*)Rogers is also suggesting that White Sox second baseman Alexei Ramirez is a front-runner for American League Rookie of the Year.  Certainly, the 26 year old beanpole Cuban has emerged as a strong option as he has hit .296/.318/.477 in 442 at-bats with 18 home runs but Tampa's Evan Longoria's three home run performance against the Twins on Thursday night may have solidified his election as despite spending significant time on the DL, Longoria has still hit .281/.353/.544 with 25 home runs in 406 at-bats.  The difference between the two being that as Longoria has spend the majority of his at-bats batting either clean-up or in the 5th spot, Rameriz has been seeing cushier pitching batting anywhere from 7th through 9th in the Sox order.  In my opinion - which is hardly worth the bandwidth it is printed on - I believe that the electoral process for ROY is determined by the clunkier statistics like RBI, average and runs scored (not to mention home runs).  Credence is given to some defense.  For instance Longoria is credited as being the complete package becuase he plays a very solid third base -- ranking 4th among starters in the Fielding Bible resulting in nearly +10 runs saved.  Rogers labeled Ramirez as "an ultrasolid fielder" which is simply untrue, in fact nothing could be further from the truth.  According the Fielding Bible, in Ramirez's 920 innings logged at second base, the Cuban Missile has cost his team approximately -9 runs, placing him at 27th among major league second baseman.  When you consider the all-around play of the two rookies it is clear that Longoria, at the young age of 22, is the better rookie.  Because I believe the award is a charade, let's look at another outside candidate - unlike the race for the Presidency, the Rookie of the Year should not be a two-man race.  Twins right fielder Denard Span, in his 100 fewer at-bats, has been every bit as an ignitor to his team as Longoria and Ramirez have.  When you gauge by the Win Probability Added, Span has usurped both Ramirez and Longoria in providing the production to lead to team wins.  Notably, Ramirez's offense has actually adversely effect his team at -0.10.  Defensively you can say the same thing.  His +14 run defensive performance is the second best as a right fielder in the American League (behind the Indian's Franklin Guetierrez at +28) and probably would have led all of baseball had he been up the entire season.  Though Longoria will run away with the award simply because the Rays are full of feelgoodery this year and 25+ home runs this season, Denard Span should get some serious consideration.

(*)Speaking of rookies, it is that time of year when the leaves start changing colors, there is a hint of autumn in the air and veteran baseball players outfit their youngsters in women's clothing:

(*)CBS Sportsline's Scott Miller penned an article on Jason Bartlett being the linchpin for the Tampa Bay Rays in their first ever playoff push.  Admittedly, Bartlett is a huge upgrade over Brendan Harris who manned the position for the Rays in 2007, to say that he has been an elite shortstop is overdoing it as well.  "I've said all year that I think Jason Bartlett is one of the MVPs of the team," Rays manager Joe Maddon said. "We have won not because we've out-hit everyone, but because of our defense. And he's been the glue to holding it together." Though I would take a Bartlett over a Harris any day, defensively his prowess has been over-hyped.  Among starters (those that have accumulated 1,000 innings), Bartlett's revised zone rating is second-to-last (.806) at shortstop and by his Fielding Bible rating is plus/minus 0 -- which means he hasn't saved any runs nor has his play relinquished any runs.  Nick Punto, meanwhile, in his 453 innings at short has saved the Twins +4 runs.  Despite what other's believe, Bartlett's bat is average as a shortstop.  Literally.  The average American League shortstop is hitting .265/.317/.371 while Bartlett's season line is .280/.317/.350.  His wpa on the season has be -2.29 - an expense to the Rays.  Bartlett received attention after his torrid August.  The Rays finished the month winning 21 of 28 games thanks to the production of the former Twins' shortstop who hit .389/.413/.583 with 10 extra base hits in 76 plate appearances.  This helped Tampa stay ahead of Boston when the calender turned over to September.  Since the new month began, the Rays have been 6-10 and Bartlett has regressed to being just an average shortstop again batting .288/.317/.356 with 4 extra base hits in 63 plate appearances.