Billy-Ball Daily: 2007-9-5

9/5/2007
Billy-Ball Daily
Bill Chuck (Billy-Ball his own self)

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On this date in 1918, Babe Ruth pitched a six-hitter as the Boston Red Sox beat the Chicago Cubs 1-0 in the opening game of the World Series. The Series was started early due to World War I. Happy birthday, Bill Mazeroski.

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Top of the 1st
SEPTEMBER SONG
“Oh, it’s a long, long while from May to December
But the days grow short when you reach September
When the autumn weather turns the leaves to flame
One hasn’t got time for the waiting game”

The arrival of September 1 not only means the shrinking of days but the expansion of major league rosters from 25 players to 40 players. Obviously, at this point the September call-up who has made the most impact has been last week’s American League Pitcher of the Week, Clay Buchholz, the no-hit thrower for the Red Sox. However, very few of the additions to the roster will provide much more than allowing a tired regular a day off.

The roster expansion is a very odd occurrence, somewhat akin to the incredibly late trading deadline in hockey which permits deals seemingly until the second round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs. Why should teams who have played all season long with a 25-man roster all of a sudden have a multitude of players to choose from? Now granted while a team can add as many as 15 players, very rarely does that happen, but adding players do change what we see.

I’m not clear why a team with a tired bullpen in August should get so much relief, so to speak, in September. Why should a team that has had limited flexibility when it comes to pinch-running all of a sudden have an array of speed merchants from which to choose? If a team is short a lefty, or wants to quickly pull a starter or needs to rest a veteran, all of these options are suddenly available, and for no good reason.

While it’s true that fans get to see players who have had strong minor-league seasons get rewarded with a promotion it does take away from the product they are seeing as well. For example, the newly retired Jerry Malitz wanted to go to see the Giants play the Nationals in Washington, but when he looked at the Giants lineup he didn’t want to pay major league money to see Fresno play against the Nats.

What about the minor league fans? While the regular minor league season ended yesterday, the post season will be quickly beginning. If the major league team needs one of the players from that post-season squad, so be it; the minor league fan be damned.

Don’t think that this in any way levels the playing field between the have and have-not teams. Low-payroll teams, not wanting to spend the money or start players’ service time, which affects when a player is arbitration eligible and free agent eligible, often are less willing to promote as many players as the high-payroll teams which means we don’t even have the opportunity to see a low-payroll or lousy team improve itself.

Then there are the Disabled List roster slots that are open that can be filled with the “phenom” who comes up in September and makes such a splash that the team wants the player to be on the post-season roster. Two examples are pitchers Marty Bystrom, for the 1980 Phillies, and Francisco Rodriguez, for the 2002 Angels. Bystrom went 5-0 with a 1.50 ERA in September, and then pitched 10 post-season innings that helped the Phillies win the World Series. K-Rod struck out 13 in 5 2/3 innings, and pitched 18.2 innings in relief in the post-season going 5-1 with 28 strike outs as the Angels went all the way.

There are fewer misses than hits amongst the players that are brought up, but the Red Sox are hoping that Jacoby Ellsbury is the real deal in the same way that in 1974 Freddie Lynn who hit .419 in September, the following year was the Rookie of the Year and MVP in the American League.

Basically I agree with the American League scout who recently said, “For five months we play by one set of rules, then, when the games are most important, we change the rules? It’s stupid.”

I wouldn’t mind seeing a September taxi squad where teams daily designate a 25-man roster and force thoughtful use of starters, bullpen pitchers and bench players. Bowing to the expected objections of the Players Union, even if a player is on the taxi squad they would be paid a major league salary and accrue service time from the day they are brought up, but the quality of the game would remain the same in that there is a limited number of players available to work with. While I understand, that on any given day, 80% of the starting rotation would be on the squad, only four additional subs would be available from that group.

Beyond that it would give fans another opportunity to second-guess and that’s almost as fun as watching the game.

Top of the 2nd
POST HASTE
As we rush to the post-season we find that the American League divisional races are becoming less interesting and two of three National races becoming more interesting.

Jacoby Ellsbury homered, tripled and singled to help Josh Beckett defeate Roy Halladay and become the majors’ first 17-game winner as the Red Sox scored a 5-3 victory over the Toronto Blue Jays. The victory was Boston’s fourth in a row and the Sox have the best record in the major leagues, 84-55, and have won the first two of the three-game series.

Seattle’s divisional and wild card hopes took a hit Yankees starter Chien-Ming Wang picked up his 17th win en route to a 12-3 victory. By game’s end, the only suspense was whether a squirrel that made it up the right-field foul pole, then went to sleep, would survive his snooze without falling. He was still up there when the game ended. This could become a Yankees Rally Squirrel, because he, or a relative, showed up at a game last week, and the Yankees have won both (check out a picture of the Rally Squirrel – http://billy-ball.com/documents/YeOldeYankeeSquirrel.pdf)

Travis Hafner hit two home runs and the go-ahead sacrifice fly in the 11th inning, leading the Cleveland Indians past the Minnesota Twins, 7-5. Cleveland has beaten Minnesota six straight times, and is 13-4 against the defending division champions this year. The Twins, are 2-7 in their last nine.

Josh Fields and Alex Cintron homered and Jon Garland scattered seven hits over seven innings as the Chicago White Sox beat the Detroit Tigers, 3-1. Garland (9-10) ran his career record to 13-6 against the Tigers and improved to 9-1 at Comerica Park, allowing a run and striking out four without a walk for his first win since July 27. The last-place White Sox improved to 9-4 against Detroit this season.

Garrett Anderson hit a tiebreaking two-run homer in the 6th inning, helping Jered Weaver and the Angels beat the Oakland Athletics, 4-3. Weaver (11-6) won his third straight start, allowing two runs, seven hits and three walks over six innings while striking out five. He improved to 20-1 in 29 career starts in which the Angels scored three or more runs while he was in the game.

Paul Lo Duca hit a pair of three-run homers and drove in a career-high seven runs leading the New York Mets to their fifth straight victory, 11-7 over the Cincinnati Reds. The Mets have scored 46 runs in the last six games and reaching double-digits three times and have their longest winning streak of the season.

Ryan Howard hit his 37th homer, and the Philadelphia Phillies ended a three-game losing streak with a 5-2 victory over the Atlanta Braves. Howard hit his 15th career homer off the Braves and sixth at Turner Field. Chipper Jones hit his 23rd homer for Atlanta, which has lost four of five and 10 of 14.

Brad Penny earned his 15th victory, Matt Kemp had a career high four hits and the Dodgers defense turned five double plays as LA beat the Cubs 6-2 and spoiled Steve Trachsel’s return to Chicago. Penny (15-4) got his first win since Aug. 15. He allowed seven hits and two runs — one earned — in seven innings. Trachsel is the 67th player to have two separate stints with the Cubs. His last start for the Cubs prior to Tuesday night came on Oct. 3, 1999 at St. Louis.

Francisco Cordero retired Lance Berkman and Carlos Lee to set a franchise record with his 40th save, as the Brewers beat the Astros, 5-3. Carlos Villanueva pitched six solid innings in his first start as a member of the Brewers’ rotation. Houston’s Brandon Backe, made his first start in more than a year after undergoing Tommy John elbow surgery. The Brewers have a 10-3 edge in the season series making it the first time Milwaukee will win a season series with the Astros since it joined the NL in 1998.

Joel Pineiro won for the fourth time in six starts as the St. Louis Cardinals beat the Pittsburgh Pirates 6-2 moving the Cardinals back over .500 with the win. Pineiro has a 3.63 ERA in seven starts since joining the Cardinals. As a reliever with the Red Sox, Pineiro had a 5.03 ERA in 31 games. The Cardinals are 16-5 in their last 21 home games.

Tony Clark and Eric Byrnes homered and the Diamondbacks defeated San Diego 9-1 to pull within .001 of the division-leading Padres. Doug Davis (13-11) allowed one run in seven innings as he reached a career high in victories. Davis gave up six hits and five walks and struck out five.

Brad Hawpe singled in the game-winning run with one out in the 9th to lift Colorado to a come-from-behind 6-5 victory over the San Francisco Giants, the Rockies’ third straight win. With their fifth victory in six games, the Rockies improved to a season-high six games over .500.

WILD CARD STANDINGS
American W L Pct GB
New York Yankees 77 62 .554 —
Seattle Mariners 74 63 .540 2
Detroit Tigers 73 65 .529 3