Billy-Ball Daily: 2007-10-5

10/5/2007
Billy-Ball Daily
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Friday, October 05, 2007

Top of the 1st
HOME FIELD ADVANTAGE
Today Billy-Ball is proud to introduce the latest addition to the Billy-Ball staff, Brian Reich (pronounced “Rich”). Brian is a friend, colleague, a visionary, a geek, a funny guy, asoon to be a first-time daddy, and on his way to superstardom. Check out just the first part of his bio and tell me why he would consent to write for Billy-Ball.

Brian is the Direct of New Media for Cone, Inc, a brand strategy and communications agency in Boston. He is a regular writer and speaker on the issues involving the impact of the internet and technology on politics, society, and the media. In addition to editing Thinking About Media, Brian has contributed to National Journal’s The Hotline and is a contributing editor to Personal Democracy Forum (www.personaldemocracy.com), both on the topic of the impact the internet and technology have on politics.

It goes on and includes that Brian served as Vice President Gore’s Briefing Director, both in the White House and during his 2000 presidential campaign. His cool blog site can be found at http://www.thinkingaboutmedia.com/. But when it comes to baseball, we’ve got him as Billy-Ball’s Senior Visionary and his regular column “Striking it Reich”

Here’s Brian’s first effort called:

HOME FIELD ADVANTAGE

As the regular season progressed and the playoff picture became clear (for most), the focus of most sportswriters and fans turned to records of the best teams in the respective leagues – and who would earn home field advantage.

What’s the big deal?

In the American League this year, thanks in part to the infinite wisdom of television executives, the benefit of owning the best record in the league is the choice of playing formats. In the National League, the schedules match throughout. But the two American League Divisional Series’ will start staggered: one October 3rd, one October 4th. Game 2 will be played on Oct. 5, followed by a travel day, more games on October 7th and 8th, then another travel day before a Game 5 (if needed). The team with the best record at the end of the season can opt for an extra day of rest, a welcome rest for tired arms and aching bodies with a short series ahead. Murray Chass wrote in the New York Times last week “The format, a one-year experiment, could give the best team an edge, if it has two strong starting pitchers.”

In addition, the team that finishes with the best record in each league enjoys home-field advantage through the League Championship Series. And the league that wins the All-Star Game earns home-field advantage in the World Series. So, this year, the team that finished with the most wins in the American League plays at home throughout the postseason.

How important is home-field advantage in baseball? Throughout the history of the sport, the home team has won roughly 54 percent of the time, regular season and playoffs. A 2003 article entitled “Is There a Home Field Advantage in the World Series?”, by Alan Abramowitz (Society for American Baseball Research’s, The National Pastime #23) analyzed the 76 World Series games played under the 2-3-2 home-away-home format adopted in 1925, finding that teams playing the first two games at home have won 58% of World Series played under this format. (The 1943 and 1945 WS did not use this format because of WWII travel restrictions and no Series was played in 1994)

That’s not a huge advantage, but it is an advantage.

For some teams, the advantage is even clearer. The Angels and Rockies both have records away from home below .500, but well-above .500 (27 games and 20 games respectively) at home. And for a team like the Red Sox, the home turf seems support a measurable difference in offensive production — the Sox have posted an .837 OPS (on-base plus slugging percentages) at Fenway Park this season against a .766 on the road. True, they have homered more away from Fenway than at home (call that the Green Monster effect), but they have more total extra-base hits at Fenway. As Red Sox GM recently noted on local sports radio, “Home field isn’t the be all, end all in playoff baseball. Far from it,” he said. “But it is better to have home field, especially with our club. We score about a run per game more at home than we do on the road. That’s not insignificant.”

There are lots of theories for why home field advantage is so important — most of them are just baseball lore. What is known for sure is that a ballpark can make or break a playoff experience… not just on the field, but for the fans as well. What is it about the ballpark that is so special? Baseball columnist Thomas Boswell once wrote that “Only when you’re in the ballpark can the eye grasp and interconnect the game’s great distances. Will the wind blow that long fly just over the fence? Will the relay throw nail the runner trying to score from second on a double in the alley? Who’s warming up in the bullpen? Where is the defense shading this hitter? Did the base stealer get a good jump? The eye flicks back and forth and captures everything that is necessary.”

And what of the ballparks that will host this year’s playoffs? Who has home field advantage when it comes to the fans?

In 1997, I traveled the country and visited every major league ballpark in the country. The memories of each game I attended, and the venues that hosted them, are as clear as they were then – I can recall every angle, color, sound, and smell as if I was still there today. When I sit down and watch the playoffs starting this afternoon, I will be transported to my seat again. So let me share some of those ballpark highlights with you, as well as some thoughts and memories from friends and fellow baseball fans, to help you transport as well.

Read the rest of Brian’s piece including his descriptions of each park at: http://billy-ball.com/StrikingitReich.htm

Top of the 2nd
THE POST-SEASON
Game Matchup Day Date Time ET TV
Gm 1 NYY 3 @ CLE 12 Thu Oct. 4 6:30 pm TBS
Gm 2 NYY @ CLE Fri Oct. 5 5 pm TBS
Gm 3 CLE @ NYY Sun Oct. 7 6:30 pm TBS
Gm 4* CLE @ NYY Mon Oct. 8 6 pm TBS
Gm 5* NYY @ CLE Wed Oct. 10 5 pm TBS

Red Sox lead series, 1-0
Game Matchup Day Date Time ET TV
Gm 1 LAA 0 @ BOS 4 Wed Oct. 3
Gm 2 LAA @ BOS Fri Oct. 5 8:30 pm TBS
Gm 3 BOS @ LAA Sun Oct. 7 3 pm TBS
Gm 4* BOS @ LAA Mon Oct. 8 9:30 pm TBS
Gm 5* LAA @ BOS Wed Oct. 10 8:30 pm TBS
* – if necessary

Diamondbacks lead series, 1-0
Game Matchup Day Date Time ET TV
Gm 1 CHC 1 @ ARI 3 Wed Oct. 3
Gm 2 CHC 4 @ ARI 8 Thu Oct. 4 10 pm TBS
Gm 3 ARI @ CHC Sat Oct. 6 6 pm TBS
Gm 4* ARI @ CHC Sun Oct. 7 1 pm TNT
Gm 5* CHC @ ARI Tue Oct. 9 10 pm TBS
* – if necessary

Rockies lead series, 1-0
Game Matchup Day Date Time ET TV
Gm 1 COL 4 @ PHI 2 Wed Oct. 3
Gm 2 COL 10 @ PHI 5 Thu Oct. 4 3 pm TBS
Gm 3 PHI @ COL Sat Oct. 6 9:30 pm TBS
Gm 4* PHI @ COL Sun Oct. 7 10 pm TBS
Gm 5* COL @ PHI Tue Oct. 9 6:30 pm TBS
* – if necessary

Top of the 3rd
THE DREADED HOLE
No team wants to fall into the dread 0-2 hole in a five game series, but two National League teams are already in that situation and two AL teams home to avoid that fate tonight.

ROCKIES
No team is in worse shape than the Philadelphia Phillies. Not only did they lose their second straight yesterday to the Rockies, 10-5, they lost their second straight at home. My theory is that somebody forgot to tell the Rockies that they no longer have to win every game so they presume they should just keep winning, so that’s what’ they’re doing.

Kaz Matsui hit his first career grand slam and drove in five runs, leading the Rockies to their 16th victory in 17 games. “We believe we’re going to win every game,” manager Clint Hurdle said. “We’ve been playing in the losers’ bracket for a month.”

Matsui fell a single short of the cycle, and Troy Tulowitzki and Matt Holliday homered on consecutive pitches in the 1st off rookie Kyle Kendrick. Matsui connected off Kyle Lohse, rushed in to relieve the struggling Kendrick in the 4th inning. With the Phillies leading 3-2 in the 4th, Manuel pulled Kendrick after pinch hitter Seth Smith’s infield single loaded the bases with two out. In came Lohse who got ahead 1-2 on Matsui before Matsui drove a fastball into the right-field seats to give the Rockies a 6-3 lead. Lohse was the Phillies’ scheduled Game 4 starter and Charlie Manuel figured the way things are going there won’t be a Game 4 so you might as well use everybody.

Jimmy Rollins homered and drove in four runs and Ryan Howard also went deep for Philadelphia, Carlos Ruiz couldn’t deliver against Colorado closer Manny Corpas in the 8th with the bases loaded and two out and that was that for the 45,991 fans, the largest crowd ever at 4-year-old Citizens Bank Park.

And that, very well may be that, for the 2007 Philadelphia Phillies.

DIAMONDBACKS
The folks at Fox have a stomach ache this morning as they watch their fantasy Yankees-Cubs World Series rating grabber start to slip away. It was another bad night in Phoenix for the Cubs as Chris Young hit a three-run homer and Stephen Drew tripled in two more in an 8-4 victory. Billy-Ball favorite Eric Byrnes had an RBI triple for the Diamondbacks, the first team since the 1906 White Sox to have a league’s best record and worst batting average.

Doug Davis gave up a two-run homer to up and coming star, Geovany Soto in the 2nd, then settled in for three scoreless innings. The Diamondbacks left-hander allowed four runs and six hits in 5 2-3 innings overall. He struck out eight and walked four. Reliever Juan Cruz promptly gave up a two-run double to pinch-hitter Daryle Ward, with both runs charged to Davis. That was the only mistake the Arizona relievers made. Tony Pena, Brandon Lyon and Jose Valverde each threw a scoreless inning to close it out.

The Cubs’ lefty starter, Ted Lilly, lasted just 3 1-3 innings allowing six runs and seven hits. It was nice to see the almost unrecognizable Kerry Wood, who made a comeback this year from career-threatening shoulder injury, pitch two scoreless inning and became the 20th player in franchise history to appear in three post-seasons – 1998, 2003 and 2007.

INDIANS
The Yankees had to figure that after Josh Beckett, C.C. Sabathia is the number two in the league this season. Their guy, C-M Wang was pretty good too, a top five in the league. But the Yankees had to think a break here, a break there and they win game 1, other than that probably a 3-1 or 4-2 defeat.

Nobody expected the Spanish Inquisition.

Kenny Lofton drove in four runs and Cleveland got homers from Victor Martinez, Asdrubal Cabrera, Travis Hafner and Ryan Garko to reaaly, really beat the New Yorkers, 12-3. “They just were hitting everything,” Yankees slugger Alex Rodriguez said. “Even their outs were hard.”

Chien-Ming Wang renowned sinker was effective…a ball sank into the outfield for a hit, sank into the stands for a homer, and generally just sank out the joint. An array of Yankee rookie relievers provided none.

Interestingly, Sabathia was not effective either, throwing 114 pitches, allowing three runs and four hits in just five innings. “He bent but he didn’t break,” Yankee manager JoeTorre said.

New York has lost four straight playoff games and 11 of 14 overall dating to their 2004 AL championship series collapse against Boston.

A-Rod went 0-for-2 and walked twice, once intentionally in the fifth when Sabathia wriggled out of a jam. He dropped to 4-for-43 (.093) with no RBIs in his last 13 post-season games.

The Indians tied a club post-season record with four homers. They’ve now done it three times, twice in 1998.

Top of the 4th
LITTLE LEAGUE
No really this is about Little League Baseball who announced changes for the 2008 Little League World Series, including:
* Requiring a game of rest for pitchers who throw 21 or more pitches in a game, besides already prescribed days of rest.
* Allowing the pitcher of record in a suspended game to continue pitching when the game resumes.
* Suspending a manager two tournament games for failing to remove a pitcher before the hurler becomes ineligible. Forfeiting the game will no longer be a mandatory penalty.
* Removing the “automatic” intentional walk rule, meaning a four-pitch intentional walk will now count toward a pitcher’s limit.
* Prohibiting a player removed from the game as pitcher from playing catcher the remainder of the day.

Little League is still studying how breaking pitches may affect youngsters’ arms. If they had done that when I was a kid perhaps today I’d be pitching for the Rockies and not just writing about them.

Nah, only kidding, I never threw a curve ball in my life.

But this is real, on the subject of the Little League, Chien-Ming Wang said he wasn’t good enough to ever have made Taiwan’s vaunted Little League travel team. Last night showed how insightful those Taiwanese are.

Top of the 5th
HOT STOVE TALK: JOSE REYES FOR JOHAN SANTANA?
Jim Baumbach of Newsday points out that the great Johan Santana, indicated to the Minneapolis Star-Tribune that he would consider waiving his no-trade clause if the Twins asked him to. With a year to go until free agency, Santana told LaVelle E. Neill III, “”Everything about the Twins, I love,” Santana said. “At the same time, if I have to go somewhere else, and it’s for the better, I’ll do it. I won’t have any problems with that.”

Neill points out that the Twins, who tried unsuccessfully to sign him to an extension in spring training, now must deal with Santana as well as free agents Torii Hunter and Carlos Silva while trying to fix an offense that was 25th out of 30 major league teams in runs scored last season. Santana is 93-44 with a 3.22 ERA in his career. He suggests that the package of players they could receive could fill needs at third base, designated hitter and elsewhere.

Baumbach jumps in and says that that should be all Mets general manager Omar Minaya needs to pick up the phone, dial the Twins’ new general manager Bill Smith, and let him know the Mets are willing to give up anything in return for Santana. This is where ESPN’s Buster Olney on his blog who writes: “If the Twins look to deal him, the Angels and Dodgers and Diamondbacks might have the best collection of prospects from which to make trades. In the aftermath of the Mets’ collapse, here’s another thought — Minnesota could ask for Jose Reyes in a deal, offering Santana, shortstop Jason Bartlett in return for Reyes and outfielder Carlos Gomez and at least one pitcher (Mike Pelfrey?).”

Baumbach add that Reyes will only be entering the second year of his relatively cheap four-year, $23.25-million contract. That means Reyes would be an easy sell as the face of their franchise as the Twins move into a new stadium.

Reyes is only 24 but he adds, “to get big-time talent, you certainly need to trade big-time talent — and Santana is worth the steep price tag.” He points out that Santana, who turns 29 next March, is still very much in his prime. He is entering the final year of his contract and would likely require a contract extension from his team that would be somewhere in the Barry Zito $126-million neighborhood, perhaps more.
He concludes that while Reyes could become a cornerstone player, but Santana is a proven ace. If he is traded this winter, the Mets have to do everything they can to be the recipient.

Then there is the discussion about Jacoby Ellsbury and Clay Buchholtz to the Twins for Santana.

Good start to the Hot Stove season, huh?

Top of the 6th
ERIC MACK’S POWER RANKINGS
Mack is the Fantasy writer for CBS.sportsline.com and puts together a weekly ranking of the teams. Interestingly, the first NL team is #5. Take a look and see for yourself.

POWER RANKINGS
Current Team Previous
1 Red Sox * 3
The team with the fewest holes finishes back on top to end the season. The rotation figures to slot both Jon Lester and Clay Buchholz next year and the bullpen was the best in baseball. The only real question marks are what happens at third and first base for 2008.
2 Yankees * 1
Our preseason top two finish as we expected. The arrival and success of Joba Chamberlain and Ian Kennedy help them overhaul an aging rotation — assuming Joba doesn’t close or set up. Decisions loom on re-signing Jorge Posada and Mariano Rivera. It’s not much of a decision. They have to stay. They might have no choice with Alex Rodriguez.
3 Indians * 2
So it appears 2006 was the fluke. This team looks like it can win for years. There are some openings in the corner outfield and a question or two in the middle infield about who starts, who goes and who plays where. And Joe Borowski, last winter’s fallback closer — can they trust his arm for one more year?
4 Angels * 4
The pitching isn’t a problem or a question, but will they finally add another big bat to join Vladimir Guerrero? That one big hole hasn’t hurt them to date, so this is arguably the most well-equipped team for 2008 behind the Red Sox.
5 Phillies * 5
Oh, what a finish. Jimmy Rollins talked the talk and walked the walk. Can he get any better? A hole at third base hasn’t been a problem. Does Brett Myers stay a closer? Depends on whether they can add one in the offseason or add a starter … or three. They won’t repeat in the NL East without some more starting pitching.
6 Cubs * 8
You can’t argue with many of their moves last winter, especially the most criticized, Ted Lilly and Jason Marquis. They have pitching depth and could use a permanent solution at closer; perhaps Carlos Marmol? This is a sound team and looks capable of entering 2008 as the NL Central favorite.
7 Rockies * 7
Wow, they rose suddenly. A great young core of hitters is now backed by emerging young arms Jeff Francis, Ubaldo Jimenez and Franklin Morales. That’s not including the expected improvement of Jason Hirsh, Aaron Cook and the breakout of their closer. They won’t need much, but a run in October will give management the power to add some nice pieces this winter.
8 Diamondbacks * 6
They managed to win with an ace among some so-so starters and a group of young hitters who really haven’t popped yet. The D-Backs have the makings of a dynasty, but they really could use some help for Brandon Webb in the rotation.
9 Tigers * 13
10 Padres * 9
11 Brewers * 11
12 Mariners * 14
13 Braves * 12
14 Mets * 10
15 Blue Jays * 16
16 Twins * 17
17 Dodgers * 15
18 Athletics * 18
19 Cardinals * 19
20 Rangers * 20
21 White Sox * 22
22 Nationals * 21
23 Reds * 24
24 Giants * 23
25 Astros * 25
26 Royals * 28
27 Orioles * 27
28 Devil Rays * 26
29 Marlins * 29
30 Pirates * 30

Top of the 7th
PROBABLE PITCHERS
It’s all American League today as the visitors hope to grab home field advantage.

New York Yankees at Cleveland Indians, 5:07 pm
(L) Andy Pettitte (0-0) vs. (R) Fausto Carmona (0-0)
Pettitte, not only has the oddest first name of all four of today’s starters, but had 5.86 ERA in last six starts.
Fausto was the only pitcher in the majors to win five games in September.

LA Angels of Anaheim at Boston Red Sox, 8:37 pm
(R) Kelvim Escobar (0-0) vs. (R) Daisuke Matsuzaka (0-0)
Escobar’s last three starts at Fenway Park resulted in a 2-0 record and three earned runs allowed in 19 innings.
Dice-K has never faced the Angels

Top of the 8th
DID YOU KNOW?
Phillies reliever J.C. Romero appeared in 20 games in September and batters were 4 for 49 against him.

Hey, Peter, Bitt and Mitch – the Yankees have lost Game 1 of the Division Series five times (1996, 2000, 2001, 2003 and 2004) — and won all five of those series.

Top of the 9th
HAVE A GREAT WEEKEND EVERYONE
If you’re looking for a reason to root for the Rockies, here’s one – The Colorado Rockies voted a full playoff share for the widow of minor-league coach Mike Coolbaugh, killed on July 22, when a line drive struck him in the head while coaching first base. Some of the veterans decided to award a full share to Amanda Coolbaugh. Coolbaugh was a first- base coach for the Rockies’ Double-A affiliate, the Tulsa Drillers. Their two sons, 5-year-old Joseph and 3-year-old Jacob, will throw out the first pitch in Game 3.

I mention that here because in a world where we never know what can happen it’s important that we appreciate those around us. That’s why each Friday in this space I thank you for your support and the kindness that enables Billy-Ball to exist.

So give your family a hug, love your pets, keep the planet cool and I’ll see you next week.

Bottom of the 9th
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Information provided in Billy-Ball has been gathered from A.P. reports, espn.com, sportsline.com, mlb.com and numerous other e-sources. Opinions expressed in Billy-Ball are obviously solely the opinions of the author of Billy-Ball and do not reflect those of source material no matter how off the wall they may be.