Billy-Ball Daily: 2008-4-7

4/7/2008
Billy-Ball Daily
Bill Chuck (Billy-Ball his own self)

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The only spin here is on my screwball

Monday, April 7, 2008

Top of the 1st
FINAL FOUR PLAY
I was watching the Final Four play Saturday night and I mentioned to a friend how much I love the NCAA Tournament. In fact, I added, that next to the World Series it is my favorite championship series. Then I mentioned my idea, that I usually share during the post-season, because I realized it combines the best of the NCAAs with the World Series. That idea, is one I’ve written about before, is adding a second Wild Card team in each league.

Now, while I have your attention here in early April, let’s review what appears on the surface to be inane. It is my contention, that baseball gives waaaay too much advantage to the Wild Card team. In 2002, the Wild Card Angels were the champs. In 2003, the Wild Card Marlins took it all. 1n 2004, the Wild Card Red Sox reversed the curse and in 2005, 2006, 2007 the Wild Cards were all the losing teams in the Series. The fact that what should be the number four seed in the postseason has made it so far in each case is a reflection of the advantage that is not provided to the Divisional Champs.

My belief is that two Wild Cards from each league should qualify and while the Divisional Champs set up their pitching, the two Wild Card teams should play each other in a one-game play-in…just like the Rockies were forced to last season.

The one game do-or-die gives fans the instant excitement of a Game 7, which they certainly didn’t feel in the Red Sox Series sweep, but provides many other additional fan-friendly benefits. Last season’s NL race was one for the books (my book included). It was indeed a grand finale to a season with the Rockies, Diamondbacks, Padres, Mets, and Phillies, and even the Brewers and Cubs and Dodgers all part of the final equation as we entered the final weeks of the season. A dual Wild Card would possibly provide that every season.

Then, as these two teams prepared to face each other for the right to play a divisional leader in the best 3 of 5 series, they may have to sacrifice their number one or number two starter, just to have the chance to continue. Perhaps this disadvantage, might give the rested leaders a better chance to put the Wild Card team in its place.

So let’s put it all on the table – more teams and their fans staying engaged longer in the regular season by remaining in the post-season hunt. An additional two games to be nationally televised, bringing in more revenue and more fan viewership. The potential for instant classic potential with a one-game take all proposition. And, finally, a chance to give winners more of an advantage in the post-season than their runners-up.

Probably won’t happen though – makes too much sense.

Top of the 2nd
SPCA INVESTIGATING DETROIT
If you will excuse my French, “what the hell, guys?”

The Tigers have been swept in each of their three-game series against the Royals and the White Sox and the Society for Prevention of Cruelty to Animals is beginning to wonder what Jim Leyland is doing to these Tigers.

The Tigers move on to Boston now and if this continues PETA swears they will get involved.

Year First 6 games Finish
2008 0-6 ?
2003 0-6 42-119
2002 0-6 55-106
2000 1-5 79-83
1999 1-5 69-92
1998 1-5 65-97

Top of the 3rd
AND THE MEEK SHALL INHERIT THE EARTH
Check out this morning’s standings in the AL East:
East W L GB
BAL F.E. 4 1 —
TOR F.E. 4 2 0.5
TBD F.E. 3 2 1.0
NYY F.E. 3 3 1.5
BOS F.E. 3 4 2.0

Top of the 4th
SHEFF ON THE SHELF
Despite tearing a tendon in his finger, the Tigers Gary Sheffield plans to avoid the DL and started last night. He’ll have to wear a splint for about six weeks.

It’s a good thing this didn’t happen during Spring Training forcing Sheff to miss the opener. Sheffield, this season extended his streak of consecutive Opening Day starts to 20, the longest in the majors. Sheffield has started on Opening Day for seven teams (the Tigers, Yankees, Braves, Dodgers, Marlins, Padres and Brewers) at four positions (left field, right field, third base and designated hitter) and has reached base in 16 straight.

Top of the 5th
CAL CAN REST EASY
Dodgers outfielder Juan Pierre was benched Opening Day by new manager Joe Torre, ending Pierre’s consecutive-games run at 434. The Indians’ Grady Sizemore (362 through yesterday) is the new leader.

Top of the 6th
TAXING RELIEVERS
Josh Beckett, made his 2008 debut yesterday and his pitching line is not as bad as it looks – J Beckett, L (0-1) 4.2 3 5 5 4 6 9.64

Beckett, who clearly was rusty as he came off the DL after suffering back and hip woes, regressed to his old habit of overthrowing the baseball and while he struck out six, he also walked four while throwing 92 pitches, only 59 for strikes.

As bad as all this looks, the reality is that he left the game with the bases loaded and having allowed only two runs. All it took was one pitch from Manny Delcarmen and one swing from Frank Thomas to clear the bases and Beckett and the Sox had a loss and Josh has a near 10 ERA.

In this day and age of micro-stats, I’m surprised that there isn’t an easily stated figure that reflects the skills (or lack thereof) of middle relievers. Middle relievers are every bit a part of the game now as starters and closers and we need something that indicates whether they maintained the lead/deficit they acquired as they entered the game. When a middle reliever comes into the came, their ERA is almost meaningless because of the paucity of innings pitched, (Delcarmen was only charged with one run), the key figure, in this case, is IR/IS, the inherited runners he allowed to score. We need a neat IRS stat because a reliever who allows these runners to score is very taxing on his team.

Top of the 7th
PROBABLE PITCHERS
AL
Seattle Mariners at Baltimore Orioles, 3:05 pm
(R) Carlos Silva (1-0) vs. (R) Daniel Cabrera (0-0)
Minnesota Twins at Chicago White Sox, 4:05 pm
(R) Nick Blackburn (0-1) vs. (R) Javier Vazquez (0-1)
Tampa Bay Rays at New York Yankees, 7:05 pm
(R) Jason Hammel (0-0) vs. (R) Mike Mussina (0-1)
Cleveland Indians at LA Angels of Anaheim, 10:05 pm
(R) Fausto Carmona (1-0) vs. (L) Joe Saunders (1-0)

NL
Philadelphia Phillies at Cincinnati Reds, 12:35 pm
(L) Cole Hamels (0-1) vs. (R) Bronson Arroyo (0-0)
Chicago Cubs at Pittsburgh Pirates, 1:35 pm
(L) Ted Lilly (0-1) vs. (L) Tom Gorzelanny (0-1)
San Diego Padres at San Francisco Giants, 4:35 pm
(R) Greg Maddux (0-0) vs. (R) Matt Cain (0-0)
St. Louis Cardinals at Houston Astros, 7:05 pm
(R) Todd Wellemeyer (1-0) vs. (L) Wandy Rodriguez (0-0)
Florida Marlins at Washington Nationals, 7:10 pm
(L) Andrew Miller (0-1) vs. (R) Tim Redding (1-0)
Atlanta Braves at Colorado Rockies, 8:35 pm
(L) Tom Glavine (0-0) vs. (R) Aaron Cook (0-1)
Los Angeles Dodgers at Arizona Diamondbacks, 9:40 pm
(R) Esteban Loaiza (0-1) vs. (R) Dan Haren (0-0)

Top of the 8th
DID YOU KNOW?
Ken Griffey Jr. hit the 594th home run of his career in the Reds’ 8-2 victory over the Phillies. Barry B*nds, Hank Aaron, Babe Ruth, Willie Mays and Sammy S*sa are the five players already in the exclusive 600 Club.

Top of the 9th
BLUE JAYS BBQ
If I was in Toronto on April 17, I know where I would be going – the Meet Your 2008 Blue Jays held at the Rogers Centre from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Blue Jays players offering autographs, photo-ops and food cooked by Jerry Howarth (and others), the great radio play-by-play man for the Jays.

Tickets are only $40 Canadian, which is $247 American, or something like that.

Bottom of the 9th
BUY THE BOOK
Bill Chuck is the creator of Billy-Ball.com and, with Jim Kaplan, is the author of the book, “Walk-Offs, Last Licks, and Final Outs – Baseball’s Grand (and not so Grand) Finales,” with a Foreword by Jon Miller, published by ACTA Sports, and available worldwide.

Autographed first editions are available by contacting, Bill@billy-ball.com or order directly from Acta Sports, http://www.actasports.com/detail.html?&id=3427 or from your favorite bookstore.

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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.