Billy-Ball Daily: 2008-5-15

5/15/2008
Billy-Ball Daily
Bill Chuck (Billy-Ball his own self)

Billy-Ball – From the diamond to your desktop…

Subscribe to Billy-Ball – it’s free – www.billy-ball.com

The only spin here is on my screwball

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Top of the 1st
INTERLEAGUE BOREDOM
How can I begin to tell you how much I am not looking forward to the onset of the great major league dilution known as “interleague play?” This is the time of the season in which we regress to the boredom of the regular season of the NBA and the NHL. This is when we begin to dilute the excitement of the World Series and even the All-Star Game. This is made-for-TV excitement somewhat akin to “American Gladiators.”

Really outside of a very few fans in Staten Island, who really cares about the Mets vs. the Yankees?

Outside of a very few fans around Alcatraz, who really cares about the A’s vs. the Giants?

Outside of a very few fans around Skokie, who really cares about the Cubs vs. the White Sox?

Outside of a very few fans around the Alamo, who really cares about the Rangers vs. the Astros?

Outside of a very few fans around Gaithersburg, who really cares about the O’s vs. the Nationals?

Outside of a very few fans around Akron, who really cares about the Indians vs. the Reds?

Outside of a very few fans around Pasadena, who really cares about the Angels vs. the Dodgers?

Outside of a very few fans around the Milky Way, who really cares about the Royals vs. the Marlins?

Why are these teams playing each other? Why are the Brewers coming to Boston or the Padres coming to Seattle? Honestly, nobody cares! Fans would much rather see another series against a team in their league from another division. It has more meaning and more impact on their own team’s fortunes.

Interleague games simply produce weird cross-over events. Some things are simply better kept apart.

It’s like turning on the “Nightly News with Brian Williams” and hearing Brian say, “Breaking medical news tonight, substituting for Science Editor Robert Bazell is Zach Braff from Scrubs.”

It’s like eating spaghetti and Dunkin’ Munchkins.

It’s like “Indiana Jones” starring Stephen Hawking.

It’s like a Mensa meeting with George W. Bush as the featured speaker.

Give me anything that will add some positive significance to this yearly aberration of the schedule. There are ways to make interleague play more interesting. Instead of both teams adopting the DH in the American League ballpark, have them adopt it in the National League park. That way the home fans see something different and interesting. Or, as Tracy Ringolsby suggests, instead of the All-Star game, make the winning league of interleague play determine which league has home-field advantage in the World Series and I might add if it’s a tie, then let the mid-summer exhibition game be the decider.

So, go ahead and watch the Twins visit the Rockies, I’ll be waiting for you when you return. As for me, the Pirates against the Cubs this weekend may not produce the best games, but it least it will have some meaning in the National League.

Top of the 2nd
FOR STARTERS
What’s going on in Cleveland is pretty remarkable these days. Last night, C.C. Sabathia pitched a five-hitter and struck out 11 in the Indians’ major league-leading seventh shutout, a 2-0 victory over the Oakland Athletics. Cleveland starters have pitched 43 1-3 consecutive scoreless innings since Friday. Cleveland shut out Oakland in back-to-back games for the first time since 1966.

The consecutive scoreless streak is the longest by an Indians starting staff since they tossed 47 scoreless innings in August 1948. It’s the longest by a major league team in one season since a 54-inning streak by Baltimore’s starters from Sept. 1-7, 1974, according to the Elias Sports Bureau.

Cleveland became the first team to pitch five shutouts in an eight-game span since Oakland from July 12-19, 2002, according to Elias.

Top of the 3rd
WHO ARE BASEBALL’S TOP DEFENDERS 
SO FAR THIS YEAR?
The latest from John Dewan –

Based on the Plus/Minus System from The Fielding Bible, here are this year’s leading defenders by position in Major League Baseball:

First Base Daric Barton, Oak  +8
Second Base Mark Ellis, Oak  +8
Chase Utley, Phi  +8
Third Base Troy Glaus, StL +12
Shortstop Orlando Cabrera, CWS  +9
Left Field Matt Holliday, Col  +8
Center Field Carlos Gomez, Min  +5
Right Field Alex Rios, Tor  +3
Bobby Abreu, NYY  +3
Jeremy Hermida, Fla  +3

Note: A plus number in the Plus/Minus System signifies the number of additional plays made by the fielder compared to an average defender at his position.

Some comments:
Former catcher Daric Barton has done well so far at first base. Chase Utley wants to take over Albert Pujols’ mantle as the best hitter in baseball and best fielder at his position as well. The injuries that plagued Troy Glaus are no longer an issue for him defensively. The loss of Torii Hunter hasn’t hurt Minnesota with Carlos Gomez’ stellar play so far.

An unrelated note: Pitcher Micah Owings has a 1.106 OPS thus far this year. That’s better than every regular position player in baseball except Lance Berkman and Chipper Jones. Utley and Pujols are right there as well at 1.089 and 1.083. Owings was a tremendous hitter in college, hit .371 in the minors, .333 in the majors last year with a ton of power, and .417 so far this year. Can anyone say Babe Ruth?

The Plus/Minus numbers above are from the Online Fielding Bible which appears daily at www.billjamesonline.com. It’s a subscription service ($3 per month).

Top of the 4th
THE PRICE OF SUCCESS
The Rays took a big step toards quantifying their Tampa Bay left-hander Scott Kazmir agreed Wednesday to a three-year, $28.5 million extension through 2011, a deal with a club option that could raise the contract’s value to $39.5 million over four seasons.
The 2007 American League strikeout champion is 36-30 lifetime with a 3.63 ERA in 100 major league appearances, including 99 starts.
Top of the 5th
http://www.freep.com/apps/pbcs.dll/gallery?Site=C4&Date=20080504&Category=SPORTS02&ArtNo=805040803&Ref=PH&Params=Itemnr=10

Top of the 6th
BILLY-BALL-SITE-OF-THE-DAY
If you haven’t seen the Manny play yesterday in which he made a great catch, gave a high five to a Boston fan in the Baltimore before he threw the ball in to start a double play, here’s your chance: http://boston.redsox.mlb.com/media/video.jsp?mid=200805142699480

Top of the 7th
PROBABLE PITCHERS
AL
A’s (Greg Smith) at Indians (Aaron Laffey), 12:05
Blue Jays (Dustin McGowan) at Twins (Glen Perkins), 1:10
Tigers (Kenny Rogers) at Royals (Gil Meche), 2:10
Yankees (Ian Kennedy) at Rays (Scott Kazmir), 4:10
White Sox (Javier Vazquez) at Angels (Jon Garland), 10:05

NL
Dodgers (Chad Billingsley) at Brewers (Ben Sheets), 1:05
Nationals (Jay Bergmann) at Mets (Mike Pelfrey), 1:10
Pirates (Ian Snell) at Cardinals (Joel Pineiro), 1:15
Padres (Greg Maddux) at Cubs (Ryan Dempster), 2:20
Astros (Chris Sampson) at Giants (Tim Lincecum), 3:45
Braves (Chuck James) at Phillies (Cole Hamels), 7:05
Marlins (Andrew Miller) at Reds (Matt Belisle), 7:10
Rockies (Aaron Cook) at Diamondbacks (Brandon Webb), 9:40

Top of the 8th
DID YOU KNOW?
Reds minor leaguer Jay Bruce of the Triple A Louisville Bats is hitting .366 with eight homers, 33 RBI, 27 runs and seven steals in 39 games so far. So when he’s called up I don’t want Fantasy team owners complaining that I didn’t give them an update that this one might be worth grabbing.

Top of the 9th
HAPPY BIRTHDAY
Today’s a big baseball birthday date –
Happy birthday to:
Justin Morneau turning 27
Josh Beckett turning 28
John Smoltz turning 41
Hall of Famer George Brett turning 55

Bottom of the 9th
THERE’S ONLY 31 DAYS UNTIL FATHER’S DAY
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 available now from ACTA Sports.

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 worldwide.

* Support Billy-Ball via PayPal (WWW.BILLY-BALL.COM) or Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/paypage/PBANN9XCMMFSH.

Do you want to snail mail?
Billy-Ball
258 Harvard Street, #145
Brookline, MA 02446

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.