Wednesday, February 24, 2010

History of Baseball expansion

From 1903 – 1960, MLB operated with 16 teams. Over a 38 year period from 1960-1998 the league added 14 teams in 6 installments. If you look at how the league expanded it paints a picture of a pretty conservative approach to expansion. Take a look. I’ve added very little factual evidence in this discussion. Mostly observational.

1. 1961 – Washington Senators and LA Angels
a. The 1960 Senators moved to Minneapolis to become the Twins. The 1961 Senators were the expansion team. So really the new market explored here was the Minnesota market. But this wasn’t a case of MLB deciding to move into Minnesota, it was more Clark Griffith searching for greener pastures. This counts as a move, and not an expansion.
2. 1962 – New York Mets and Houston Astros
3. 1969 – KC Royals, Seattle Pilots, SD Padres, Montreal Expos
4. 1977 – Seattle Mariners, Toronto Blue Jays
5. 1993 – Colorado Rockies, Florida Marlins
6. 1998 – Arizona D-Backs, Tampa Bay D-Rays

That’s the list. Of the 14 teams, 8 of them were teams added to existing markets, or pre-existing markets, and demographics. I deem these to be low risk expansion efforts because a precedent already existed.

1. Senators (replaced the first incarnation that moved to Minnesota)
2. Angels (MLB places a second team in southern Cal)
3. Mets (MLB restocks the NY market after having lost two teams to Cali).
4. Royals (KC gets another shot after the A’s moved to Oakland)
5. Padres (SoCal gets a third team)
6. Mariners (MLB has mercy on Seattle after the Pilots moved to Milwaukee after one season)
7. Blue Jays (Second Canadian team)
8. Rays (Second Florida team)

That leaves six instances where baseball owners decided to go out on a limb and put a brand new baseball team in an area that previously did not have one.

1. 1962 – Baseball moves into Texas with the Astros
a. This has to be considered a success. The Rangers came to the state too when the second version of the Senators moved here.
2. 1969 – Baseball moves into the Pacific Northwest with the Pilots
a. Had it not been for Nintendo, Ken Griffey, Randy Johnson, Ichiro, and SafeCo Field, baseball would have failed in the Pacific Northwest. But they seem to have a good thing going here
3. 1969 – Baseball moves to Canada with the Expos
a. I think the decision to move to Canada was probably a good one. The thing that killed the Expos, and Jon probably has more to say on this than I, is the strike and impatient ownership. The strike angered all the French Canadians, but the Expos had good baseball people in place to keep the team relevant. Problem though is that the people who owned those teams became frustrated with the methods of the baseball people and next thing you know the Expos are playing games in Puerto Rico and Quebec gave up on the team. Now we have the Nationals. I think Montreal has the fire power to support a team.
4. 1993 – Baseball moves to Colorado
a. Seems to have worked
5. 1993 – Baseball moves to Florida
a. I’ll come back to this
6. 1998 – Baseball moves to Arizona
a. Seems to be working

The baseball in Florida thing is still up in the air. Miami and Tampa Bay have their own sets of excuses for why things haven’t gone according to plan. Miami’s market potential will be put to the final test in 2012 and beyond when their long awaited stadium opens. Tampa Bay….we all know the issues here.

In the spirit of keeping this a baseball talkin forum, I’m going to refrain from stadium talk. But this little exercise was intended to break down baseball expansion into larger categories and illustrate how fortunate Tampa Bay is to have gotten a franchise.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Training videos from ESPN, via RaysIndex

The Longoria video is less compelling. The interesting things from the Crawford videos are the hands on approach that the new hitting coach has (I know Jon was not happy with Henderson). But more interesting is the base stealing one.

Crawford working with the new batting coach

Crawford working on his base stealing

Longo working out

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Back in action

On Wed, Feb 10, 2010 at 7:19 AM: Nate

Johnny Damon’s name keeps appearing in the Times. Raysindex keeps writing about it too. My gut reaction was that there wasn’t a big enough upgrade to justify the potential for having to bear the brunt of some of Burrell’s contract when we go to trade him to an unsuspecting team. Here’s the tale of the tape. I figured I’d give Burrell the benefit of the doubt and I included last year’s and his 2008 numbers in the matrix

Statistically Damon has a distinct edge. But it’s the Rays so there is always the matter of money. One thing that the writers never seem to mention is that the whole potential Burrell trade and Damon courting at this point is a product of writer chatter. I haven’t read anything to suggest real interest from the Rays. Also, the whole point of signing Pat Burrell was to add a right handed power hitter for the middle of the order. Johnny Damon is a left handed top of the order guy who isn’t primarily a power guy, so I’m not seeing the fit in that regard. I think the top of the Rays batting order is pretty much set at this point


You could even say that the #5 spot is most likely Zobrist on most nights assuming he continues playing good baseball. After that it gets interesting. BJ Upton’s spot in the order is going to be a question mark. We know Maddon likes having a quality hitter at #9, but that doesn’t seem to fit with what BJ has in mind for himself. You gotta think Navarro/Shoppach is slotted for the #8 spot. This would make the back part of the lineup:

2B/RF (depending on where Zobrist isn’t playing that night)

Those 6 and 7 spots are where we will see appearances from Rodriguez, Joyce, Aybar, Brignac (maybe Brignac is probably a #9 guy)

Also if you acquire Damon is he a better RF option than Zobrist? I don’t know how his arm stacks up. It seems like it might be worth a gamble to keep Burrell and hope he turns the corner into a prototype AL DH. But even then you would think Zobrist gets to hit at #5 ahead of him to start the season. I guess this is where the manager starts earning his salary.

2009 Johnny Damon (35)
2009 Pat Burrell (32)
2008 Pat Burrell










From: Jon
My thoughts on Damon are that he knows the East and most of the pitchers in the East pretty well at this point. I don't know if you can look up his numbers against AL East pitching alone, but I would bet it's better than the rest of the AL. He also seems to be a good clubhouse guy, and will be able to keep guys loose during the year. He's also a pretty grizzled vet at this point, knows the frustration of playing for small-time clubs (from his KC days), and would probably be an asset in many other regards. My biggest issues with him would be a) the amount of money that it would take to sign him, and b) if his performance against the Rays was any indication, no player benefitted more from the shallow deck in new Yankee Stadium than Damon. He's also, in my opinion, a big time steroid risk.

On the other hand, F- Pat Burrell. He seemed to be a surly prick during most of the season, never came up big in situations that demanded it, and is getting paid far too much money for what was an embarrassing performance last year. I know his numbers picked up in the second half, but he rarely inspired confidence at the plate, and gave no indication that he liked anyone around him on the team. I wouldn't be sad to see him leave.

As for where Damon would lineup, I think he would be a good fit in the 9 hole. He'd be setting up our leadoff men, and would be in a good RBI spot for the back half of the lineup, which is surprisingly stronger than many other teams in the majors. I could see:
That's a pretty good lineup, and Damon and Joyce/Rodriguez could always be flipped depending on performance.

I'm not against the switch, but mainly because I hate Pat Burrell.
On Wed, Feb 10, 2010 at 10:46 AM, Nate
Here’s a direct link to his performance by team (sortable)

It’s hard to draw conclusions on his performance against the AL East because of the unbalanced scheduling. You make a very strong case for why he would be an asset. I think Nick Swisher will go into mourning without Johnny Damon. To your point about Burrell being disliked, he was the only guy who didn’t get regular pies to the face during Kalas post game interviews. I’d like to know more about his confrontation with Crawford too. The fact that he is capable of published disagreement with Carl Crawford tells me that he’s out of his element. He killed rallies with untimely strikeouts. The guy never advanced runners with no outs.

Your lineup with Damon at #9 does look great, but it’s probably not worth getting frothy over it because it’s unlikely to happen.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Absentee blogging

It's pretty obvious by the summaries by month to the right that I've neglected the blog this month. This is a function of three things 1) Things to do at work, 2) The Rays shitting their pants (and not just a little, it was full blown diarrhea), and 3) College Football starting (with most of the discussion organically taking place through emails)

With ten games to go on the Rays season, I wanted to weigh in before shifting into offseason/post season mode for baseball.

  • I think the 2009 Rays will ultimately be one of the most under-rated teams in Tampa Bay sports history. Yesterday I was listening to local radio here in Miami. The Dolphins are 0-2. A comment was made that Tony Sparano would have been better off if this year happened last year and last year happened this year. I think the same thing could be said for the Rays. With ten games remaining and a 78-74 record, the Rays will likely finish with a winning record. Second best season ever Rays fans. Nothing wrong with that. Yea, no World Series (or playoffs for that matter), but cmon we entered September with hope.
  • Our rotation for next year looks like it can be pretty good (Garza, Shields, Niemann, Price, Davis). All these guys have question marks. Shields was especially bad in the second half of the season, but I think that was an exception and not the rule. Young guys like Niemann, Price, and Davis will come with question marks but ultimately this is a nice staff at a very reasonable price. As stated earlier in this blog I think Kazmir had to be moved at some point (you can question the timing), but his salary along with more to come had to get moved.
  • John Romano wrote a column recently that stated one or two of either Crawford, Bartlett, or Pena would be traded this offseason. If that happens the outrage will be immeasurable. The Kazmir trade was palatable because you just assumed it would free up money to retain quality players already on the roster.
  • I'm eagerly awaiting to see what becomes of Aki. It doesn't make sense to bring him back into the fold considering money constraints, Brignac's presence, and Zobrists too. Brignac isn't ready to play everyday. So Zobrist probably gets the job at 2nd with a different platoon in right that would include Rodriguez and Joyce in some capacity. Rodriguez probably takes on that super-utility role once occupied by Zorilla.
  • God help our bullpen. I know 90% of all baseball teams have bullpen problems, but it's hard not to cry about it when you see it happening to your favorite team
  • Offseason stadium bickering will surely happen. The Times had a piece last Saturday about the mayoral candidates, the lease, and the possibilities of breaking it. Not a fun topic

I would post thought on college football here, but it seems like that banter is more of an email thing.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

A look at Starting Pitching during the losing streak

So, I post about how the season isn't lost, and the Rays promptly lose eight games in a row.

Lets look at starting pitching in that period

Sep 3 - Price 5.1 IP 4 ER (I believe he left the game when it was a tie ball game)
Sep 4 - Niemann 7.2 IP 1 ER (duel with Verlander, no decision)
Sep 5 - Shields 6.1 IP 6 ER (no decision, Rays put up 6 runs)
Sep 6 - Davis 7 IP 1 ER (no decision, blown save by the pen, Jackson gets the W)
Sep 7 - Garza 7 IP 0 ER (no decision, duel with Sabathia)
Sep 7 - Sonny 2.2 IP 8 ER
Sep 8 - Price 6 IP 2 ER
Sep 9 - Niemann 7 IP 1 ER

Of these 8 losses, starting pitching gave us the opportunity to win 6 of these games. If there is a silver lining to any of this, that would be it. I know it is way too soon to get excited about Wade Davis, but hey, nice MLB debut there for him. If we go into next year with a Shields/Garza/Niemann/Price/Davis rotation, that gives us a solid 5 man rotation that you could argue gives you a chance to win any given night regardless of the opponent. Garza did not meet expectations this year coming off his 2008 post-season but he seems like a prime candidate for a bounce back season next year in that regard. Shields just needs to keep his cool and hope for better run support next year. That ERA of his isn't indicative of the number of quality starts he put up this year that didn't yield wins because of poor run support or blown leads from the bullpen. Many of the media outlets covering the Rays have done some "what went wrong" pieces over the last week, and chief among the reasons were 1) unexpected dip in fielding, 2)Bullpen troubles, 3) Lack of production at the plate in situations that killed late inning rallies. That's the difference. But when you lose 8 games in a row to start September it is worth noting that starting pitching did come to play in 6 of those games. One of the two poor starts came from Sonnanstine who really shouldn't be occupying a starting rotation spot in the future.

Offseason personnel decision should be interesting. Particularly with the bullpen. A month ago there was probably consideration being given to JP Howell as full time closer, but you have to think that if they were considering that as an option, it is now being reconsidered. Speaking of reconsidering, how long before Grant Balfour isn't on the team? I could be wrong, but this guy doesn't seem to do well with inherited runners. I guess that could be said for a lot of the bullpen guys lately though.

Monday, September 7, 2009

OK Then...

Since that last post where I discussed how great we've been since April, the Rays have promptly lost 5 straight and now this afternoon we learn that Pena is out for the year with a broken hand.

At least we can say that the Rays kept our hopes up into September (just barely). Thats baseball. There's a 1970's Reds post lurking in here. Look for it in the near future.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Rays / Red Sox Comparison again

I kind of feel like I'm beating a dead horse here, but I felt compelled to look at the trend of this season again.
I don't have the email to back it up but midway through last season, even though we were positioned for a division title, Jon and I both were thinking about how we were going to get the wild card. A big reason why that turned into a division title is the Yankees downfall. Had the Yankees performed the way they have in recent years, (which is what they are doing this year), our 97 win season would have earned us a wild card in last year's post season.
To most people that would paint this September in a much different light. Currently Boston's winning percentage is right at where it was for the 2008 season as a whole. So really what we are seeing from Boston isn't much different than what we were up against last year. Yes there is a different mix of productivity (Ellsbury and Bay are a little better this year, Pedroia and Ortiz are a little worse), but the end result on the field (SO FAR) doesn't appear much different.
Take a look at the records by month this season. Toss April aside and the Rays and Red Sox are dead even. Exact same number of wins from May on.
But this year we are seeing lower draws at the gate for critical late season games, the press bitching about it, and our owner talking to media in tones that suggest we're inadequate this year.
Really what it comes down to is that ridiculous April that we had. Many attributed it to all the October baseball from last year. I don't have the evidence to prove it but theories abound regarding World Series teams and slow starts the following year. In our division that is crippling. The guy we just traded which has caused so much uproar had a lot to do with that slow start.
I honestly don't know what my point is, but it seems like everyone is acting like this team is a shadow of itself from last year, when in reality, it probably isn't much different. Our real problem happened in April, which depending on who you want to believe was bound to happen. It is just really irritating to hear gasbag announcers on ESPN talk shit about the Rays, ESPN showing "Red Sox stock up, Rays plummeting", and other nonsensical bullshit that is being shoveled our direction. Last night I heard Rick Sutcliffe going on and on about how Carlos Pena would have been cut by the Rays if his contract wasn't so big. I turned to the local broadcast to hear Dwayne Staats answering a viewer question about team MVP by saying "Well Bartlett, Crawford and Zobrist are the three front runners, but you can't really ignore the huge contribution from Pena this year". The guy leads the league in home runs, and walks but Rick Sutcliffe's sorry ass wants to cut him. It's been pretty fucking even since May 1, and the Yankees are having a more realistic season this year. That is why we are 5 back, (4 if things go our way tonight).
Smart baseball fans weren't hitting the panic button in April when the Rays went 2-5 in their first home stand of the season (which ironically included a big fucking pregame celebration before every game for something that happened last year), and followed that up with the turd sandwich road trip in which we went 3-6 against the A's, Twins, and Mariners. But looking back, that may have been when we killed our chances. We're keeping pace, but the competition isn't the Marlins and Braves. Life in the AL East.
Folks, I'm sorry but this is about as good as it is going to get.