26 May, 2008

Willie Randolph not leaving...yet

Willie Randolph has been hearing the buzz that he is about to be let go for weeks now. That buzz has grown more loudly as the Mets continue to struggle through their May schedule. A four game sweep at the hands of the division rival Braves seemed to signal that the end was near for Randolph.
While things seem to be crashing down around Willie he still holds the second best career managerial winning percentage in club history at .545 (Davey Johnson, .588). He has a good public relationship with his players, and strong ties to the community. All of that doesn't help at all when you're managing in the mecca of baseball with an enormous payroll, and floundering. Fans are breathing fire because this team has underachieved over the past two seasons.
While Randolph has shown that he has the ability to manage, he has not proven that he knows how to deal with the media. Some of his recent remarks speculating about media racial prejudices and criticism of the team owned broadcasting network have only worked to further blemish Willie's public persona.
Willie Randolph has always been a class act both on and off the field. He is a wonderful statesman of the game and a talented manager. He will flourish as a manager in the majors in future years; but sometimes a move can be beneficial for both a team and the manager. Willie can begin anew in a less media-scrutinized environment. The Mets can hope that a new manager will light a fire under a team that has looked lifeless going back to last August. The writing is on the wall and both parties might be better off to end things sooner, rather than dragging things out.

NCAA Regionals Set to Start

Division I baseball will kick off its march to the college world series with the regionals beginning on Friday, May 30. Some of the more intriguing match-ups include:

Louisville v. Georgia Tech
Kentucky v. Michigan
Virginia v. UCLA
Fresno St. v. Long Beach St.

25 May, 2008

RDB's MLB Rankings: 25 May - 31 May

As our first installment of major league rankings we at Right Down Broadway, would like to point out that these rankings will be updated weekly throughout the regular season on Sunday evenings prior to the Sunday night game. Therefore the rankings will be based on a team's play through competition on Sunday excluding the teams participating in the Sunday night game.
Also, we want to point out that recent competition will have more weight in determining the current ranking of a team. While a team's record will weigh heavily in the rankings, it will only be one factor in the determination.
(Expected W-L record is based upon a variant of James' standard "Pythagorean" method.)

1. Arizona Diamondbacks, W-L: 30-21, ExpW-L: 31-19
This team is solid all around, with Randy Johnson pitching as well as he has lately this team's rotation is deep.

2. Chicago Cubs, W-L: 29-21, ExpW-L: 32-18
With that offense they can withstand some spotty pitching every now and then.

3. Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, W-L: 30-21, ExpW-L: 27-24
This team is up and down, but they have a tremendous amount of pitching, and pitching is what it's ultimately all about.

4. Oakland Athletics, W-L: 28-23, ExpW-L: 31-20
Not even Billy Beane thought he'd look this smart.

5. Boston Red Sox, W-L: 31-22, ExpW-L: 30-23
Getting swept by the A's they looked bad, but this is still the team to beat.

6. Atlanta Braves, W-L: 27-23, ExpW-L: 30-20
All of this with Smoltz ailing.

7. Tampa Bay Rays, W-L: 30-20, ExpW-L: 28-22
The Rays have a lot of depth and are not overly weak in any one area.

8. Philadelphia Phillies, W-L: 28-24, ExpW-L: 29-23
This offense can carry this team, even if their starters after Hamels look scary right now.

9. Chicago White Sox, W-L: 26-22, ExpW-L: 28-20
Only Kenny Williams could have foreseen this working as well as it has.

10. Toronto Blue Jays, W-L: 27-25, ExpW-L: 27-25
If this team had all its parts healthy and playing well, how good would they be?

11. New York Yankees, W-L: 25-25, ExpW-L: 25-25
Everytime you want to write them off they remind you of how dangerous they can be.

12. St. Louis Cardinals, W-L: 30-22, ExpW-L: 29-23
We're still not completely sold.

13. Florida Marlins, W-L: 28-20, ExpW-L: 25-23
Speaking of not being completely sold...

14. Houston Astros, W-L: 29-23, ExpW-L: 26-26
Lance Berkman is on another planet right now.

15. Los Angeles Dodgers, W-L: 26-23, ExpW-L: 26-23
Still need a power bat, but loads of young talent suffice for now.

16. Minnesota Twins, W-L: 25-25, ExpW-L: 23-27
Still have a great framework in place.

17. Texas Rangers, W-L: 26-26, ExpW-L: 25-27
Josh Hamilton is one of the best stories in baseball.

18. Cleveland Indians, W-L: 23-27, ExpW-L: 27-23
Even with the injuries this team is better than their record.

19. Detroit Tigers, W-L: 21-29, ExpW-L: 23-27
They have the bats but they aren't always showing up.

20. New York Mets, W-L: 23-25, ExpW-L: 24-24
Willie Randolph is a class act, but it's time he and the Mets part ways.

21. Cincinnati Reds, W-L: 23-27, ExpW-L: 22-28
The future for this team seems brighter every day.

22. Pittsburgh Pirates, W-L: 24-26, ExpW-L: 23-27
Inconsistency still hurts, but some pieces are in place.

23. Milwaukee Brewers, W-L: 23-27, ExpW-L: 22-28
This team has enough talent to play a lot better than this.

24. Kansas City Royals, W-L: 21-29, ExpW-L: 20-30
Look solid at times, but at other times look like the same old Royals.

25. Baltimore Orioles, W-L: 24-25, ExpW-L: 23-26
Finally coming down to where we expect them.

26. Washington Nationals, W-L: 22-29, ExpW-L: 21-30
Some of the hopefuls are showing signs of being solid down the road.

27. Colorado Rockies, W-L: 20-30, ExpW-L: 21-29
Injuries have completely destroyed this team.

28. San Francisco Giants, W-L: 20-30, ExpW-L: 19-31
Bright future with pitchers, but still stuck with Zito.

29. Seattle Mariners, W-L: 18-33, ExpW-L: 20-31
Doesn't look like they'll turn a corner this year.

30. San Diego Padres, W-L: 18-33, ExpW-L: 17-34
Pitching can win championships, but not without any hitting.

09 World Baseball Classic

In 2009 the World Baseball Classic promises to surpass its introductory run. The pools have changed, as have some of the venues. Pool A remains unchanged with China, Chinese Taipei, Korea, and Japan participating, with their games again being played in the Tokyo Dome. In 2006 Pool B was made up of the United States, Canada, Mexico and South Africa while the opening games were played in Arizona. This go around, Pool B is made up of Australia, Cuba, Mexico, and South Africa with games being played in Mexico City. Pool C originally contained Puerto Rico, Cuba, Netherlands, and Panama with games in Puerto Rico. It will now be Pool D playing in Puerto Rico. Pool C will play its games in the Rogers Centre in Toronto, with the United States, Canada, Italy, and Venezuela participating. Pool D changes from a group of the Dominican Republic, Venezuela, Italy, and Australia to the Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico, Panama, and Netherlands.
While the games were hugely successful in 2006, there are even higher expectations in 2009. Many critics of the 06 classic focused on the convoluted tie breaker system, but in 2009 that system will be replaced with a double elimination format through the first two rounds. This also ensures that all games matter. In addition, the second round is now set-up with crossover with teams from different pools. Allowing the winner of one pool to play the runner-up of another pool.
First round games now being played in Mexico City gives Major League Baseball another chance to look at the popularity of its product in Mexico. Speculation continues that Major League Baseball would consider moving or expanding to the Caribbean, with Mexico City, one of the world's largest cities, being on top of the list of potential suitors. While the Classic still has many issues to iron out, particularly the need to ensure that the top players will be able to participate in top form, it has become clear that the Classic is here to stay.

23 May, 2008

Chipper gets the praise, but Berkman yields greater results

While Chipper Jones is getting a lot of deserving praise for his impressive early season batting average (.415, through games played on May 23), it is Lance Berkman who is having the more amazing offensive season.
Berkman leads the majors with an astounding 57.7 runs created. That's over 8 full runs created better than Chipper Jones (49.4) at second in the league. While Chipper's traditional baseball stats are impressive, it's Berkman's sabermetric numbers that are demonstrating how great of a season he is having. His isolated power is .382, good for second in the majors (Ryan Ludwick, .397). His OPS is a whopping 1.229, also leading the league. Perhaps even more impressive is Berkman's 9 steals in 10 attempts, leading to a secondary average of .579, also leading the majors. But of course it is Berkman's power that ultimately dazzles the most; he leads the majors with 16 homers and a .761 slugging average.

17 May, 2008

Baseball America Mock Draft

Baseball America has conducted and posted its first mock draft of the season. Take a look at some of the names floating around at the top.

Andruw pulling out of it?

Alright, so Andruw Jones hit his second home run of the season Thursday and he had a stretch of four games with 3 RBI (To bring his season total to 7). These are hardly earth-shattering numbers, but still hope seemed to rise again in LA, as fans and members of the organization looked for their huge investment to begin to pay off. The standards of measurement for Andruw Jones have sunk so low that a game with a single walk and no hits has become a decent game for him.
Even with his recent "hot" streak Jones is still batting .172/.282/.281. That's right, you read correctly, Jones' slugging average is .281. Yet those in LA are still holding out hope that Jones can at least amount to something.
While Jones' May numbers (.216/.286/.378) blow away those for April (.155/.283/.250), it is still clear that Andruw's problems run deeper than just a slump.
Baseball Prospectus projected Andruw to bat .256/.344/.486 with a VORP of 27.9 and referred to him as "a bargain for the Dodgers," and "the best of the winter's free-agent center fielders." At the time of the signing it seemed like a safe move because of the fact that the Dodgers were only giving him two seasons. But because of baseball financials they are now forced to play Jones to their own detriment this season and are stuck with him for what could be another miserable season next year.
At this point Jones looks lucky to be on a pace for a season similar to Corey Patterson's 2007 season: .269 /.304/.386 with a VORP of 8.4. The Dodgers may be forced to swallow their pride and eat Jones' contract at some point this season, if they are able to stay competitive despite a more than glaring hole in their sixth spot. Prior to this season it seemed that Jones could only make the Dodger's power deprived offense better, but so far this season he has only pulled it down.
It is time for the Dodgers to seriously begin limiting Jones' playing time. They have enough young talent to fill positions and keep the team competitive. While the team, without Jones, may still be lacking power, they certainly can only get better at reaching base by replacing him.

North Carolina takes down vaunted Miami

In an offensive showdown par excellence, the Heels held on to defeat No. 1 Miami. Miami came out early to take a 4-1 second inning lead, but North Carolina kept scoring runs over the next several innings. Miami made some noise late, to draw close, but fell short 12-11. In an uncharacteristically sloppy defensive game for these teams (3 errors by NC, 2 by Miami) the offenses thrived. Alonso had another huge game for the Hurricanes with 4 hits and 3 knocked in. But it was the offensive performances of Shelton (4-5, 3 runs, 2 RBI), Fedroff (2-5, 1 runs, 5 RBI), Seager(2-5, 2 runs, 2 RBI) and Federowicz(2-5, 3RBI) leading their team to victory and an almost certain hold of the nation's number one ranking.
This was a very exciting way to wrap up play in the regular season for these two ACC powerhouses and we may end up seeing these teams meet again in this year's postseason.

Heels even up 3 game set with Miami

On Thursday it was the Canes offense that impressed, Friday the Tar Heels showed Miami that it has some offensive punch of its own. With three hits apiece from Ackley, Fedroff, and Seager North Carolina was able to withstand giving up a grand slam for the second consecutive game (this one by Sobolewski). Carolina won 10-6 and while none of their pitchers were able to stop the Miami offensive juggernaut they were able to slow them with 12 strikeouts. The final game, and the number 1 ranking in the nation, hang in the balance in today's game.

16 May, 2008

Weeks and Alonso power Canes to victory

Number one Miami crushed number two North Carolina 12-2 in the opener of their 3 game series. Miami second baseman Jemile Weeks was 2-4 with 2 RBI and 2 runs scored. First baseman Yonder Alonso knocked in four. It was more than enough for Miami pitcher Chris Hernandez who held the Heels to 2 runs on six hits in 7 and 2/3. The second game of the series is tonight at 7 pm.

15 May, 2008

College Series Worth Watching

It's finally here (again), the battle between #1 and #2. Number one Miami takes on North Carolina at home for a chance to sure up their ranking. North Carolina has a chance to prove that they truly are the best team in the nation. Last time that Miami was in this position was less than a month ago when they went to #2 Florida St and won 2 of 3 contests. Their offense carried the weight in that series and they hope that it can do the same here. North Carolina, on the other hand, took down Florida State the following weekend; also winning 2 of 3. This matchup has been building for quite sometime as the team depth becomes more and more apparent in a very impressive ACC. The action begins tonight at 7, with follow-ups tomorrow at 7, and Saturday at noon.

13 May, 2008

Collegiate Baseball Stars-Outfield

As we've mentioned before, it is our opinion that the top two outfielders in the nation both play for Kentucky. Sawyer Carroll and Collin Cowgill continue to blow away the competition. Carroll is batting a menacing .406/.498/.726, while Cowgill has perhaps an even more impressive line at .378/.504/.740. Cowgill leads the Wildcats with 18 HRs, 43 BBs, and 19 SBs. Carroll leads the blue with 69 RBI and he has not been caught stealing in 10 attempts this season. Carroll's game is finely polished, which is reflected in the fact that he only has 27 strikeouts in 197 ABs to Cowgill's 37 in 196.
The third most impressive outfielder this season has been Tim Fedroff of North Carolina. Fedroff sports a line of .380/.448/.611, and while his power is no where near that of Carroll or Cowgill he leads the Tar Heels with 9 HRs. He has played a very solid outfield, a point that has not been lost with scouts.
Other outfielders that deserve recognition this season: Eric Thames-Pepperdine, Chris Shehan-Georgia Southern, Blake Tekotte-Miami, Aaron Luna-Rice, Randy Moley-St. Bonaventure, and Mike Bianucci-Auburn.
Next up, in our final installment, we will go to the hill and visit perhaps the most erratic group of them all, the pitchers.

12 May, 2008

From Strange and Curious to Downright Hard

Through games on Sunday 11 May, 2008 Mariners' second baseman Jose Lopez had a batting average that was higher than his OBP. Not only is this extremely rare, but it's really quite difficult to do. As you might imagine it requires a low number of bases on balls, but it also requires a fair number of sac flies. Lopez has both; through his first 38 games Lopez had a meager three walks while getting an inordinately high number of sacrifice flies (7). At the time of this article his OBP was .302469 and his average .302632. Even one fewer sac fly and his OBP would be .304348 or one more BB/HBP and his OBP would be .306748. It certainly is a curious situation and would probably be worth the time to take a look at BR's play index to see if this has ever happened for an entire season.

11 May, 2008

Collegiate Baseball Stars-Backstop

When it comes to collegiate baseball's best backstop there's Buster Posey and then there's everyone else. Posey is batting an impressive .471/.570/.843 while leading #3 Florida State with 15 HRs and 62 RBI. There is serious talk that Posey could be taken with the number one pick by the Rays. While the young man has been extremely impressive behind the plate some scouts still wonder whether he will be able to stay behind the plate as he advances through the professional ranks. One thing is for certain however, Posey will be a force to be reckoned with wherever he may end up on the diamond. The concerns about his ultimate position will only impact his position in the draft and the timeliness of his promotions.
Other catchers that are having fine seasons include: Dock Doyle-Coastal Carolina, Luis Flores- Oklahoma St., and Ryan Lavarnway-Yale.

09 May, 2008

Collegiate Baseball Stars-The Corners

Once again we're talking about a Miami player, this time it is first baseman, Yonder Alonso. Yonder is batting .382/.556/.779 with a team high 14 HR and 48 RBI in 43 games played. Alonso has also been a much more solid defender than anticipated. His quickness is surprising and has helped to contribute to Miami's best fielding percentage under coach Jim Morris (.976).
At the hot corner, Connor Gillaspie of Wichita State has been making waves all season long. Gillaspie is batting .398/.488/.661 with a team leading 25 extra base hits and 55 runs batted in. His defense has been very suspect at times, but his offense has helped lead Wichita State to a number 13 ranking in the NCBWA poll.
Other players at the corners to keep an eye on are: Justin Smoak(1B)-South Carolina, Brett Wallace(3B)-Arizona St., Pedro Alvarez(3B)-Vanderbilt, Dustin Ackley(1B)-North Carolina, and Diego Seastrunk(3B)-Rice.

08 May, 2008

Collegiate Baseball Stars-Middle Infield

Every year there are a few college baseball players that stand far and above their peers. This year is no exception.
The seemingly consensus top player in the nation is shortstop Gordon Beckham of Georgia. Beckham is an exceptional athlete who projects to be a second basemen in his professional career. He is batting .409/.520/.860 for the Bulldogs in 186 at-bats. He is also an adept baserunner only being caught stealing once in 17 attempts on the season.
Not far behind Beckham in talent is second basemen Jemile Weeks of Miami. Weeks has an impressive .394/.464/.703 line. Weeks is in some ways a less polished version of Beckham at the plate, without as much power. Weeks has also only been caught on the basepaths once in 17 stolen base attempts. Perhaps the most impressive thing about Weeks is that he is currently the top offensive player on the top offensive team in the nation. Miami dwarfs most other programs' offensive ability in every category this season.
Other noteworthy middle infielders this season include: Johnny Giavotella-New Orleans, Josh Satin-California, Ryan Jackson-Miami, and Josh Adams-Florida.
We will take a look at the corners in our next edition.

07 May, 2008

Once again financials play restrictive role for big clubs

For a team to watch as one of its huge investments plummets, with very little contribution to the team, is hard enough; being forced to play the player in decline, because of financial considerations, makes the pill that much more difficult to swallow.Coming into this season the LA Dodgers had signed Andruw Jones to a 2 year $36.2 million contract, and of course the Giants were in the second year of a 7 year, $126 million deal with Barry Zito. Not only are neither of these players contributing to their team's success but they are actually restricting it.Barry Zito was 0-6 with an ERA of 7.54 heading into tonight's game. Prior to May 7, his last start was April 27, at which point manager Bruce Bochy sent Zito to the bullpen. A little over a week later and the powers that be saw to it that Zito was back in the rotation and Bochy was singing a different tune. "He's a starter. We just gave him a break," said Bochy. A much different account than was given after Zito's April 27th start.An even more clear case of financial restrictions is going on in Los Angeles. There the Dodgers, a competitive team, are being forced to play a center fielder who doesn't even look prepared to play at triple A. Through competition on Wednesday, Jones was batting an anemic .162/.273/.248 with an astoundingly low 4 RBI in 32 games. Not only is his offense a nightmare, but his once sterling defensive skills have begun to fade. True to form however, Torre is sticking by his 36 million dollar man. Again, not because Torre is making the best baseball move, but is having his hand forced by those who are paying the bills.While it is only fair that ownership and general management has its say in such enormous investments, it is clear that these decisions deprive fans of seeing the best baseball that their teams can provide; teammates are forced to compensate for the lack of production of their much higher paid counterparts, and others yet are spending time on the bench when their talents could be providing much more value to their team.

06 May, 2008

Wildcats making 08 splash

Even if you are not a fan of collegiate baseball you can't help but appreciate the effort of the impressive outfield duo of Sawyer Carroll and Collin Cowgill for the University of Kentucky. These two young men have emerged as quite possibly the two best individual outfielders in all of Division I baseball. Sawyer Carroll is a name you will see again and again as he takes his game to new levels, finishing his collegiate career and continuing on to the professional level. Not far behind him, his teammate continues to make a case that he is quite possibly the second best outfielder in the nation.
A quick look at their offensive statistics and you see why this team started the season at 19-0. Carroll sports a 1.224 OPS while Cowgill is not far behind at 1.216.
While the all around game of Carroll has scouts mystified, it is the game of Cowgill that is emerging more and more in discussion. Cowgill's isolated power has surpassed that of his teammate's .360 to .313. While each of these numbers is astounding, Cowgill's is breathtaking. In addition, Cowgill has been successful on 17 of 20 steal attempts.
Carroll will continue to get much of the praise, as he deserves, but Cowgill is starting to put a stamp on being the second best outfielder in the nation; even if he is the second best outfielder on his team.
We will return to more of college baseball in upcoming posts, as the season turns to the regionals, with more extensive coverage of these two soon-to-be major league prospects.