Wednesday, October 3, 2007
I’m excited to see today’s playoff action. The extra day off has screwed up my internal clock. As excited as I am, I wish we were playing.
I have to come clean … I am jealous of Alyssa Milano and have been for some time. Here I was in mid 2005, quietly blogging away with my good friend, Mark Newman of MLBAM, serving as the blog angel on my shoulder. Due to his diligence and oversight, my blog had photos and links and all kinds of pretty cool stuff. Then along came Milano, aka The competition. Suddenly, Mark had no time for my paltry blog … there was a Hollywood celebrity (and devout Dodgers fan) to service.
I kept my mouth shut (surprising for those who know me, eh) and went about my business, but today, TODAY, I gain a small amount of revenge. A friend sent along a publicy shot of Milano to me, a shot that works perfectly for this blog, and Mr. Newman has consented to lower himself to work again on this site, just for today, by posting this photo …
So here it is …
(Photo to be inserted later by Mark)
Note from Newman: Scott is the first pro sports executive anywhere to start a regular blog that could reach out to fans and speak directly to them (and vice-versa) without media filter. He is a true blogging pioneer, is going strong after 2 1/2 years (wow, has it really been that long?), and as such definitely doesn’t need anyone’s help! We are immensely thankful for Scott’s diligence as a voluntary service to baseball fans and as a leader by example for other MLB/sports personnel.
I may regret this and the conversation may be unwinnable, but here is my take on our bullpen woes this season (and by my take, I mean my take, not KW’s, not the organization, just my opinion … so feel free to ignore).
First, my bullpen philosophy. The very best bullpens are ones where each pitcher is best suited for his specific role (which means that you don’t always want or need the six best (read: most talented) pitchers, you want the best pitcher given his specific role … call it the Rick Honeycutt rule).
We entered 2007 having tried to improve our bullpen from 2006 (which was a weakness of sorts considering we won 90 games) by adding "talented" arms with the feeling that teams succeeded most with hard throwers late in the game (not to mention that we felt they were best suited to succeed in our ballpark).
So when 2007 opened, our bullpen consisted of Aardsma and MacDougal from the right side, Sisco and Thorton from the left, Masset as the long guy and Jenks as the closer.
For the first five weeks of the season, we boasted one of the best bullpens in the American League (remember that?). On 5/8, our bullpen ranked third in the AL in ERA (3.29) and fourth in OBA (.229). Then the wheels came off. From 5/8 through the end of July, our bullpen ERA was 7.46. Ouch.
So back to my point about roles. Aardsma was outstanding early as the second right-hander. MacDougal was struggling as the set-up guy. As MacDougal continued to struggle, we tried moving Aardsma into the set-up role. It did not go well (remember when Aardsma tried to close that game in Detroit?). As a result of MacDougal’s ineffectiveness, Aardsma’s role changed and, in my opinion, he was not able to perform to the same level when asked to pitch later in the game. We essentially lost both guys, which threw all of the bullpen roles up into the air.
To solve this, moves impacting the bullpen came early and then often. Logan joined us on 4/17 to give us three LHP and he took on Sisco’s role. We tried Day, Buckvich and Prinz in June. MacDougal came back in mid June (but then went on the DL for much of July after admitting his shoulder has bothered him most of the year even though he had tried to pitch through it). Haeger came up to log innings at one point, but for most of the summer, we suffered as the bullpen tried to sort out roles and find where guys could best perform. It was painful to eperience at times and painful to watch at times. But you saw guys like Buckvich and then Wassermann come up and pitch well at certain times.
Near the end of the summer, I think we at least had a sense of who would perform in given situations, but I think everyone would admit the bullpen still fell far short of what is needed to win a championship. No question.
In the end, our bullpen ranked 12th in the AL with a 5.27 ERA, went 19-25 and converted 42 out of 65 saves (64.6 percent, ninth in the AL). Our 23 blown saves were fourth (25 led the AL).
So heading into 2008, the bullpen is again a key. The problem with relievers, in my mind, is that there is no consistency. Give me a list of last year’s top set-up guys and then see how that list performed in 2007. Compared the best relievers of 2005 to the best of 2007. Remember Cliff Politte and Neal Cotts?
A consistent, healthy (another big issue), talented reliever is extremely difficult to find, and therefore, is extremely valuable. What teams try to do instead is find the right guy for the right role and try to put together a bullpen "team" to get the ball to the closer. The weakness then, as we experienced in 2007, is that if one of those links breaks, you risk the entire bullpen blowing up in your face (and that is not pretty or fun or conducive to winning baseball games).
So, people say talent is the answer? Hmmm … according to my unprofessional scouting eye, we opened the 2007 campaign with the most talented bunch of arms I’ve seen in our bullpen during my time here.
Tell you what, feel free to give me a list of possible bullpen additions from among all the pitchers out there who are available for 2008 (send them to me in email, don’t post …). We’ll take an idea from anywhere we can get it … and then I’ll save the list during next season and we can see how those guys all perform in 2008. My guess, based on past experience, is that injuries will take a toll and performances will be all over the board. Constructing a bullpen is tough.
So a wise-guy friend (note the hyphen, he wasn’t a wise guy or a wiseguy like Paulie Walnuts) sent me an email from the Center for Media Research on measuring trust.
According to the latest by BIGresearch, only 2.6% of 3,978 respondents say members of Congress are trustworthy, while 2.2 % say the same thing about the Senate. The President comes in at 14.2 %. The media score a 4.4 %, which, while low, is still higher than our elected bodies. The stunning number … drumroll, please … 5.8 % have more trust in bloggers. (and 70.7 percent don’t trust anyone, a reassuring figure if there ever was one).
The blog "trust factor" for males was 5.4%, females 6.3%, age 18-34 was 8.5 %, 35-54 was 6.1% and anyone over 55 doesn’t trust a blog … 2.8% (which I guess is still more than they trust Congress).
At a recent Ragan Conference on Social Media (blogs, wikis, tweets, IMs, etc), the point was made for me by industry guru Shel Holtz that for people born after 1980, 62 percent of their on-line content is generated by someone they know … a friend, family member, etc. The internet is truly social for young generations.
So maybe that’s why they trust blogs "more."
Can you tell, unfortunately, I have a little more time on my hands now?