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Monthly Archives: January 2010

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The Cream Also Rises

[Here is another guest post by Jon DeRosa. Jon has previously written two pieces for Bronx Banter (here and here) and will be a semi-regular this season. Jon played ball at Georgetown and still has that sweet, lefty swing.–AB]

By Jon DeRosa

Of the 8 teams that entered the 2009 postseason, 7 teams saw their closer blow a save or lose a game. The 8th team was the Yankees. As they marched to the 2009 World Series Championship, much was made of Mariano Rivera’s fabulous and unprecedented Postseason career. And rightly so, because no pitcher has ever approached the same quantity of quality innings on the game’s grandest stage. But there are a few quirks of history from which Mariano has undoubtedly benefited that have enabled him to compile his mind-boggling numbers: He plays for the most successful team and his career began exactly at the introduction of the Divisional Playoff Round. He stands, not just alone, but so far isolated as to discourage any conceivable comparison. Nobody’s numbers compare. Nobody’s innings compare. It’s Mariano and then a Grand Canyon to somebody else. And that’s how I like my heroes and gods – unassailable.

But in 2008 didn’t Brad Lidge have a much ballyhooed “prefect” season and playoff run? And wasn’t Papelbon annoyingly brilliant the year before that? And Wainwright and Jenks? And most painfully, didn’t Foulke do a ballsy job in 2004? So then, isn’t the closer on the championship team likely to have pitched as well as Mariano has in any single year? Or do Mariano’s individual series stand out from the pack in the same way that his overall numbers do?

I looked at the closer on every World Series team from 1995-2009 (TB 2008 was the only team without a nominal closer) and compared their postseasons. I wanted to know which guys were the most dominant (K/9, K/BB, BR/9) which guys were the most effective (R+IR/G, WPA) and which guys shouldered the heaviest loads (INN, INN/G) and faced the toughest jams (aLI). I don’t claim to reach definitive conclusions, but I think there’s valuable information to be gleaned:

1) The highest WPA for any closer was 1.56 for John Wetteland in 1996. The lowest was Trevor Hoffman’s –0.35 from 1998.

2) Brad Lidge in 2009 faced the highest leverage situations at 2.90. And it’s no surprise he failed, since 11 of the 13 closers facing the highest aLI’s failed in the World Series. In contrast, 15 of the 16 lowest aLI’s saw the closer emerge unscathed. John Wetteland again distinguishes himself by facing the highest leverage situations without failure (and 4th highest overall): 2.36.

3) Memory matches the stats as Foulke’s change-up racked up 19 Ks in 14inn and Wainwright’s curve ball baffled more than just Beltran – 15 whiffs in 9.2 innings.

4) The Red Sox emulate the Yankees in at least one respect: they want to use Papelbon for multiple innings in the postseason. Other than Mo, Papelbon was the only pitcher to average more than an inning and a half per appearance in any single postseason.

5) Only 3 pitchers have kept a perfectly clean ledger – no runs inherited, earned or unearned. Papelbon, Wainwright, and Rivera (99).

6) Eight of the 15 World Series losers saw their closer blow a game (I am including Rocker in 1999) while only 3 of the 15 winners endured a meltdown. (For ranking purposes below, if he blew a game while losing the series, I didn’t consider him – both Rocker and Rivera version 2001 would have done well otherwise.) Regardless of your opinion on the value of closers, it’s hard to win a 4 game set when you cough up a lead in one of the games.


Beat of the Day

Big Mama:

The King:

The Heart of the Matter

New York City is a Jets town this week. Lots of barking from players, columnists and the man on the street. I guess I haven’t been paying attention over the years–I was an avid NFL fan, a Jets fan, for most of the 1980s, but haven’t been emotionally charged about the game since–but I don’t understand why so many Jets fans are as brash as they are. I would be waiting for the other shoe to drop, waiting for the Jets to crumble. The older Jets fans I know will be watching Sunday’s AFC Championship game with one eye closed and their nerves decidedly clenched.

This morning, I talked to one of the security guards in my office building about the game. He’s a Mets fan and a Giants fan but he pulls for New York teams across the board. “The Jets are going to win, man,” he said. “I love Peyton, but this is the year for teh Jets.”

I asked if he was betting on the game. “No, I can’t do that, can’d do that. I bet with my heart. I can’t bet against the Jets. I go with my heart.”  Better not to bet at all.

I went upstairs and walked through the kitchenette on my floor. One of the kitchen staff was stocking the fridge full of milk. He is Haitian and has family back home, four brothers and a couple of sisters. He has heard from one of his brothers but doesn’t know about many of his cousins, especially after yesterday’s aftershock. One of his brothers’ wife is pregnant, due to give birth in a few weeks. His brother is trying to convince him to come back to Haiti to help out. But there is no place to live and it is dangerous. He has his own family and doesn’t have money to send. He is not sure what he is going to do. What he can do.

He is a powerfully built man with broad shoulders but has a gentle touch. His face is sympathetic.

I said good morning.

“Same old,” he said. “Same old.” He shrugged. The same thing he says all the time though it doesn’t ring true at the moment. “Same old, but it is good,” he said. “We have life.”

News Update – 1/21/10

Today’s update is powered by The Charlatans UK:

. . . Baldelli would make a nice choice for a platoon situation and fits the bill as a right-handed bat that the Yankees could add without breaking the bank. Despite the medical limitations that interfered after he was once a first-round Draft pick, Baldelli can hit — especially against left-handers — and for what it’s worth, he was also well liked in the clubhouse with the Rays and Red Sox.

  • FanGraphs crunched the numbers, and values Derek Jeter’s 2009 season quite highly:

Back in late July, R.J. noted that Derek Jeter was having a resurgent offensive season and on his way to an excellent year. Jeter did not let up after that, either. He finished the season with a wRC+ of 142, his best since 2006 and second best since 1999. Combine that with excellent defense at short and Jeter had a 7.5-win season, his best year in the Fangraphs-WAR era and fifth-best among position players in 2009.


Hugger Mugger

My father came from a bookish family. Everyone had a substantial library. And though he was well-versed in the classics, I never considered the Old Man an intellectual in the Ivory Tower sense. More than anything, he was a voracious reader of detective stories and mysteries. I recall shelves of paperbacks, stocked with names like Dick Francis, Ed McBain, Ruth Rendell and John McDonald. One of his favorites was the Spencer series by Robert B. Parker.

I’ve never read any of these books but I feel a second-hand affinity for them–and I always appreciated their pulpy, sometimes racy covers. Reason I mention it is because Parker passed away a few days ago. He was 77.

According to the Times obit:

Mr. Parker wrote the Spenser novels in the first person, employing the blunt, masculine prose style that is often described as Hemingwayesque. But his writing also seems self-aware, even tongue-in-cheek, as though he recognized how well worn such a path was. And his dialogue was especially arch, giving Spenser an air of someone who takes very few things seriously and raises an eyebrow at everything else. Mr. Parker’s regular readers became familiar with the things that provoke Spenser’s suspicion: showy glamour, ostentatious wealth, self-aggrandizement, fern bars, fancy sports clubs and any kind of haughtiness or presumption.

Spenser is, in other words, what Marlowe might have been in a more modern world (and living in Boston rather than Los Angeles). Unsurprisingly, Mr. Parker considered Chandler one of the great American writers of the 20th century. (He audaciously finished an incomplete Chandler manuscript, “Poodle Springs”). And he has been often cited by critics and other mystery writers as the guy who sprung the Chandleresque detective free from the age of noir.

“I read Parker’s Spenser series in college,” the best-selling writer Harlan Coben said in a 2007 interview with The Atlantic Monthly. “When it comes to detective novels, 90 percent of us admit he’s an influence, and the rest of us lie about it.”

Vibes and Stuff

Ed Alstrom, who plays the organ at Yankee Stadium, has a new cd out: Gettin’ Organ*ized.

Check it out.

Beat of the Day

So, why not make this a musical week of originals and covers?


How High the Moon?

When I was in college, black kids used to wear t-shirts that read, “It’s a Black Thing. You Wouldn’t Understand.” My twin sister Sam and I wanted to get our own shirts made, “It’s a Twin Thing. You Wouldn’t Understand.”

It’s hard to figure a Twin unless you are one. Just ask Ron Gardenhire, manager of the Minnesota Twins, who, according to this piece by Landon Evanson in the Winona Daily News, thinks his team is not far behind the big, bad New York Yankees:

Some would suggest that the Yankees “own” the Twins, but the manager doesn’t buy into that.

“They don’t own me,” Gardenhire said. “Every game that we’ve played against them has just been nip-and-tuck.”

…”We’ve had our chances,” Gardenhire said. “We could have beat them as is, but next year we’re not taking any more off them. And if it takes fighting them, we’re fighting them.”

I sure would like to see the Twins sign Joe Mauer to a long-term deal. That’d be a good start, no?

Smell Ya Later (if Not Sooner)

When I was growing up and one of my mother’s relatives from Belgium came to visit, I would go to the room they were staying in and smell their luggage. The contents of their bags–their clothes and toiletries, perfumes and chocolates–reeked of Belgium and jumped-started a rush of memories. I payed less attention to the smells of my grandparent’s apartment in Manhattan because I was there so often.

As a kid, I visited Belgium a half-a-dozen times and since I only spoke broken French and my relatives spoke broken English, language became less important than communicating–which we did, in part, through exaggerating body language. The rest of my senses were heightened, especially my sense of taste and smell.

I got to thinking about this while reading an interesting piece in this week’s New Yorker (which is not available on-line), about smell-memory. It is called “The Dime Store Floor,” by David Owen: 

A few years ago, an online store I’d been using ran out of my regular brand of deodorant, and, because I was unable to think of anything else, I switched to Old Spice, the kind my father used. The container had changed, from the sturdy ivory tube I’d often seen in his medicine cabinet to a bright-red elliptical cylinder, but the name and, to a smaller extent, the smell imparted a mild hum of remembrance, and I never switched back. Just recently, while travelling, I found that I’d left all my toiletries at home, and went to a local drug store to buy replacements. There I saw that Old Spice deodorant comes in more strengths, forumlations, and scents that I had thought, and realized the one I’d been using–High Endurance Pure Sport–couldn’t have been my father’s. I bought, this time, Classic Original Scent (the container of which was imprinted with a small picture of the old ivory tube and the promise “Original Round Stick Formula”). And when I sued it for the first time, in my hotel room, I was almost knocked over by what I can only describe as a physical memory of my father. It was the smell of him driving me to school, and of him bending over to pull tight and tied the cord in the hood of my snow jacket, and of him fixing himself a drink in the pantry while he and my mother were waiting for dinner guests to arrive. So now the question is whether to stay with Classic Original Scent, thereby causing my brain to gradually overwrite my collection of father-related fragrance files, eventually making them irretrievable, or to set it aside and use it only on special occasions.

Beat of the Day

Dig the Difference.

Original (The quality of this recording is weak, but you get the vibe…check out the acapella too.):


Down with the King (Long Live the King)

According to an ESPN report, it looks like Felix Hernandez will be pitching for the Mariners for a minute. Very cool. I hope the Twins sign Joe Mauer to an extension too.

‘Lil Bit

Over at Lo-Hud, the intrepid Pete Abraham has been replaced by the intrepid Chad Jennings.

Here is the latest Yankee tidbit.

Without Feathers

I saw my neighbor on the street the other day. He had to shield his eyes to recognize me from up the block. I hadn’t seen him since the holidays. He is a college professor. His teeneage daughter has looked after our cats on occasion when we’re away. And his wife is dying of ALS. She has kept her humor and from what my wife and I have seen, has not displayed any self-pity. Her husband told me she never feels sorry for herself, which is something so remarkable that I can’t exactly get my head around it.

My wife and I have helped them in small ways–cooking a meal, navigating medical insurance claims. But I remember seeing the husband last fall and he looked ready to come undone the stress was so great.

The other day, I asked about his wife and he said that she only has three or four months left to live. “You come to peace with it, you know, life doesn’t stop” he said, adding that he just hopes that she is alive long enough for their daughter’s sweet sixteen this spring. The daughter has poise and has been asked to grow up fast. He worries about her.

I hope his wish comes true. They deserve it.

Up the Catskills

News Update – 1/18/10

Today’s update powered by Mr. Louis Armstrong:

That’s it for a slow weekend recap . . . see you Thursday.

Beat of the Day

In memory of Martin Luther King…

Mo Football Fun

We’re gunna miss the first game on the count of this:

Back for the Jets.

Happy Sunday.

More Playoff Fun

Eat up.

NFL Football. Grrrrr.

Sunny Day

Sunny day in New York. Not too cold. Nice.

Everybody loves the sun in Mr. Bonnard’s world.

Judy, Judy, Judy (and other famous things that were never said)

Fred Shapiro has a fun piece in the New York Times magazine about movie misquotes:

Why do we so frequently get the lines wrong?

One phenomenon at work, as in the cases above, is compression. Even Bartlett’s Familiar Quotations falls prey to this type of error. It cites “Apocalypse Now”: “I love the smell of napalm in the morning. It smells like victory.” What Robert Duvall really says is: “I love the smell of napalm in the morning. You know, one time we had a hill bombed for 12 hours. When it was all over, I walked up. We didn’t find one of ’em, not one stinkin’ . . . body. The smell, you know that gasoline smell, the whole hill. Smelled like victory.”

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"This ain't football. We do this every day."
--Earl Weaver