Alex Salkever looks at the new age of sports technology in a Business Week
special report. Scouts have laptops. Coaches are viewing digital replays on DVD. Some nameless writer from Baseball Prospectus
apparently got a job in the Toronto front office. It's a revolution, no question. But there's surprising resistance -- according to Michael Lewis, whose soon-to-be-published Moneyball
is eagerly anticipated, "in the top ranks of baseball, many old salts continue to chafe at the scientific study of their beloved game."
The teams that really "get it" are still in the minority, though there's a trend among several other front offices toward gradually integrating new ideas with established methods. As someone on the older and saltier side of the ZLC spectrum, I feel compelled to point out that raw data, processing power and high-tech gadgets don't mean a thing, unless they are in the hands of someone who really knows the game. GIGO is the first thing I learned about computers, and it will always apply.
Star pitching prospects David Bush and Brandon League posted excellent performances, while yet another Jays catching prospect continued to impress with his bat. And how many bases on balls do you think Tyrell Godwin has drawn this season? Read on to find out.
Carlos Tosca started Mike Bordick at SS last night; it was a hunch that made sense, as Chris Woodward was 0-for-5 lifetime against Mussina and hadn't been playing great defence. Tonight, the skipper goes with Bordick again, hardly a ringing endorsement for the supposed #1. Granted, Woody is also 0-for-5 in his brief career against Boomer, and has not fared well against lefties (so far) while Bordick has hit .271 in 56 AB against the not-quite-perfect one. Perhaps Chris isn't 100%, or maybe this benching is intended as a wakeup call. No surprise in RF, where Dave Berg takes Cat's place, batting second. Still no Reed Johnson sighting. The Jays need Cory Lidle to be sharp, but it's hard to be optimistic the way the Yankees are playing.
The Yankees have paid a $75,000 settlement (which is not officially being called a fine) to avoid possible penalties under the U.S. Trading With The Enemy Act. Apparently the incident involved negotiations with Cuban players, negotiations in which the Cuban government was involved and presumably was to get a cut. I am desperately trying to hold my tongue on three separate issues: (1) the continuing U.S. economic embargo of Cuba and the means the U.S. uses in its embargoes; (2) the fact that corporate criminals like the Yankees can settle these disputes almost entirely in secret (the documents released by the U.S. Office of Foreign Assets Control were redacted down so much that you could only make out the name); and (3) whether Castro and Steinbrenner really sound so much alike or if it's just George Costanza's imagination.
Just a quick note of gratitude to all of our readers. Without you, there wouldn't be a Batter's Box. From all of us in the ZLC, thank you -- come again.
Here's a quick rundown of highlights from last night's Jays' minor-league games, something I hope will be a semi-regular feature over the course of the season (or as often as I can manage, anyway). I'll also aim to supply a weekly update on the state of each squad and their key performers.
Another excellent pitching matchup, but these teams can hit -- last night, both starters' ERA doubled. I expect Roy Halladay to be sharp and determined, minimizing the damage against those Yankee bats. Mussina has trouble with some Jays -- Cat's hitting .462 off him, with five doubles, two HR and three RBIs in 26 career AB -- but he's 6-2 with an ERA under 3.00 vs. Toronto the last three years. Moose got the W the last time the teams met, giving up 4 ER (including a Delgado solo blast) and striking out 8 in 6 IP, with more run support -- Lurch got rocked -- than he can expect tonight.
No TV in Toronto, and the FAN has basketball; try http://www.610cktb.com/
if you can't get 610 AM over the air. Here's a look at Tosca's lineup
tendencies; I was expecting the complete "A" team tonight, but Bordick is starting for Woodward. Obviously that's a defensive upgrade, for all those anticipated ground balls, and Mike's been hitting well.
Scouting the Yankees, on one level, is pretty easy: "They're the freakin' Yankees."
The Yankees can be hit hard, and can be shut down, but it's hard to do both on any given night, and they do a more effective job capitalizing on opponents' mistakes than any other team of our generation. What's worse, navel-gazing Yankee fans (whose I-only-watch-the-Yankees attitude was overwhelmingly responsible for the poor World Series ratings last year) have been buoyed by the team's hot start, thereby rendering them less sullen and depressed when I taunt them with a Rally Monkey.
This year, Hideki Matsui makes New York even more dangerous offensively, and their starting pitching has been magnificent -- although their bullpen does show signs of weakness, at least while not healthy. Prior to the Matsui and Floyd signings, I thought it was absolutely stunning that the Yankees and Mets could combine to spend nearly $250 million (all figures U.S., of course) and have one above-average outfielder combined: Bernie Williams.
In any event, I'll be in the Bronx tomorrow night for Doc-Mussina. First base, about thirty rows back -- on the off-chance the Jays do anything worthy of fan reaction, they might include us in the "token fans of the visiting team shot." Should be a great game...
On to the Advance Scout!
It's way too early to draw conclusions, as the sample sizes are too small, but two high-profile Jays prospects are off to good starts.
Suppose that a man from Mars were to land on Earth, and wanted to know everything about the Blue Jays and their history. What would he need to know? I'm not thinking of the obvious stuff, such as where the SkyDome is or who Dave Stieb was, but the little things that are part of a Jay's fan's memories, prejudices, or common knowledge.
That's better! My Toronto Walrus jumped all the way from 15th to second in the Batter's Box Fantasy League standings this week, thanks to an 11-1 pounding of the Red Mosquitos, who learned what injuries (Brian Giles) and slumps (Mark Bellhorn and others) can do to your Head-to-Head team. I punted steals early in the draft, and my pitching's still a lot better than my hitting, but timing and luck are huge in HtH, and our matchup was the most extreme example of that so far this season.
Snellville's Gashouse Gorillas put together another solid week to take over top spot. Jonny, the spreadsheet wizard, will check in later with the Roto "standings," which are completely unofficial, but shed some light on strength-of-schedule issues and are useful to help identify your team's weak spots.
Please read on; we need to discuss the league's keeper rules and of course, talk a bit of trash.
If you'd said on Opening Day that the Jays would be sending their only undefeated starter to the mound tonight in New York, a tall right-hander, then the odds were pretty good I wouldn't have guessed that would be Tanyon Sturtze. And yet here he is tonight, the former Devil Ray who's already matched half his 2002 win total. And Sturtze didn't rack up easy wins against cream puffs -- the Red Sox and Twins can hit a little. Yankee Stadium, of course, is a whole different stage.
Much angst has been in evidence regarding the Blue Jays' bullpen, which collectively has not had a good outing in some time.
By searching through the game logs, I've compiled some data on Toronto relief pitchers for 2003:
Because I suspect all us proud Canadians would like a place to sound off on this -- Mike Weir rocks! That was a gripping, thrilling final round, and after seeing his performance, I think Weir must have ice in his veins. That par putt on the 18th to salvage a playoff was just amazing, and his composure was exemplary. Congratulations to a Canadian champion!
And oh yeah, the Jays were stomped on today, getting swept at home for the second time in this young season. Remember, folks -- coming out of the Terrible Twenty with a .500 record would be just peachy. They now have to go 5-3 on the road against the Yankees and Red Sox to do that. Mind you, the road has been pretty good to them so far. And this team has been awfully streaky this young season....
According to Carlos Tosca, that's the key to mental toughness: concentrate on your approach, and accept that results are sometimes random, but your response to those results is something you can control. That's just part of an interesting profile
of the Jays' skipper in today's Boston Globe
. Gordon Edes also quotes Paul Godfrey about J.P. Ricciardi:
"He's straightforward, direct, and honest. He gave me a plan on Nov. 7, 2001, and since he's been here, he hasn't veered from the plan. He knew what he wants, he's a great judge of talent, and he works very well with everyone around him."
Thanks to one of our longtime BB readers for this link; Pistol has met Harvey Dorfman, the sports psychologist mentioned in the article, and says he was highly complimentary of what the Blue Jays are doing. Tosca acknowledges Dorfman as a tremendous influence, and has encouraged his players to consult him as well. With eight games left in the Terrible Twenty, let's hope the Toronto bullpen has learned how to respond positively to some disappointing recent results. I was at a clinic all day and missed the latest meltdown, but it seems to me Aquilino Lopez can't do much worse than Creek and Miller against lefty batters, and he certainly makes righties look sick.