When Will The Nationals Call up Stephen Strasburg?

May 29, 2010

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The blogosphere has been chattering about the potential of a Strasburg call up all week.  Strasburg, the top overall pick in the 2009 draft, has been dominating the minor leagues.  Strasburg is 6-1 with a 0.99 ERA and 54 strikeouts in 45 1/3 innings for the year – while allowing just 22 hits and ten walks.  He actually kicked his game up a notch after being promoted to AAA Syracuse – he has a miniscule 0.39 ERA with the Chiefs.

Earlier rumors had Strasburg in line for a start on June 4th against the Reds.  Later in the week, June 8th against the Pirates was the unofficial date.  The June 4th date made some sense.  It was the first home game after a road trip, and it’s late enough that it’s nearly certain Strasburg would not qualify as a Super 2.  (More on why Strasburg was sent to the minors here).  There’s some confusion on why the Nationals are choosing to push the date back until the 8th.  Strasburg seems to have nothing to prove in AAA, and they have pushed back his arbitration a year, there is no financial reason to keep him down.

The only reason I can fathom for delaying Strasburg’s debut is that he’ll have a better chance at a win.  The Reds are in first place in the NL Central, while the Pie Rats are on pace for their 18th consecutive losing season.  The Pirates don’t have the worst record in baseball yet, but they have by far the worst run differential – so it’s quite likely that Pittsburgh will be picking first in the 2011 draft.  The Nationals – laughingstocks for more years – on the other hand, are in contention in the NL East.  Can the positive energy of a Strasburg promotion push them to a division title?  I’m going to say no for this year, but watch for them in 2011.

How will Strasburg do once he is promoted?  Well, I doubt that he’ll post a 0.99 ERA in the Majors, of course.  In fact, I do think he’ll hit some rough spots during the season, once hitters get a second look at him.  Almost every rookie struggles at some point during their debut campaign.  I do think Strasburg right the ship and end the season with strong numbers – perhaps a 3.50 ERA.

THE RESIN BAG

The other member of the “young pitchers who signed big deals” club, Aroldis “Chappy” Chapman has experienced some struggles after a hot start to the season.  I expect the Reds farmhand to get a June call up after establishing more consistency.  It’s important to remember that the Cuban defector is adjusting to a new home country as well as playing baseball.

Rockies pitcher Ubaldo Jimenez continues to dominate the National League.  U-Ball gave up no runs in 8 innings on Wednesday night, pushing his record to 9-1 with a 0.88 ERA.  In 71 1/3 innings this year, Jimenez has given up ONE home run.  His only loss on the year was on May 9th against the Dodgers – Jimenez gave up one run in seven innings, but Clayton Kershaw and Jonathan Broxton combined for a shutout for LA.  Jimenez attempts to notch his 10th win of the year on Memorial Day against reigning Cy Young winner Tim Lincecum.  The Giants ace has struggled lately, and I’m hoping Timmmmmmmmmmmmmmy has another rough outing.

Speaking of struggles … Charlie Morton of the Pirates picked up another loss on Thursday night.  Morton is 1-9 on the year with a 9.35 ERA.  Morton has allowed 66 hits and 16 walks in 43 1/3 innings.  Morton has allowed 12 homers and has also hit four batters.  Morton’s only win this year was against the Cubs – who are somehow 1-5 against the hapless Bucs.

Update From the First Week of Baseball

April 13, 2010

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Kosmo is filling in for Johnny Goodman on the sports beat this week.

The Masters

To call me a golf fan would be an absurd exaggeration. In general, I check to see home local boy Zach Johnson is doing and see who wins. This week – even with the return of Tiger Woods – it was the same drill here. Tiger fell a bit short and Phil Mickelson picked up another green jacket. I can’t help but cheer for Mickelson, who faced the dual adversity of his wife and his mother being diagnosed with breast cancer last year.

Country Joe Sings the Wrong Tune

Baseball umpire Joe West – also a country music singer – ruffled some feathers on both sides of the Yankees – Red Sox rivalry by saying the two teams were pathetic because of the length of the games they played.

This annoyed me for a couple of reasons. First of all, the umpire is supposed to be an impartial observer. When he made these comments, West crossed a line. If these sorts of statements are to be made, they should come from the commissioner’s office (which later did make a comment about the length of games).

Even more annoying, though, is the continued emphasis on the length of games. One of the beauties of baseball is the fact that it is untimed. You can typically estimate the length of football of basketball games. Baseball is an entirely different beast. You can get a two hour game if the pitchers are working quickly and the batters are swinging at everything. On the flip side, you can have a four hour game if the pitchers are working slowly and the batters are patient.

In baseball, a team is never eliminated until the last out is made. This isn’t the case in other sports. You can’t make up a twenty eight point deficit in fifteen seconds in football. It’s a technical impossibility – you wouldn’t have enough time to execute the necessary players. In baseball, though, you can rally from a 10-0 deficit with two outs in the ninth. As long as you keep getting hits, the game will continues.

Have you ever been to a great rock concert and later, complained about the length? Of course not. If the experience is of poor quality, this is a problem. If it’s merely excess quantity, this really isn’t a problem.

The Resin Bag

Nationals prospect Stephen Strasburg and Reds farmhand Aroldis Chapman both began their minor league careers with strong performances. Don’t expect either of these guys to stay down very long. Once the teams are assured of having their free agency (and possibly arbitration) delayed, these guys will pop up to the majors.

Meanwhile, Mike Leake jumped into the Reds rotation without any minor league experience. If Chappy is indeed being kept down for financial reasons, then why did the Reds keep Leake with the big club to start the season? They could have delayed Leake’s free agency in a similar fashion. Any chance that the Reds will demote Leake when Chappy is promoted – for just enough time to delay his free agency?

CC Sabathia put up a strong performance on Saturday night, taking a no-hit big into the eighth inning. I love the anticipation of a no-hitter in progress and always pull for the pitcher.

On the Rockies beat, Jorge de la Rosa started off his 2010 campaign strong, tossing seven innings of one hit ball. Keep an eye on George of the Rose. He started last year 0-6 with a 5.43 ERA before rallying to finish 16-9 with a 4.38 ERA. For those of you keeping score at home, that means he went 16-3 with a 3.94 ERA from June 5th through the end of the season. The ERA might not seem dominant … but bear in mind that his home park is Coors Field.

Matt Holliday of the Cardinals is off to a hot start, with three homers in seven games (he is, of course, playing second fiddle to Albert Pujols, who has five).  I have always contended that Holliday’s bat would play anywhere.  Clearly Coors Field boosted his numbers … but not by as much as the raw home/road splits would make you think.  If you compare Holliday’s differential to those of other Rockies, you’d quickly noticed that his differential dwarfed those of the teammates.  Either the park was exceptionally well suited for him … or he’s simply the sort of player who thrives in front of a home crowd.  Hey, guess what – his home OPS was 150 points high than his road OPS last year … despite being in Oakland (bad hitter’s park) at the beginning of the year.  As a point of comparison, across baseball, the typical player has an OPS 30 points higher at home.  I’m expecting a strong season from Happy this year as well.

I made a rookie goof in fantasy baseball and neglected to pay attention to my starting lineup.  As a result, I had a sub-standard lineup in place for week 1.  My Yura Peeins fell to Johnny Goodman’s team 6-4.  I lost two pitching categories and four of the five hitting categories – nabbing the only win in steals.  Honestly, though, even with my A lineup, I would probably have lost by the same score.

Kosmo’s Sports Wrap

February 2, 2010

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With Johnny Goodman still on leave for medical reasons, Kosmo is jumping in with another sports column.  We miss your articles, Johnny – get well sooon.

A Strong Brees

We’re on the cusp of another Super Bowl.  On one side of the field, we’ll have the Indianapolis Colts, led by Peyton Manning.  Manning is the son of Pro Bowl quarterback, the brother of another Pro Bowl quarterback, and he himself is a Pro Bowl quarterback, Super Bowl Champion, NFL MVP, and #1 overall pick in the NFL draft.  From day one, he has been the unquestioned leader of the Colts.

On the other hand, we have Drew Brees of the Saints.  The Saints themselves are a feel-good story – some good fortune for a city that was devastated by hurricane Katrina in 2005.  When Brees was drafted, the San Diego Chargers actually had the #1 pick that would have allowed them to pick up Michael Vick.  They traded that pick to Atlanta for the #5 overall pick (which they used to draft LaDainian Tomlinson) and a third round pick.  Having not gotten Vick at #1, they nabbed Brees in the second round.

Unlike Manning, Brees wasn’t given the keys to the kingdom.  His first few years in the league were up and down (eh, OK, so mostly he sucked), and the Chargers felt the need to draft his replacement in 2004.  They wanted Eli Manning, but he didn’t want to sign with them.  So they drafted Manning and traded him to the New York Giants for Philip Rivers (who had been picked #4 overall) on draft day.  Rivers would have been been giving a strong chance to unsteat Brees for the starter’s job – except that he held out nearly all of training camp.

Brees promptly turned his career around and had his finest season in 2004, throwing 27 touchdowns with just 7 interceptions.  After going to the Saints as a free agent after the 2005 season, Brees had TD totals of 26, 28, 34, and 34.  He has topped 4300 yards all four seasons and cracked the 5000 barrier in 2008.

For his career, Brees now has 202 TDs against 110 interceptions, 30000 career passing yards, and a QB rating of 91.9.  Yes, the QB who was nearly thrown to the curb by the Chargers is now on pace for the Hall of Fame.

No League for Old Men

In a move that wasn’t particularly surprising Cardinals QB Kurt Warner announced his retirement.  Ther ultimate feel good story, Warner arose (like a Phoenix) many times during his career.  First, he clawed his way up from stocking shelves at a Hy Vee grocery store (@ $5.50 per hour) to an NFL job.  Then, after injuries caused him to lose his starting job, he regained a starting job with the Cardinals and led the formerly hapless franchise to its first Super Bowl – and nearly won it. 

All told, Warner went to three Super Bowls – winning one and narrowly losing the other two.  He has the record for most career passing yards Super Bowls (1156) due to the fact that he has the highest, second highest, and third highest passing totals in Super Bowl history.  Consider for a moment how statistically unlikely that is to occur …

Off the field, Warner does everything the right way – from the big things like adopting his children to smaller things like picking up the check for random people every time his family goes out to eat.  You’ll be missed, K-Dub (unless you pull a Favre).  (Read my recent article about Kurt Warner, “High Flying Cardinals”)

When my Minnesota Vikings played Brett Favre’s bizarre waiting game last summer and signed him to be their quarterback, I was fed up.  Not only have I never been a fan of Favre’s, but it seemed to me that Favre delayed his decision simply to avoid summer camp.  There’s a four letter word for that – L-A-Z-Y.

I made the somewhat irrational decision to boycott the Vikings until Favre was n longer with the team.  Lots of people questioned this, especially when the Vikings were perched on the brink of the Super Bowl.  I felt validated when Favre threw away another Super Bowl opportunity with yet another poor decision (flashback to the 2008 NFC Championship game, Brett?).  Hopefully Favre will retire again and stay retired.

Double Standard

Cuban defector Aroldis Chapman recently signed a contract with the Cincinnati Reds (is anyone else struck by the irony of a player fleeing a communist nation and signing with the REDS?  No?  Just me?  OK, thought I’d ask).  The pitcher’s deal will pay him $30.25 million over 6 years.  Although those in the baseball fandom were very much aware of the deal, it didn’t seem to raise the ire of fans like Stephen Strasburg’s 4 year, $15.5 million deal (see articles “Defense of Scott Boras” and “The Righty and the Lefty”).  (Yes, in theory, Strasburg could earn more money over the six year span if he performs well and gets decent arbitration awards for years 5 and 6 – but if they both flop, Chapman could come out $15 million ahead).

Let’s compare the two players.  Strasburg is five months younger than Chapman.  Strasburg is also the more highly ranked prospect.  So, why, then, is it a sign of the apocolyse for him to get $15.5 million while Chapman’s contract didn’t stir such strong emotions.

Chapman wasn’t subject to the draft, and thus had complete control over his future – unlike players in the US and Canada, who are only allowed to negotiate with the team that drafted them.  My good friend Fulton Christoper opined that this is a good reason to implement a worldwide draft.

Hamlin Heating Up the Ice

US luger Erin Hamlin (@ErinHamlin on Twitter), Kosmo’s favorite winter Olympian, racked up the following finishes in the World Cup season (singles events)

  • November 20/21 – Calgary, Canada – 7th
  • November 28/29 – Innsbruck, Austria – 9th
  • December 5/6 – Altenberg, Germany – 5th
  • December 12/13 – Lillehammer, Norway – 3rd
  •  January 2/3 – Königssee, Germany – 5th
  • January 9/10 – Winterberg, Germany – 3rd
  • January 16/17- Oberhof, Germany – 8th
  • January 30/31 – Cesana, Italy – 3rd

That’s good for an overall finish of 4th place in the standings, and Hamlin finished very strong, with  three podium (top 3) finishes in the last 5 events.  You heard it here first – Hamlin is picking up steam and is going to nab the luge gold in Vancouver.  Watch your rear view mirror, Tatjana.

And in an administrative note, we have a new link partner – Aibal.com.  Aibal is another non-niche blog.  Drop by and visit.