Friday, June 27, 2008

Mid-season thoughts

Before I get started on the Red Sox and other people in the American League East, I want to touch on 30-year old pitcher Shawn Chacon.

There have been a few comparisons of Chacon's attack on Ed Wade to the Latrell Sprewell/P.J. Carlesimo incident a little over a decade ago. There's a big difference here.

Sprewell continued to have a career after he tried to choke his coach because Sprew was a front-line starter. Chacon, on the other hand...well, take a look...

When his career numbers are looked at, Chacon, at best, is a team's number five starter. In eight seasons, Chacon is 45-61 with a 4.99 ERA (only by the grace of three seasons with an ERA below 5.00). He has only once won more than ten games (11 in 2003), and has had a winning record in only three seasons (11-8, 7-6, 5-4 respectively). This season he was carrying the fourth best ERA of his career at the time of his release with a rousing 5.04 to go with a 2-3 record. Three times his ERA was over 5.70 (5.73, 6.36, 7.11).

All but 14 games of that (a mid-season move to the Yankees) has been in Major League Baseball's hitters' B-League.

With numbers like that, Chacon reacted to a bullpen demotion by trying to choke his GM. With numbers like that and a reaction like that, he'll be lucky to get a gig with another major league team. On most teams those numbers are number 4/5 starter sort of numbers. A front-end guy can afford to be an asshole - Schilling, Clemens, what have you. Those guys can be critical of the front office, because the team needs them. The guy with the career .425 winning percentage...he needs to be the good soldier.

My guess, if Chacon wants to keep getting paid to play baseball, it's going to have to be for an independent league team...either that or he's going to have to get used to saying, "would you like fries with that?"

On Pace...

The Red Sox are one game off of last year's pace with a 49-32 record half-way through the season. Last year they had 50 wins after 81 games.

The big difference - this year's AL East is more the beast that it once was.

This time last year the Sox were dominating the East, 10.5 games ahead of the second place Yankees and Blue Jays, 14.5 ahead of Baltimore and 17 ahead of Tampa Bay. That's an average lead of a little over 13 games over the rest of the AL East.

This season, with 49 wins, the average lead over the rest of an improved AL East is only a little over 5.8 games - half a game over second place Tampa, 5.5 over a resurgent Yankees team, 7 over Baltimore, and 10.5 over the best last place divisional team in the majors, Toronto.

A few basic observations - The Sox are putting up comparable numbers against better competition, a testament to the progression and development of the team's youth movement...particularly in relation to the pitchers. It's been a big part of the difference between the success of the Sox and the arch-rival Yankees.

A few thoughts about the state of the East before I get into the Yanks.

Overall, the Blue Jays, who loaded up before last season, appear to be right where they were this time last year, and I don't see that changing.

the Orioles have made some improvements from last year to this, but are still looking to future years and are likely to begin making moves to bring highly regarded prospects back in exchange for established major league talent. Expect at least one, if not a couple of the players to be traded between now and the deadline.

The Rays appear to be the biggest threat to the Sox at the moment, and I wouldn't be surprised to see them hanging around at the end of the season, vying for a playoff spot. However, I think they're likely to fade in the dog-days of August like many developing teams. Next season, however, they could be truly dangerous.

Which brings me to the Yankees...

The Yankees are making a push, I just don't buy that they have the horses to keep it going. Mike Mussina has been better this year than he has been for a while, and Chien-Ming Wang and Pettitte have been solid, but none have been an ace.

Mussina has been the best of the three with a 3.93 ERA, with Wang and Pettitte coming in at 4.07 and 4.04 respectively. Not exactly dominant.

And then there's the 4/5 positions. The Yankees briefly got some solid starts from Darrell Rasner, but, as I previously predicted, Rasner has come back to Earth. After starting his stint in the rotation 3-1 with a 1.80 ERA through those first four starts, Rasner has gone 1-4 and seen his ERA rise to 4.50. Three times over that span Rasner has given up at least four earned and twice has given up at least six.

Given that Rasner has never, on the Major League level, pitched more than 24.2 innings before this year (52 already), it's likely that he's just going to deteriorate as the season drags on.

Then there's Joba Chamberlain. Chamberlain might, one day, become an ace. He might not. But here's another one that will suffer the more innings he puts up. There will be issues for him as teams see him again, not to mention, as the innings he's not accustomed to pitching rack up.

The Yankees being the Yankees will make it interesting for a while, but in the end, they're going to come up short on pitching, and probably third in the East.


Suldog said...

I agree on the Yanks. TB will beat them out.

Kevin Smith said...

It's just not that good a pitching staff - the old guys are gonna show signs of their age - Moose already does from time to time - and none of the young guys has ever put up significant innings as starters. They're gonna fry out by the beginning of September. I'm guessing the end of the year standings are going to be -


the blue state blogger said...

"Mike Mussina has been better this year than he has been for a while, and Chien-Ming Wang and Pettitte have been solid, but none have been an ace."

Not to mention that Wang is, like, out for the next three months...

Kevin Smith said...

Yeah, there is that...and their solution, apparently, is Sid Ponson. Sure, he had a good first start, but does anyone really think that's gonna last?

Dave said...

The sad thing about Chacon is that he has talent. Just doesn't have the head to harness it.

Tampa is going to be GOOD in the years to come if they don't screw it up. The rumor about them bidding on Sabathia...I wonder how he'd do there.

the bluer state blogger said...

"their solution, apparently, is Sid Ponson."

Yeah, that made me laigh right out loud. He must have really blown them away with that 10.50 ERA he had with them last time around.