12/25/09

Harper on Bay, Ventura, Harden, Tsao Chin-hui... and Mets 2010 Calendar

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Jason Bay:

They hold the 31-year old outfielder in high regard for his production as well as the way he handled the task of replacing Manny Ramirez in 2008. But they weren't willing to give him a five-year contract, and when Bay rejected their four-year, $60 million offer, they moved on. If Bay is willing to take that four-year deal now to stay with the Sox, the club will surely be tempted to make it work. However, barring another move, Bay's return basically would make Cameron a $7.75 million-a-year fourth outfielder. So we'll see. But obviously this doesn't bode well for the Mets. Of course, it's possible this is a ploy to get a fifth year and more money out of them, but considering that Urbon has been out of contact with the Mets this week, it seems more likely that Bay has serious reservations about playing in Citi Field, or for the Mets, or both. -  John Harper


Robin Ventura:

Robin Ventura reached the major leagues having already put together one of the greatest careers in the history of college baseball. The only position player ever to be a three-time first-team All-American, he won Baseball America's Freshman of the Year Award in 1986 and their College Player of the Year award in 1987—the year he set an NCAA record with a 58-game hitting streak—before taking the Golden Spikes Award in 1988. Oh, and that year he helped the United States win an Olympic gold medal in baseball. He was inducted into the College Baseball Hall of Fame in 2006.

The White Sox made Ventura the 10th pick of the 1988 draft, and within two years, he was their starting third baseman. He didn't make much impact during his rookie season, at one point enduring an 0-for-41 slump, but in 1991, his second, he hit .284/.367/.442, bopped 23 homers, won a well-deserved Gold Glove (+21 FRAA), and finished with 7.5 WARP, second only to Frank Thomas in a lineup that also included Carlton Fisk, Tim Raines, Sammy Sosa, and Ozzie Guillen. He topped that the next year, setting career highs with a .302 EqA and 8.6 WARP—second only to Thomas among AL hitters—thanks to +27 defense, another Gold Glove, and his first All-Star appearance.

Ventura averaged 5.4 WARP per year over the next four years, helping the Sox to a division flag in 1993 and taking part in one of baseball's most memorable one-sided brawls. When Nolan Ryan hit him with a pitch, Ventura made the mistake of charging the mound, where the 46-year-old pitcher got him in a headlock and opened up a Texas-sized can of Whoop-Ass, punching him six times in the head and stomach. "Going after Nolan is like going after the Lincoln Memorial," said Indians manager Mike Hargrove. Laughing about the fight later, Ventura admitted that he was rethinking his decision halfway to the mound. - BP


Rich Harden:

You can read Harden's line at least three ways, and they're not mutually exclusive, either. His ground balls allowed were hit harder than average. He was unlucky on ground balls. The Cubs defense took his days off, counting on strikeouts to win the day. No matter what, you'd expect things to get at least a little better for him in 2010, and that's without considering the potential impact of the two-seam fastball.

A brief thought on the two-seam's impact. My pitch classifications are not exhaustive, and I may be more likely to tag two-seamers as such for known sinkerballers, so there may be some selection bias....but my calculations show four-seam fastballs tend to yield a ground ball rate around 35 percent and two-seam's yield a 53 percent rate. That's topped only by splitters, at 56 percent. The best ground ball pitches are both pitches Harden used to throw regularly.

Wait and see

I'd take a little bit of optimism away from looking at these numbers. If Harden continues to regain his ground ball tendencies of old, he will have a better defense behind him to turn them into outs. And his luck could turn, too. Each little piece should save a tenth of a run here-and-there from his ERA. Harden of the 4.10 in the NL could easily be Harden of the 3.80 in the AL—more two-seamers, better defense, better luck is not too much to ask for, is it? And I haven't started talking about fly balls and home runs yet. - HBT


Tsao Chin-hui:

Ex-major leaguer Tsao Chin-hui still denies his involvement in the gambling probe despite investigators visiting him at his residence to interview him. It is also ironic that former President Chen Shui-bian and some of his family members are also being indicted on corruption (accepting bribes for favors) and money laundering charges. A society can be a reflection of their leaders. How can these players feel that what they did is wrong when they watch their leaders follow the same course of action. Also, ownership groups that make huge profits off a player’s wages and then unfairly compensate them is ripe for corruption. Everyone should read the history of the Black Sox scandal that was a black eye to major league baseball in 1919, especially those in Taiwan. It almost ruined the game, but with a strong commissioner major league was able to overcome.  -  chinapost 


2010 Mets Calendar:

Pictures on month pages:   March: Brian Schneider... August:  JJ Putz... and September:   Ryan Church, who was traded in July.

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