Wednesday

5-7-08 - Baseball Notes: GoGo Needs to Slow Down, Rockies Pull a First-to-Worst & Peek at the Picks


Hello again everybody...

Happy Hump-day to you all. I'll save my rant on why tomorrow (Thursday) is my least favorite day of the week. Suffice it to say that I'm good with Wednesdays. Especially when they're sunny like today!

So today I'm going to go over a rant that I've been pondering for a few weeks related to Twins CF Carlos Gomez. Then I'll take a look at the Colorado Rockies' swoon. Finally it's time for another "Peek at the Picks" segment.

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So let's dig into the batter's box and take a hack...

"Speed Kills". One of those legendary sports cliches. And it's true. Pick a sport, any sport, and the faster you can execute your skills, the better chance you have at success. That being said, speed at any and all costs can be a hindrance.

Enter Twins CF Carlos Gomez - or as his teammates have affectionately dubbed him, "GoGo".

Now don't get me wrong. I'm as big a fan of his effort and exuberance as the next guy. But the kid needs to slow down just a touch. He goes so hard, and expends so much effort that he loses control and ends up hurting the team. And if he's not careful, he's going to end up hurting himself.

Example 1: His offense. I love this kid's potential for being a lead-off hitter. His ability to bunt his way on base and create havoc with pitchers and defenses due to his base-stealing ability is fantastic. But you can't steal second if you don't get to first and you can't bunt every time. Part of being a quality lead-off hitter is pitch recognition. Knowing your strike zone and taking enough close pitches to earn more than your fair share of walks.

On-base percentage (OBP) is an important stat to look at in this regard. Ricky Henderson is widely regarded as being one of the greatest Lead Off Hitters/Base Stealers in MLB history. His career OBP is .401. That means in 40+% of his career Plate Appearances he got on base via a hit, walk or being hit by a pitch. Now .401 is way above average and I'm not asking Gomez to get there in only his second full season in the Big Leagues. But a solid lead-off hitter should end up somewhere around .350 at least. Right now Gomez has an OBP of .287. Not nearly good enough.

But if he slowed down a little, focused more in the batters box, and knocked off those head-first belly-flops into first base - which can only serve to get him dinged up, thereby hurting his performance at the plate even more - he could improve that statistic markedly.

Example 2: His defense. Twins fans will recall Torii Hunter flying around Center Field diving for balls and making spectacular catches. They'll also recall Torii, on occasion, uncorking a throw home that caused him to do a somersault after putting the entirety of his body into the throw.

So what's wrong with Carlos doing the same thing? The answer is that Carlos has yet to learn control.

You hear athletes talking about "playing on the edge". Often that "edge" refers to the line between putting out maximum effort and losing control. Effort becomes wasted when you lose control. Gomez has a great arm, and can get the ball wherever he chooses to throw it in a hurry. Unfortunately, he can't always get it where he wants it. And the most glaring example of that is when he does one of those ridiculous somersaults trying to throw home. The result far more often than not is the ball ending up somewhere near an On-Deck Circle.

But if he slowed down and let his natural athleticism take over, he could be much more accurate and see his Outfield Assists number rise substantially.

So Carlos... my man... slow down! Take it easy! You're in the Majors and you're not going anywhere. They're not going to send you down unless you crack a bone and need a rehab assignment. So calm down a little bit. You'll do yourself a major favor in the long run.

Next up I have to talk a little about the Colorado Rockies. I was one of many sucked in by the Rocks' magical ride into and through last year's playoffs. Last year's National League champs are now tied for the worst record in baseball.

12-21. 12 and freaking 21! The Texas Rangers, Washington Nationals, and Kansas City Royals - all traditional doormats - all have better records than a team that was in the World Series last October.

So how did this happen? It certainly hasn't been their offense. They're right in the middle of the pack in terms of Batting Average and Runs Scored. And their big thumpers are hitting. LF Matt Holiday's hitting .305 with 5 Home Runs and 19 RBI. 1B Todd Helton's hitting .278 with 3 Home Runs and 11 RBI. And 3B Garrett Atkins has actually ramped up his production from last year, hitting .319 with 6 Home Runs and 22 RBI. The offense is just fine.

And it isn't apparently their defense. They're second in the NL in Fielding having only committed 14 errors and also having turned 36 double-plays. No problems there.

That leaves one last option: pitching. And oh my are those numbers ugly. A team ERA of 4.87, 2nd-worst in the NL. 143 Walks, the most in the NL. Opponents Batting Average of .272, 2nd worst in the NL. 181 Runs allowed, also 2nd worst in the NL. And finally they've blown nearly half of their Save Opportunities, converting only 7 out of 13 times.

Yikes.

Jeff Francis, one of the Rockies stalwarts in last year's rotation is 0-3 this year with a 5.26 ERA. Manny Corpas who was lights-out as a closer in last year's playoffs is responsible for that ugly 7 of 13 Save Conversion stat this year. And don't forget the loss of the Hawk! LaTroy Hawkins is a Yankee this year. And while he's not killing the American League by any means, his departure has meant shifting guys in Colorado's bullpen into roles they're not necessarily suited for.

So how to fix it? When it's this bad, most of the fixing has to come internally. Guys have to step it up and figure out how to get back close to where they were last year. Rockie's GM Dan O'Dowd will certainly be keeping his eye open for potential trades, but this staff's more than a tweak or two away from being back in contending form.

I mentioned in my MLB Preview that I thought the Rocks would take a step backwards this year. But First-to-Worst?! I certainly didn't see that coming!

Finally, it's time for this week's "Peek at the Picks" segment. Here are your current division leaders along with my predictions:

AL East: Boston Red Sox (Dan's Pick: Boston)
Not much to say here. Boston's good. The rest of the division's not. God I hate the Red Sox!

AL Central: Minnesota Twins (DP: Detroit Tigers, 3.5 Games Behind)
The Twins are still in first! Okay, they're only a game ahead of the White Sox. And the Tigers are in the cellar of the division while being only 3.5 games back. But hey, Twins fans will take it!

AL West: Los Angeles Angels (DP: Seattle Mariners, 7.5 GB)
Oof. This is probably going to be my biggest flub. The M's are floundering while the Angels have put together a solid start to the year. The A's appear to be the Halos' only competition, but I think by the end of the year, L.A. walks with this division.

NL East: Florida Marlins/Philadelphia Phillies (DP: NY Mets, 1.5 GB)
The Fish are still hanging around this thing. The standard is that you wait til Memorial Day to figure out if a team is for real or not. I don't know where the Marlins will be in a few weeks, but they've certainly surprised me so far!

NL Central: St. Louis Cardinals (DP: Chicago Cubs, 3 GB)
The Cardinals are now a half-game behind the Diamondbacks for the best record in baseball. Color me flabbergasted. No way I would've predicted that! The Cubs are hanging around, but it looks like the Central's going to be contested late into the season.

NL West: Arizona Diamondbacks (DP: Arizona)
The D'backs have been fairly average of late. In fact, they're 5-5 in their last 10 games. Meanwhile the Dodgers have caught fire, going 9-1 in their last 10 to move to 3 games behind the Snakes. After that it drops off precipitously. If Joe Torre can keep the Dodgers rolling, this division might have a 2-team race after all!

That's it for today folks. Back on Friday with more Baseball wonder!

8 comments:

  1. Just idle curiosity - have any of your baseball related Takes _not_ included the line "God, I hate the Red Sox"?

    *grin*

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  2. Hmmm... I'd have to search the archives to be sure... but I think there might be 1 or 2 in there where I forgot to insert that line.

    Fortunately, I'm allowed to go back and edit these at any time!

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  3. GoGo bats the cycle, more on that Thursday, I'm sure.

    Slow down, indeed. :-)

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  4. You see what happens when players read my blog?! I'm an inspiration!

    The truth is that the cycle is the most over-rated achievement in baseball.

    Would you rather have him hit a single, double, triple and HR? Or 3 doubles and a HR? Or pick another similar combination?

    4-4 is great. But the cycle itself isn't terribly meaningful.

    When his OBP gets near .350, then you folks can tell me I was wrong.

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  5. Oh, hush. Just celebrate the coolness. Don't be so bourgeois. ;)

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  6. I calls em like I see em! To be a blind homer would defeat the purpose of the blog!

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  7. This blog has a purpose?!?

    You had to know I was going to say that; you just had to.

    ReplyDelete