Monday, February 14, 2011

MLB Network's Top 10 Catchers Right Now; Suzuki Somehow Makes It

The cohesion of my affinity for MLB Network is obviously a result of the networks primary focus: baseball. As obvious as that may be, a lot of the decisions made in the "Top 10 Right Now" series has certainly reiterated a position of player-evaluation that works in sharp contrast with my own method. I'll admit that I may be helplessly biased toward the A's at times, but personally I only think two of the Athletics truly are in the top-10 at their positions right now. I'm well aware that MLB Network has also placed two Athletics in the Top-10 Right Now at their respective positions, (Andrew Bailey, and one I'll reveal after further reading). Obviously the A's strength is their pitching, and teams carry 5 starting-pitchers, (as opposed to one true starter at each non-pitching position) making it much harder for Anderson, Cahill, and Gio to crack the top 10 (which they did not). I'm actually completely fine with that. I think Tim Lincecum and Felix Hernandez are both better than Cliff Lee, while Josh Johnson and David Price probably could have been closer to the top as well, but the list wasn't necessarily "controversial" by any means.

Ironically, what's bothered me most is the one position-playing Oakland Athletic that did make a list - Kurt Suzuki. Now don't get me wrong, I love any national publicity for any Athletic. I don't dislike Suzuki one bit, but he was one of the worst-hitting MLB catchers to play in over 100 games last season, while throwing out just 21% of would-be base stealers. On the other hand, Daric Barton had the second-best WAR among AL 1st-basemen, and fails to get mentioned. That didn't surprise me at all, as I'm not expecting MLBN to start using WAR as their primary metric, but Barton was easily the most valuable position-player in Oakland last season. He was arguably the best defensive 1st-baseman in baseball last year (unarguably by UZR). He walked more than anyone in the AL, and finished second overall in walks to Prince Fielder. I wont start a petition for Barton to be on the list, but when Suzuki makes it based on Jeter-like intangible, "little-thing" nonsense, like handling his young pitching staff, it's unsettling to know Barton was left off.

Here's what the Top-10 Catchers Right Now looked like for the curious ones...
10. Matt Wieters
9. Kurt Suzuki
8. John Buck
7. Carlos Ruiz
6. Carlos Santana
5. Yadier Molina
4. Victor Martinez
3. Brian McCann
2. Buster Posey
1. Joe Mauer

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

MLB Network's Top 50 Calls All-Time

I was trying to search for some of MLB Network’s “Top 50” countdowns online and I noticed I couldn’t find much. Here’s what I was able to gather from their top 50 broadcasted calls of all time. I didn’t get the idea to write them down until #22, so the details are scarce on a lot of them and unfortunately there’s some I’m completely missing. For some I was only able to note the team, but for all the ones from #22 and below, I was able to gather the announcer too. Sadly, some may be upset that I was able to provide less detail regarding the moment following #22, and for that I apologize.

Unfortunately, as this is an A’s blog, there was not one Athletics call on the countdown, though there were a couple done in a game the A’s experienced some famous misfortune. It’s a shame Bill King isn’t admired a lot more posthumously – I definitely expected to see Scott Hatteberg’s walk-off to seal the 20th consecutive victory in 2002, as it was truly unforgettable (both the call and the moment). Despite that, I’m surprised at least one of Ken Korach’s calls weren’t on the list. They couldn’t easily put Tejada’s walk-off home run off Eddie Guardado in the 17th consecutive win as one of the better calls ever, and the same goes with Braden’s perfect game. My perceived injustice is only magnified by the presence of Hawk Harrelson’s call of Mark Buehrle’s perfect game, in which he screamed “Alexei,” and subsequently screamed “YES.” Quite profound for the vocabulary-impaired, I suppose. I thought technical play-by-play involved painting a picture of some sort. Either way, the subjectivity involved in a national network’s countdown tends to leave the less-noticed teams near the bottom, or in this case, entirely off the list.

Despite that, it’s hard not to love MLB Network. Since I failed in collecting the announcer for each call, I listed what information I did have, starting with the team in which the call focuses on. Here’s the list...

MLB Networks Top 50 Calls of All Time

50. Detroit Tigers: Armando Galarraga’s near perfect game in 2010

49. Houston Astros: Chris Burke walk-off HR in the 18th inning

48. Chicago White Sox: Scott Podsednik walk-off in 2005 World Series

47. San Francisco Giants: Jon Miller calls Barry Bonds’ 71st HR

46. Atlanta Braves: Jayson Heyward HR in 1st MLB plate appearance

45. Milwaukee Brewers: Bob Uecker calls Ryan Braun HR vs. Cubs

44. Arizona Diamondbacks: Luis Gonzalez GW-single off Mariano Rivera in Game 7 of 2001 WS

43. New York Yankees: Chris Chambliss HR at Yankee Stadium, crowd storms field

42. ???

41. New York Mets: Endy Chavez robs HR in Game of 2006 NLCS

40. Chicago White Sox: Ken Harrelson calls final out of Mark Buehrle’s perfect game

39. New York Mets: Jesse Orosco K’s Marty Barrett to win 86’ WS in Game 7

38. Cincinnati Reds: Pete Rose breaks all-time hit record

37. Montreal Expos: Final out of Dennis Martinez’ perfect game

36. Detroit Tigers: Kirk Gibson hits HR off Goose Gossage in 84’ WS

35. St. Louis Cardinals: Willie McGee’s 2nd HR of Game 3 in 82’ WS

34. New York Yankees: Bucky Dent HR in 1978 AL East Tiebreaker at Fenway Park

33. ???

32. ???

31. New York Mets: Robin Ventura’a Grand Slam single in Game 5 of 99’ NLCS

30. Boston Red Sox: Joe Buck calls Red Sox’ final out of 2004 WS vs. St Louis

29. Chicago Cubs: Ernie Banks’ 500th career home run

28. San Francisco Giants: Either Jon Miller or Duane Kuiper call Bonds’ 756th HR, sets all-time record

27. St. Louis Cardinals: Jack Buck calls Mark McGwire’s 62nd HR to set single-season record

26. ???

25. Boston Red Sox: Joe Buck calls David Ortiz’ walk-off HR in Game 4 of 04’ ALCS

24. ???

*23. New York Mets: Bill Buckner’s E3 in 1986 WS

22. St. Louis Cardinals: Harry Caray’s call in October of 1964

21. New York Yankees: Phil Rizzuto’s call in September of 1961

20. St. Louis Cardinals: Jack Buck’s call on September 9, 1998

19. Boston Red Sox: Dick Stockton calls 1975 World Series

18. Atlanta Braves: Skip Caray’s call of Francisco Cabrera driving in Sid Bream in the 92’ NLCS vs. PIT

17. Seattle Mariners: Dave Niehaus calls 1995 ALDS

16. Seattle Mariners: Dave Niehaus calls Griffey Jr. scoring to win 95’ ALDS vs. NYY

15. Los Angeles Dodgers: Vin Scully in September, 1965

14. New York Yankees: Vin Scully calls final out of Don Larsen’s perfect game in Game 7 of 56’ WS

13. Philadelphia Phillies: Harry Kalas calls Mike Schmidt’s 500th HR

12. Los Angeles Dodgers/ Brooklyn Dodgers: Red Barber calls 1947 WS

11. Minnesota Twins: Jack Buck calls Kirby Puckett’s walk-off HR to force Game 7 of 1991 WS

10. San Francisco Giants/ NY Giants: Jack Brickhouse calls Willie Mays’ catch in 1954 WS

9. Boston Red Sox: Al Michaels calls Dave Parker’s HR against Angels in 86’ ALCS

*8. New York Mets: Vin Scully calls Buckner play in 86’ WS vs BOS

7. Toronto Blue Jays: Tom Cheek calls Joe Carter’s walk-off HR to win 93’ WS

6. Atlanta Braves: Milo Hamilton calls Hank Aaron’s 715th HR to set all-time record on 4-8-74 (A’s won WS that year)

5. St. Louis Cardinals: Jack Buck calls Ozzie Smith’s HR in 85’ NLCS (“Go crazy folks!”)

4. Pittsburgh Pirates: Mel Allen calls Bill Mazeroski’s walk-off HR in Game 7 of 1960 WS vs. NYY

*3. Los Angeles Dodgers: Vin Scully calls Kirk Gibson’s walk-off HR in Game 1 of 1988 WS vs. OAK

*2. Los Angeles Dodgers: Jack Buck calls Kirk Gibson’s walk-off HR in Game 1 of 1988 WS vs. OAK

1. San Francisco Giants/ NY Giants: Russ Hodges calls Bobby Thompson’s “shot heard around the world”

(*play appears twice)

Monday, February 7, 2011

Strengthened Bullpen Solidifies Formidable Staff; Additions Make for Serious Spring

The additions of both Grant Balfour and Brian Fuentes may not be earth shattering news within the baseball world, perhaps with the exceptions of those living either Down Under or in Merced, but the righty and lefty off-season acquisitions bolster a relief corps that finished 6th in the AL in ERA in 2010, and perhaps more importantly, a pitching staff that finished 1st.

Andrew Bailey, the Oakland anchor, is getting a solid foundation in 2011, thanks to GM Billy Beane

The road to recovery from Tommy John Surgery may prove to be just one of a few obstacles both Josh Outman and Joey Devine will face this spring. Outman, who’s been out since June of 2009, is considered one of the top candidates for the 5th starter job, while Devine looks to stake his claim in the Oakland bullpen, despite not having made an appearance since his stellar 08’ campaign. Outman’s candidacy is likely to be challenged by the returning Rich Harden, and former White Sox prospect Brandon McCarthy. LHP Bobby Cramer could also prove to be a dark horse, as could Tyson Ross, and were both formerly accompanied by RHP Clayton Mortensen, who was recently sent to Colorado in exchange for fellow righty Ethan Hollingsworth.

LHP Jerry Blevins may be the most obvious and likely odd man out in the wake of the Balfour and Fuentes additions, the predominance of righties in the pen could help his chances. Unfortunately, the names Balfour, Fuentes, Bailey, Devine, Breslow, Wuertz, Ziegler, Blevins, Harden, McCarthy, and Outman are all viable candidates for the pen, (possibly one of the last three if they don’t win the 5th spot) but 6 relievers tends to be the maximum in the AL. That likely means four, but possibly five proven pitchers may find themselves on the short end of the stick, and somewhere other than Oakland to start the 2011 season.