That Aardsma and Branyan didn;t make it this year. First they both need the rest, especially Aardsma. And as we saw in the Yankee series I think Russell is starting to press, so a three day fishing trip might just be what the doctor ordered. Plus if Branyan was in the All star game he would probably also want to be in the HR derby, and it seems like a lot of times guys that are in that slump badly in the second half. I know I haven't done a study or figured out why that is, that is just my general impression. Thatguys have so many HR's in their bat, so why waste them on an exhibition display. Maybe that is naive, but it is the way I feel :)
When I was a boy, I spent many years dealing with frustration over what most of the kids in my age group foud appealling. The folks that were popular always seemed shallow, cruel, uninteresting or worse. Everything turns into a popularity contest when you're 12, and for those of us (myself included) who were never winnners at that game as kids, the sting is with us always. That's why I've spent so many hours arguing with Yankee fans about Jeter's defense. As one prominent sabermetrician (as Dr. D likes to call us, saber-dweebs aren't generally the popular kids in school...LOL) put it, Jeter gets way more girls than his merit as a ballplayer should allow, and that is quite frustrating. :)
I will get embroiled for days on end in debates over who belongs in the hall of fame and almost always, it comes down to merit vs. popularity when I disagree with the baseball writers, the fans and the media in general. The same thing happens to me every year around this time when the All-star rosters are announced and I see a half dozen guys who have absolutely no business being there based on merit but who are popular players for whatever reason. I came here earlier tonight intending to write a long piece decrying the all-star selection process for several reasons:
Manager Selection - The winner of last year's league pennant gets to pick 8 players without any oversight...inevitably, a few of his current team members end up on the roster whether they really belong there or not. Cronyism...I can't stand it.
Media Market Bias - Every year there are 5 or 6 Red Sox, 5 or 6 Yankees, etc...guys on big market teams get more representation than they should and it drives me bananas.
Multiple fan ballots - Who came up with the idea that everyone gets to vote 22 times? What this does is create unstoppable two-team battles, usually between the Yankees and Red Sox in the quest to see who can stuff the ballot boxes the most and get their players in the starting line-up, whether they belong or not
Poor Selection Criteria - Don't get me wrong...I think there is more truth in conventional wisdom than a lot of saber-dweebs might be willing to concede, but particularly when it comes to the selection of pitchers, it seems the players and managers are picking their pitchers based primarily on wins, saves and ERA and this is a constant source of frustration to someone who knows the problems with those stats.
OK...so I ranted a little bit, you'll have to bear with me...I can't help myself! But I promise...that's the end of my whining. After thinking about it today, I have decided that the sanguin mind is the happy one. The all-star game is for the fans. We want to see the players we love on display, argue about the guys we feel got snubbed, see some quality baseball between the game's best and brightest, and there is no getting aroud the fact that it HAS to be a popularity contest for the largest number of fans to be satisfied with it.
I could grumble about what the heck guys like Tim Wakefield and Brian Fuentes are doing on this team. I could complain about Mark Buehrle or Michael Young or Josh Hamilton (hurt for most of the year!) or Mark Teixeira getting in ahead of Russell Branyan despite Branyan having a clearly superior season thus far, etc. But the bottom line is...the fans want to see Teixeira and Youkilis and Wakefield and Beckett...Young and Hamilton and Jeter...that's what the game is about.
I have personally lost interest in the all-star game...I don't think the players take it as seriously as they used to...I don't think the media coverage of the event is particularly well done anymore etc. And yes, perhaps the fact that it's a popularity contest still leaves a bad taste in my mouth sometimes. But let the fans have their fun...I'll have mine the way I always do...by picking the all-star roster myself using a merit-based system. The game itself is just a game these days...the intellectual puzzle is a lot more appealing. And yes...I know that makes me a geek. I'm alright with that. :)
BTW, just for my own fun...this is the roster I would have picked, even constraining myself to the fan vote as a given and to the roster construction rules of this game (each team must have one player, there must be at least 18 position players and 12 pitchers and the total player pool must be 32 guys with a 33rd man getting in by fan vote)
STARTERS as voted:
- C) Joe Mauer (MIN)
- 1B) Mark Teixeira (NYA)
- 2B) Dustin Pedroia (BOS)
- 3B) Evan Longoria (TBA)
- SS) Derek Jeter (NYA)
- LF) Jason Bay (BOS)
- CF) Josh Hamilton (TEX)
- RF) Ichiro (SEA)
RESERVE POSITION PLAYERS:
- C) Vic Martinez (CLE)
- 1B) Kevin Youkilis (BOS)
- 1B) Justin Morneau (MIN)
- 2B) Ben Zobrist (TBA)
- 3B) Alex Rodriguez (NYA)
- 3B) Miguel Cabrera (DET)
- SS) Jason Bartlett (TBA)
- OF) Torii Hunter (LAA)
- OF) Jermaine Dye (CHA)
- OF) Adam Jones (BAL)
- OF) Adam Lind (TOR)
- SP) Zach Greinke (KCA)
- SP) Felix Hernandez (SEA)
- SP) Roy Halladay (TOR)
- SP) Justin Verlander (DET)
- SP) Edwin Jackson (DET)
- SP) C.C. Sabathia (NYA)
- SP) Kevin Millwood (TEX)
- SP) Josh Beckett (BOS) - 33rd man
- CL) Mariano Rivera (NYA)
- CL) David Aardsma (SEA)
- CL) Andrew Bailey (OAK)
- CL) Jonathan Papelbon (BOS)
- CL) Joe Nathan (MIN)
- CL) Bobby Jenks (CHA)
Don't players generally get bonuses for things like All-Star appearances? That's why I want Branyan to get in. He deserves the extra cash for the year he's had.
Though if that isn't the case I don't mind The Muscle getting a few days off with this mini-slump he's in.
More credit to Wak and his staff:
Here's what Washburn said about his season: "This year is the best stuff I've ever had. I've always had a two-seam fastball but it never sunk before. The mechanical adjustment I made in spring training with the help of Rick (Adair, the pitching coach) and Wette (John Wetteland, the bullpen coach) has paid ooff. My two-seamer sinks and I'm getting out a little farther on the ball. It helps my breaking bal, too. That's what I owe it all to is that mechanical adjustment.''
Don Wakamatsu: "I think he's pitching as good as I've ever seen him. Even back in the World Series in 2002, I thought he tried to power guys; he pitches now, he has more command of certain pitches. You see a lot of left-handers as they get a little older, they get a little more crafty, but he still has good velocity on his fastball, and he's starting to understand to maybe soften it a little, use his sinker, use his breaking ball to pitch.
It doesn't necessarily mean squat, but here's the series of seasons Jamie Moyer started running at age 34 (same as Wash now) (in OPS+):
116, 130, 130, 86, 121, 128, 132
Jamie's smarter, but Wash has more velocity. Interesting.
I know it's not popular to conclude this...but after seeing the man pitch the whole first half at this level...granted he's not a 3.08 ERA pitcher, but I believe he's more than capable of running 3 or 4 more 3.50 to 4.25 ERA seasons if we keep running Gutierrez and Ichiro out there in the OF.
We are going to have enough problems plugging rotation holes in the coming year...I don't want to have to replace Washburn with our best in-house option being Vargas.
I've always liked Washburn - even when he was losing. But, the question of extending him, I think, is tricky, because when things are going well, it is VERY hard to divest oneself of the positive emotions generated from watching your own team win games behind someone. So, how do you temper that emotion? I was thinking that the idea here is to go and find a similar pitcher, (numerically), from another team, and mull over how eager you would be to go collect him in FA. Who out there is matching Washburn? (you can pick your own metrics, of course - this is for illustrative purposes).
By FIP, Wash is posting a 3.91, (but Wash has typically skewed positive to his FIP). Who is near him?
Gil Meche (3.99), Brian Bannister (4.00), Nick Blackburn (4.03). Mark Buehrle (4.09). Carl Pavano (3.75). Mixed bag. But, if you'd be happy netting these guys, then going after Wash makes some sense. If not, then that's the info that warns that transient emotions 'may' be overwhelming judgement.
That said, my only personal qualm about Wash is age. At 34, he's not likely done. But, the odds of injury and loss of oomph grow larger. But, with the rest of the staff being young, it's not an overwhelming concern. Years on the contract would be my sticking point. I think Wash is a type of pitcher more likely to be Moyer than Batista -- but that doesn't mean he cannot hit the age wall like Batista did.
The real question I have is this -- given the year he's having, shouldn't his salary demands be VERY high? This is likely his last chance for a large payday. Enjoying his 2009 season may help some, but it's not unreasonable for him to expect a raise, (even in this market), if he has a 2nd half like his first. Given his career, he projects to be an upper 3s, low 4s pitcher, (if you've got decent defense behind him). If you're league leading, yeah, he can post a low 3s ERA - like he's doing.
Considering what the team has done with guys like Vargas and Olson, I'm not entirely convinced that investing significant money in Washburn is worth it. Of course, you've gotta make a decision on Bedard, too.
If signing Washburn costs too much to allow us to sign Bedard...then no to Washburn as much as I am enjoying his 2009...we need to sign Bedard.
If ZBedard won't sign, then we absolutely *MUST* sign Washburn...or our 2010 pitching staff is going to suck. Vargas and Olson can't keep this up...there's just no way. Morrow and Felix only add up to two pitchers I want in my long term plans...we need to be building around more than two pitchers.
On your list of guys similar to Washburn's ability, that only furthers my interest in Washburn long term...Buehrle, Blackburn...those are top-20-in-the-league pitchers...one of them made the all-star team. Washburn isn't a superstar, but winning teams need winning #3s.
There are tons and tons of quality pitchers available in any offseason, whether they are free agents, established guys who their team is looking to dump or guys who have flown under the radar. There is no reason to get locked into Washburn, Z is perfectly capable of finding a quality replacement. A 35-year old mediocre pitcher is not the player you wrestle with Scot Boras to get.