I read an amusing little piece of drivel today, in which Braves manager Bobby Cox was apparently quoted as saying that if Ryan Howard is worth $25 million per year, then Albert Pujols is worth $50 million a year, because Pujols is twice as good as any other player in baseball.
Bobby Cox has been around long enough that he’s entitled to pop off once in a while, but it’s still a silly statement. If you were building a team, would you take Pujols over Tim Lincecum and Roy Halliday? Would you take Pujols over Chase Utley and Joe Mauer? Obviously not.
One player just doesn’t make that much of a difference. For example, last year the Twins had a fine year, finishing the regular season with the 11th best record in baseball, which was just good to win the AL Central. Meanwhile, the Twins had the league MVP in Joe Mauer, a former MVP in Justin Morneau and the best closer in baseball Joe Nathan (in a bad year for Nathan — he had a 2.10 ERA — he saved 47 games). The Twins still only finished with the 11th best record in baseball.
Speaking of the Twins, Francisco Liriano pitched eight shutout innings to beat Justin Verlander and the Tigers 2-0 tonight. Enjoy it while it lasts, Twins fans, enjoy it while it lasts.
If Liriano is pitching like he did in 2006, it almost certainly means that his nuclear slider is back. If his nuclear slider is back, it’s almost certainly just a matter of time before he blows out his elbow tendon again. Eventually, baseball surgeons will start installing friction-free titanium elbow joints when they perform Tommy John procedures so that pitchers won’t blow out the next elbow ligament as easily.
Stephen Strasburg threw five no-hit innings for the AA Harrisburg Senators today. The Nationals are carefully watching his pitch count, as Strasburg only threw 64 pitches. That’s almost embarrassingly low for his fourth start of the season while pitching a no-hitter. One thing is for certain, however. It’s not too soon to promote Strasburg to AAA.
I was glad to see that Johan Santana and the Mets beat the Dodgers tonight. Aside from the Dodgers losing, which is always a good thing, I’m a fan of Santana. Santana was one of the best pitchers in baseball, if not the very best, up until his injury problems last year, and I’m glad to see him back pitching the way he can so far this season.
One thing that is going to hurt Santana when it comes to comparing him to the all-time greats (assuming he goes on to pitch into at least his late 30’s) is his inability to finish games, even when compared to his contemporaries. Santana only has nine complete games in 238 career starts, which is low even by current standards. Roy Halladay, who is the modern-day iron man, has 51 complete games in his career, and C.C. Sabathia has 30.
The inability to finish games has made itself felt in Santana’s wins total. With 124 careers wins at this point in his career (Santana is 31 this year), it is extremely unlikely that Santana will win 300 games, unless he pitches well past age 40.
Another player I was rooting for, Scott Atchison, just got sent down to the minors. Atchison was a pitcher with great stuff who found his command too late for major league teams to show much interest. He spent the previous two years in Japan, where he was terrific. He signed with the Red Sox this year and had an ERA over 6.00 after seven appearances.
I’m not giving up on Scott just yet, however. He was awfully good the last four seasons in AAA and Japan, and I think that even at age 34, he’s got some good pitching left. How much, I don’t know, but I think he’ll at least earn his way back to the majors.
You often hear it said that a great closer is of more value to a good team than a bad one. I don’t think I agree with that. The really good teams win a lot of blow outs. The bad teams, on the other hand, win a higher percentage of their victories by close scores.
This year’s Nationals may be a prime example. They won tonight to improve to 11-10. Washington’s closer Matt Capps picked up his ninth save of the young season. Obviously, Capps could not save nine of eleven victories, unless at least nine of the Nats’ eleven victories were won by small margins.
If Capps keeps pitching the way he has so far, he might be the difference between the Nats finishing four games above .500 instead of four games below .500. That may not seem like a lot (and it really isn’t). However, everyone in Washington would be much happier with an 83-79 finish than a 79-83 finish.
Actually, on further consideration, I think 81-81 versus 77-85 is probably more likely. However, the point remains the same. The Nats and their fans will be much happier with the former than the latter.
In a final note, Todd Wellemeyer finally pitched the way he did in Spring Training, and the Giants beat the Phillies and Jamie Moyer tonight. Slow-ball pitchers like Moyer traditionally give the Giants fits. The Giants have traditionally been a fastball hitting team, who don’t deal well with control pitchers who change speeds and work the corners.
It remains to be seen whether the Giants’ success against Moyer tonight means that the Giants have improved against this type of pitcher or simply that Moyer is finally approaching the end of the line. I tend to suspect the latter.