Michael/Male/26-30. Lives in United States/Pennsylvania/Wexford/Christopher Wren, speaks English. Spends 20% of daytime online. Uses a Fast (128k-512k) connection. And likes baseball /politics.
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United States, Pennsylvania, Wexford, Christopher Wren, English, Michael, Male, 26-30, baseball , politics.

Friday, January 07, 2005

What's in a name?  

"What's in a name? That which we call a rose by any other word would smell as sweet."

Romeo and Juliet, Act II, Scene 2.

Well, Juliet was wrong, because as it turns out names mean a lot to the city of Anaheim. The Anaheim Angels are seeking to change their name from the Anaheim Angels to the “Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim”, so the city has filed a temporary restraining order in Federal Court to enjoin them from doing so. The Angels name flip isn’t their first: despite never moving from Southern California since their creation in 1961, the Angels have changed their geographic name often, having been the “California Angels” from 1965 to 1996, the “Anaheim Angels” from 1997 to now, and they want to return (sort of) to the moniker they had from 1961 to 1964.

I hope the city of Anaheim is successful. Here’s why:

1. The new name, “Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim”, is unwieldy, confusing and stupid. Are we going to start calling the Mets the "New York Mets of Queens"? The "Philadelphia Phillies of Broad Street"? It sounds bad. It sounds stupid.

2. The Angels don’t really play in Los Angeles. Sure, they essentially play in a suburb of LA, but people know where the city of Anaheim is and it is a slap in the face to the good citizens and taxpayers of Anaheim to call the team the Los Angeles Angels.

Click here to read more about the controversy.

Check out the always informative Aaron Gleeman's thoughts on Eva Longoria's professed love of sports. Also, click here for an article from the Inquirer about a Phillies fan currently being prosecuted for highjacking people's computers to launch cyberattacks to protest the team's personnel decisions. As I read this article I began to think about what might happen if a fan or a collection of fans were to band together and launch cyber attacks on the websites of rival teams. E.g., Red Sox fans outraged by the Yankees spending, spending, spending, decide to have some fun during the 2005 season with the Yankees ability to process ticket requests. A cyber war within baseball? Anyway, check it out.

With the Tigers out of the Carlos Beltran hunt, and the Astros having made their final offer, it seems likely that the contenders for Beltran's affections will dwindle to the Mets or the Yankees this weekend. He'll sign a seven year deal with the Mets next week. Ugh. Beltran, Pedro: the Mets might be hurting in future years, but they could have a good team for next year.

Monday: some thoughts on the weekend’s playoff games, and some thoughts on Phillies baseball. I'm working on an re-evaluation of Larry Bowa's managing, and I might surprise people with my conclusions.

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Thursday, January 06, 2005

The Doldrums II.... 

As I said yesterday, these are the doldrums of the baseball year: the game isn’t being played, preseason is a month away, and the off-season moves are essentially done with. I’m busy with some topics that I’m drafting up, but I don’t have any profound thoughts on the Phillies.

However, last night Alias returned from a seven month hiatus to kick off its fourth season with a two hour episode that essentially served as a platform to relaunch the show.

For those unfamilar with the show: Alias airs on Wednesday nights at 9 on ABC. The show, in a nutshell, is about CIA agent Sydney Bristow (Jennifer Garner) balancing her life with her work as a spy.

I’ve been a fan of Alias since it began: I am a big fan of spy genre stuff. I practically know some 007 films by heart (particularly the Connery films), I loved the first Mission: Impossible movie (hated the second), and if I had time I’d watch MI-5 on A&E. I love the heroic derring-do, the thrill of espionage, the cat-and-mouse games spys play in the movies and on TV. Alias is, as my wife describes it, a female James Bond. Monogamous, no British accent, and with a decent number of Sarah McLachlan songs on the soundtrack, Alias is still very Bond-ish: shoot-outs, lies and deceit around every corner. It’s a great show.

I’d give last night’s episode three out of four stars. Not as good as the post-Super Bowl episode two years ago, but still pretty great. For those not in the know: the third season of the show closed off with Sydney’s on-again / off-again lover killing his treacherous ex-wife, who told Sydney as she died of a safety deposit box in a German bank. Sydney retrieved the box and learned of a shocking secret, of which her father Jack (her boss at the CIA) told her she “was never supposed to find out”.

As I said, the episode relaunched the show: creator J.J. Abrams apparently realized that last year’s dramatic plot twists (Sydney vanishing for two years at the end of season two, Vaughn’s marriage and revelation about his wife’s true allegiance) had wrecked havoc on the show and that Alias needed to re-emphasize Sydney’s personal life. Adding Sydney’s half-sister to the cast is a good idea: lots of family pathos there for them to explore. The big secret was revealed in last night’s show – Jack killed Sydney’s mother (to save Sydney’s life) – is obviously going to be the big plot line of the first half of the season, since Sydney’s sister vowed to avenge Mom’s death. It’s a twisted story and you can see that it is going to end with Sydney and her sister fighting it out.

The genius of Alias, and the reason why it’s still a great show, is its ability to reinvent itself. The Super Bowl episode two years ago stunned fans of the show by destroying the show’s villians and cracking the paradigm plot of Sydney working for the CIA as a double agent inside a terrorist organization called SD-6. Last year’s two-year absence mystery shook things up (for the worse as it turned out, as Vaughn put it, the last year “sucked”). The re-emphasis of family ties and Sydney’s new job working for the CIA’s block ops unit APO (under the show’s former villian, SD-6 boss Sloane) will provide the producers with a lot of interesting stories for year four. I can’t wait to see what happens.

Tomorrow, some baseball.

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Wednesday, January 05, 2005

Best o' the Best 

Over the summer, during one of my (few) breaks in studying for the bar exam, I watched a Pirates game during which the Bucs shortstop Jack Wilson made a spectacular play. “What a play,” the Pirates broadcaster exaulted, “from the best shortstop in the National League!” Wilson had just been selected to the All-Star game, the first time the Pirates had a starter at the All Star game since … I don't know … Anyway, Wilson had a terrific year for the Pirates, hitting .308 (sixty-two points higher than his career average of .246 going into the 2004 season) and playing great defense at short.

But when I was compiling my Season In Review, I was struck by how good a season Jimmy Rollins had for the Phillies. He played great and yet he got little recognition for his achievements in the media. Wilson got the NL Glove Glove at short and the accolades for a great season. But who was really the NL’s best shortstop? Did Rollins fly under the media’s radar because he played his best baseball after the All-Star break, while Wilson played his before? Who is the National League's best shortstop?

Here is a comparison between Jimmy Rollins and Jack Wilson, starting with Win Shares:

NL SS: Win Shares / Win Shares Above Average
Rollins (PHI): 26 / +7
Izturis (LA): 25 / +6
Wilson (PIT): 23 / +4
Greene (SD): 21 / +5
Furcal (ATL): 21 / +4

Rollins has the edge here, but largely because he turned in such a great performance at the plate in 2004:

Batting Win Shares:
Rollins: 20.8
Izturis: 18.2
Greene: 15.4
Furcal: 14.0
Wilson: 13.5

Wilson had the edge in the field:

Fielding Win Shares / Fielding Win Shares per 1,000 Innings
Wilson: 9.3 / 6.9 FWS 1,000
Gonzalez (FLA): 7.8 / 5.8 FWS 1,000
Izturis: 7.1 / 5.1 FWS 1,000
Furcal: 7.0 / 6.2 FWS 1,000
Counsell (MIL): 5.7 / 5.0 FWS 1,000
Greene: 5.6 / 4.7 FWS 1,000
Rollins: 4.9 / 3.6 FWS 1,000

It caught me by surprise that Rollins was rated so low defensively here. More conventional defensive stats give him a much higher rating:

Fielding Percentage:
Clayton (COL): .986
Rollins: .986
Izturis: .985
Renteria: .983
Counsell: .983
Wilson: .977

Fielding percentage certainly gives Rollins a significant edge: he’s just a little behind the league leader, the Rockies Royce Clayton. Wilson, meanwhile, is sixth. However, Fielding Percentage is a stat that I don’t give much attention to because it doesn’t measure a player’s real defensive contribution to the team: his defensive range. Here is a Zone Rating, a stat that measures a player’s ability to deal with balls hit into his “zone”.

Zone Rating:
Izturis: .881
Gonzalez: .862
Wilson: .859
Rollins: .858
Renteria: .855

Jack Wilson actually has a slight edge here, although I found myself thinking that I had to revise my conclusions and award the “best shortstop in the NL” award to the Dodgers Izturis.

It was at the plate that Rollins did his best work in 2004. Here is how Wilson and Rollins stacked up offensively:

Rollins / Wilson / Advantage
BA: .289 / .308 / Wilson: .019
OBP: .348 / .335 / Rollins: .013
SLG: .455 / .459 / Wilson: .004
GPA: .264 / .264 / ---
ISO: .166 / .150 / Rollins: .016
RC: 108 / 87 / Rollins: 21
BA w/ RISP: .313 / .270 / Rollins: .043

A few observations … I was surprised by how little difference there is between Wilson’s BA and his OBP: if I were the Pirates I’d be worried about Wilson’s production in 2005. A player who doesn’t draw walks with any consistency is going to be prone to slumps. Wilson doesn't draw walks. When he slumps, he'll do badly.

Rollins got on base more, was more of a threat to steal (30 steals to Wilson’s 8) and had more raw power at the plate (e.g., his .016 isolated power advantage). Rollins also created more runs for the Phillies: 108 to 87 and hit forty-three points higher with runners in scoring position. Offensively, Wilson might have had a career year, but Rollins was the better bat.

If I were the Pirates I’d worry about Wilson in 2005: he hit forty points lower after the All-Star break (.332 v. .279) and lost one hundred points on his slugging percentage (.501 to .407). Was Wilson’s 2004 a career year, never to be repeated; or was it simply improvement? I suspect a little of both. I can’t see Wilson hitting .300 again, but he’ll be a solid .275 hitter in 2005. To be a real threat at the plate, however, he needs to improve his ability to draw walks.

Rollins didn’t have a career year in 2004. Rollins season was really the culmination of a long path towards improved play, namely his newfound discipline at the plate thanks to the tutiledge of the great Tony Gwynn. I liked what I saw from Rollins: he actually stepped up his play after the break and seemed to play better as the season progressed. I think he’ll hit well leading off for the Phillies.

Here's how Bill James and Baseball Information Solutions projects each player will do in 2005 at the plate:

Wilson: (p.380, 2005 Bill James Handbook)
.276 BA
.313 OBP
.389 SLG
.238 GPA
69 Runs Created
8 HR
30 2B

Rollins: (p.379)
.276 BA
.335 OBP
.429 SLG
.258 GPA
94 Runs Created
13 HR
40 2B

Certainly Bill James thinks Wilson is in for a fall in his numbers next year. Rollins to a lesser degree.

So who is the better shortstop? Let’s call it a tie. For now. I’d give Rollins a slight edge at the plate and I’d give Wilson the slight edge on the field. Check out the 2004 Value Over Replacement Player (VORP) stats for NL shortstops:

Rollins: 50.9
Wilson: 50.6
Furcal: 38.0
Greene: 37.6
Izturis: 29.7

Can't get much closer than that. Either way, I think it interesting that there are so many talented shortstops in the NL these days. Just a few years ago everyone talked about how great the AL shortstops were: Vizquel, Tejada, A-Rod, Jeter, Nomar … today I’d say that guys like Wilson and Rollins and Izturis and Greene are every bit as good as the AL’s superstar shortstops, if not better. I can’t wait to see who is going to be the best shortstop in 2005. This one will have people demanding a recount.

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Tuesday, January 04, 2005

The Doldrums... 

I’m back … My wife and I got back from Downingtown last night and are still busy unpacking from our trip back east. Took a trip to the Jersey shore, had a bad experience at the Things Remembered at the Exton Mall, searched vainly for discounted Eagles t-shirts (got a 2003 division title shirt for $4) and jerseys, saw a movie (Meet the Fockers: very funny), ate a ton of food at the Shady Maple in Lancaster County, and hung out with my family. It was a great trip. But now, back to work.

Phillies: all quiet on the Western Front. The team is essentially all set for the 2005 season. The only big questions in baseball now, with Randy Johnson going to the Yankees, is which New York team is going to land Carlos Beltran. My money is on the Mets.

So what’s next for A Citizen’s Blog? I had a post on NL shortstops I wrote before Xmas that I’ll post tomorrow. Then I plan to try some new research areas on defense and pitching that should be interesting for everyone to read, though I may not have content available for a week or two. My wife just gave me the 2005 Bill James Handbook as a sort of post-Xmas present, so I’m sure that will give me six or seven topics over the next week to write about.

These are the doldrums…

Eagles: I skipped watching the Bengals – Eagles game on Sunday, so I missed that ugliness. All I have to say about it is this: the Eagles should invest some money in the offseason in a backup QB, bump Detmer to No. 3 on the depth chart and bid adios to Jeff Blake … I like the NFC’s playoff seeding. Since Green Bay is No. 3, they can’t play the Eagles in the divisional round, so the Eagles will get to play the Seahawks, Vikings or Rams in round two, and all three teams are ones with significant flaws. The Vikings have their usual troubles with Randy Moss’ maturity and Culpepper’s consistency. The Seahawks are soft and prone to bone-headed collapses. The Rams? Not that talented anymore. They struggled to beat the Eagles B unit.

In all liklihood the Eagles will easily escape the divisional round. I’d be surprised if they don’t. The title game will be against the Pack or the Falcons. I think the Eagles can take ‘em, even without T.O.

Steelers: I think the Steelers are fortunate in their seeding as well. With the Colts No. 3, they will only play the AFC’s other two championship teams in the AFC title game. I can’t see the Broncos doing much. I like the Jets, but Pennington’s injury is a question mark. And I have no idea what to make of the Chargers. They could be good or awful. I can’t see any of them beating the Steelers.

Predictions: Seahawks over the Rams, 20-17; Packers over the Vikings, 28-10; Colts over Broncos, 38-13; and Jets over Chargers 17-16.

Pitt: yeah, my alma mater got blown out by Utah, but they did a good job in the first half staying with them. Who can argue that Utah isn’t the best team in the country? I challenge anyone to persuade me that they aren’t. They were fast, aggressive, innovative and very, very disciplined. Tonight I’ll watch the Orange Bowl, but I won’t be seeing the best teams in college football: I saw that team play New Year’s Day in the Fiesta Bowl.

More tomorrow.

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