Monday, July 20, 2009

John Smoltz and the Big Inning (Plus the Daily Updates)

John Smoltz wasn't exactly mowing them down tonight (although he did get his FB in the low '90s with movement), but he was plenty effective, through 5 IP he had allowed only 4 hits, 3Ks and no walks. Then it all fell apart - 2B, HR, K, 1B, K, HR, HR and he's gone. He ended up throwing 96 pitches in 5 2/3 innings.

This is not a new thing for Smoltz. In his July 6 start against the A's he allowed 4 in the 4th inning (although with less violence - no home runs). And in his first start of the season, against the Nationals (!!!) he allowed 4 in the first.

Scott Baker of the Twins is another guy who's been snakebitten by the curse of the "one big inning". In his 18 starts this season, he's allowed 3 runs or more in a single inning 10 times (including a 5 spot against the Royals). Baker's problem has mostly been the home run ball, with his HR/9IP rate way up over last year.

Now my gut reaction when I see something like that is to say, "well, take away those bad innings and Baker's got a 3 ERA" or "Smoltzy just needs to minimize the damage and he'll be an effective 4th starter".

But that's wrong.

Joe Posnanski makes the point today in a great post that is ostensibly about the Royals injury issues this year, and whether you can lay any of the blame for their horrible year at that door. Joe concludes not.

We will have to get better or make some changes, there’s no other way.”

Trouble is: That’s not the vibe I get from the Royals. Here’s the vibe I get: “Injuries killed us.” And, plainly, that just makes me ill. There’s an old saying: “Winners win and losers meet.” Well, I think it’s also true that “Winners win and losers complain about injuries.” Or “Winners win and losers gripe about umpires.” Or “Winners win and losers make excuses.” Or simply, “Winners win and losers lose."

The One Big Inning is like that. It seems aberrational until it's not. Eventually, the One Big Innings can't be excluded from the calculus. Sometimes a 5.4 ERA is a 5.4 ERA, it's not the product of bad luck. With Baker, yes, his high FB/GB ratio will get him in trouble when the wind is blowing out, and that's a fundamental flaw that will hold him back from his ace status. With Smoltz, it's still too early to tell and the Nats game can be explained away due to first game jitters, but it's not a good sign that the third time through the lineup tonight he wasn't fooling anyone.

The Baseball Update

As I write this, the Sox are down 6-2 and likely heading for the loss. The Yanks won on a walkoff from Matsui tonight. AL East = TIED.

Soxaholix said it best today. I dread the next 3 months if the Yanks pull ahead.

The Taxes Update

Really the Health Care Update, but the National Journal had a great exchange today about the proposed "surtax" on high earners to fund health care. Really good back and forth and enlightening for the views of left of center guys like William Gale:

It is poor leadership because it furthers the myth that we can solve our fiscal problems by taxing “other” people or with gimmick taxes. It has been said many times already and will be said many times again: we are going to need broad based tax increases and spending cuts to bring the fiscal house into order and the more politicians continue to act as if we can just foist the financing on a small group (be it rich people or foreign corporations or obese people or people who drink soda, etc.) the worse are our prospects for solving the problems.

As they say, read the whole thing.

The Death Update

Of course, Walter Cronkite's passing is the most prominent. has a great tribute up (probably over by the time you read this) to Cronkite, an online viewing of the Apollo 11 moon landing with Cronkite's commentary, at exactly the time it happened 40 years ago.

There are plenty of other appreciations of Cronkite on the web - the Atlantic's writers had some good ones.

In other death news - Gordon Waller of the '60s group Peter and Gordon. I have fond memories of listening to "A World Without Love" on the oldies station my dad listened to for a couple of years in the late '80s (Buffalo peeps - 104.1 or 103.3?) on the way to school in the mornings. It is a McCartney song. But despite the poppy, sing songy melody, the lyrics are kind of dark. Sample lyric:
Birds sing out of tune
And rain clouds hide the moon
I'm OK, here I stay with my loneliness
I don't care what they say, I won't stay
In a world without love
I read something the other day asserting that McCartney's songs were lacking in angst. I challenge anyone who's heard "For no One" or "World Without Love" to defend that statement.

Anyway, back to poor Gordon. The obit is here.

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