Sunday, February 28, 2010

Does Dusty Baker Abuse Pitchers?

Point: Yes, Mark Prior and Kerry Wood...enough said.

Counterpoint: Dusty Baker killed their careers?

P: Yes, it is well known that Baker cares little about pitch counts.

cp: What about Carlos Zambrano?

P: He has not been free of symptoms either.

CP: Abuse happens but your criticism of Dusty Baker doesn't sound very scientific.

P: Take a look at 2003. The Cubs had Prior, Wood and Zambrano. All three of them threw over 210 innings. Baker allowed Prior

and Wood to throw 130+ pitches in seven different starts. Then there was time where he sent out Kerry Wood for a 7 inning

outing in which he threw 141 pitches.

CP: Yes, Prior and Wood did blow out their arms but Zambrano is still pitching today. Woods threw a lot before Baker arrived

in Chicago. Jim Riggleman had him throw 120+ pitches a few times in his rookie season. As for Prior, the inverted-M in his

delivery is horrible for the shoulder. Prior was used pretty hard at USC, also. Isn't it more accurate that Wood's and

Prior's mechanics had more to do with their injuries than Baker?

P: Dusty abused all three arms. Zembrano is lucky not to be out of baseball. Zambrano had 129 starts under Dusty Baker from

ages 22-25. During that time, he had 31 different outings with 120 or more pitches thrown.

CP: He seems to have had a nice career thus far.

P: Carlos Zambrano gets worse every year and is likely to break down anytime. He'll have Baker to blame when it happens.

CP: Pitchers are conditioned differently now. In the old days, only the most durable could even reach the big leagues. Now,

their workload is not the same. They still break down but only when the make it. They appear to be abused but pitching in the

big leagues is a tough gig.

P: In 14 out of 16, pitchers on Baker's teams have thrown more pitches per start than the average for National League


CP: There is no way to prove that Baker caused any injuries. This sounds more like a half-baked theory to me.

P: There are more than just Prior and Wood.

CP: Lets go through your list.

P: Ever heard of Livan Hernandez?

CP: Of course.

P: Would you be surprised to know in 110 total starts for Hernandez under Baker, he had three outings with 140+ pitches, 13

outings with 130+ pitches, and an ridiculous 43 outings with 120+ pitches?

CP: Every pitcher is different. Some pitchers really can take a lot of pitches.

P: Then we have Russ Ortiz.

CP: What did Dusty do to him?

P: In 144 starts under Baker, he threw 120+ pitches 33 different starts, including six starts with 130+ pitches and two

starts with 140+ pitches.

CP: Ortiz does not blame Baker for anything. High pitch counts and arm problems don't necessarily go together anyway. Carlos Zambrano, Livan Hernandez and Russ Ortiz seemed to do fine while supposedly being abused. I'm not seeing any issues there. The only injuries Hernandez had were with his knees.

P: Hernandez has always pitched a lot. I'll give you that. What about Jason Schmidt?

CP: Schmidt's nasty slider likely caused his problems. He threw 120+ pitches only 8 times in 2 years.

P: How about Aaron Harang?

CP: The game in 2008 when Harang threw 63 pitches in relief then made his next start certainly seems like poor judgement in retrospect.

P: Edinson Volquez went from a guy with Cy Young votes to Tommy John surgery.

CP: The problem with Volquez in 2009 was that he pitched a lot in the offseason then in the WBC.

P: He rode Bailey a little too hard at the end of last season when the Reds had no chance.

CP: Bailey was on a roll. Dominating like he did was valuable experience for him.

P: We'll see about that.

CP: By the way, what is pitching coach doing while Baker is abusing all these pitchers as you claim.

P: I agree the pitching coach shoulders some blame.

CP: This could also be a function of the type of pitchers Baker has inherited. What about Bobby Cox? Did he abuse Steve Avery

and Horatio Ramirez? John Smoltz needed Tommy John surgery and Kevin Millwood's development may have taken a hit.

P: All managers have have pitchers with injuries. Is it a coincidence that his starting pitchers consistently throw more

pitches than average?

CP: Maybe. There are alot of things that can go wrong with a pitcher like mechanics, types of pitches they throw, how hard

they throw, number of pitches thrown during warm-ups, and how much they were used before going pro. The manager can only

control so much.

P: Baker has no clue how much risk he is taking with these pitchers.

CP: Obviously Baker likes to play with fire as you have pointed out. But I think if pitchers are gonna break down, they're going to break down no matter what. We can always second guess.

P: Play with fire? You might get away with 130+ pitches a few times and the pitcher may not get hurt. You might also get away

with smoking for 20 years and not end up with lung cancer.

CP: Exaggerate much? Look, some pitchers can throw 130+ pitches with no problems.

P: Baker thinks his whole staff fits that criteria. Aroldis Chapman should be concerned.

CP: Should the Reds never let Chapman get beyond 100 pitches?

P: It seems like stud pitchers like Chapman are extremely valuable.

CP: This is obviously true.

P: Throwing lots of pitches beyond 100 in a given outing is proven to correlate with increased rates of injury. The Reds

should be careful leaving this guy in Baker's hands.

CP: I don't know about the part about it being "proven" but they will likely take your advice.

Friday, February 26, 2010

Should We Cheer for Our Country To Win in the Olympics?

Point: Yes, It is patriotic to cheer for your country to win.

Counterpoint: Maybe, but you don't know that guy from upstate New York any more than the guy from Quebec. They both worked hard. Does it matter who wins?

P: Well, Canada is our neighbor. I guess I could cheer for someone from there if he was not competing with the U.S.

CP: What if he was from Russia?

P: I would only cheer for Americans and possibly Canadians.

CP: But aren't we all citizens of the same earth, not individual countries?

P: Like most Americans, my heart lies with the U.S. athletes.

CP: Does it seem fair that athletes from all over the world don’t receive the same level of funding to help them train and compete at an international level?

P: The U.S. certainly takes it more seriously than many countries. We take pride in the Olympics.

CP: Many Olympians from various countries live and train here at their own expense. Doesn't it make sense to cheer for them? They put more on the line and have overcome greater odds.

P: Good for them but they are competing against the U.S. so I prefer that they lose.

CP: You probably know that getting a medal in the Olympics is low on the priority list of many countries. They lack training and facilities so they have less athletes overall. The competition is set up to be unfair.

P: Yes, but only the top athletes can go. The U.S. can send the same number of athletes in individual or team events as any country.

CP: If you compare the best athletes from a small country to the best athletes from a large country, the large country surely will win more often.

P: I agree that the U.S. has an advantage but I just can't cheer for athletes from other countries.

CP: What about U.S. born athletes that compete for other countries?

P: If they were good enough, they would be competing for the U.S. Regardless, if they are not competing for the U.S., I will not be cheering for them.

CP: Interesting. Would you be alright if they didn't mention the country for which the athletes are competing?

P: That wouldn't be any fun. Anyway, would you prefer a system where all athletes were assigned teams by lottery instead of by country?

CP: That is crazy talk.

P: No national anthems for the medal winners?

CP: That sounds extreme. Please stop.

P: How about they handicap based on genetics?

CP: I'm guessing that plan wouldn't be a ratings winner for NBC.

P: Duh...the games are about nationalism.

CP: Well, originally the Olympics were just a sporting event between individual athletes. Look, all I'm suggesting is that we enjoy the high level of competition and appreciate that these games only occur once every four years. They all must compete in the spotlight. It doesn't matter which country you came from because in the end, you must perform.

P: Whatever, dude. Can I just cheer on my fellow citizens without being hassled?

CP: Fine, if you simply must choose. By the way, who is your favorite hockey team?

P: The Islanders.

CP: You will cheer for a guy like Mark Streit when he plays for the Islanders but when he represents the Swiss hockey team, not so much?

P: You got it.

CP: At least you are consistent.

Will Derek Jeter Break the All-Time Hits Record?

Point: Yes, he is ahead of Pete Rose's pace now.

Counterpoint: I'm thinking no. It would be nice and all but he has a long way to go.

P: Bill James gives him a six-percent chance of reaching 4,000 hits.

CP: That does not sound promising. Projections like that are pointless. Suppose he does make it to 4,000. He will still be 256 short of Rose.

P: Well, Jeter is still in top physical condition.

CP: Yeah, now. When he is 43, the hits will be tougher.

P: He will have to adjust.

CP: Well, if Jeter averages 188 hits per season for the next nine seasons, he can pull it off. You think he can do that?

P: I'm certainly not saying it will be easy.

CP: Pete Rose says the first 3,000 hits are easy. Maybe Jeter can make the other 1200 easy.

P: The thing about Rose was the ability to pencil his name in the lineup every day. Jeter can DH, though. I don't think playing time will be an issue.

CP: Rose played for bad Reds teams. The fans wanted him to get that record so they tolerated his less than stellar numbers. Jeter won't have that luxury with the Yankees who must win every year.

P: True but the Yankees love Jeter and would let him punch up 500 at-bats somewhere if he wanted to.

CP: He will have to do this in the outfield or DH. Mark Teixeira and Alex Rodriguez are signed for the next few years. One of those two will play DH.

P: Yeah, so Jeter plays right or left field. Don't rule out shortstop either. Omar Vizquel still plays shortstop and he is 43.

CP: Vizquel plays very little shortstop at this point. I can't see the Yankees tolerating a weak hitting outfielder. If he isn't hitting, the Yankee faithful might turn.

P: Jeter would be an exception. He would play left or right field. He has decent speed. By that time, his arm will be average or a tad better than that. He might compare to Johnny Damon. He would play decent defense and be an OBP guy in the lineup. The Yankees could live with that.

CP: Damon has played outfield his entire career. Jeter would have to work hard to make that transition. Not many guys that age can play enough to get the hits he will need.

P: You just can't count Jeter out. They questioned his defense and in 2009, he stepped up and improved.

CP: You believe he will keep working hard into his 40s?

P: That really is the question. He may not especially since he got engaged.

CP: I can't see Jeter even playing when he is 43.

P: The other thing you are missing is how big the record would be for the Yankees. They would love for an all-time great Yankee to have the hits record.

CP: I predict he will follow Joe Dimaggio and retire at his peak. He won't want to hang around for a record. Jeter will have to be content with his all-time postseason hits record. A guy to watch out for is Ichiro. I could see him playing into his late 40s slapping hits. Ichiro has the training and desire to bang out hits for a long time.

P: Talk about your long-shots. Ichiro is over 2,000 hits behind and would need to play at his current level for 10 more years. Most of his hits come from speed, too.

CP: True...Pete Rose set a high number to reach.

Is Tiger Woods Better Than Jack Nicklaus?

Point: Yes, Jack Nicklaus has more major championships than Tiger Woods simply because he played longer.

Counterpoint: I say no.  Nicklaus played against Hall Of Fame golfers like Gary Player, Tom Watson, and Arnold Palmer.  Who can top that today?

P: I hear that all the time.  Had Woods not so thoroughly dominated, guys like Vijay Singh, Phil Mickelson, and Ernie Els would have equaled the guys you named.

CP: You aren't seriously arguing that you would take your foursome over mine?

P: All day.  Also, tournaments today have much deeper fields to beat.

CP: I'm not sure the 50th best golfer of either generation makes a difference.

P: Of course they do.

CP: I agree that the worst players of Woods' era are better than the worst players of Nicklaus' era.  However, the ones that matter are at the top and there is no comparison.  Just look at the number of majors won by my foursome compared to yours.  It isn't close.

P: Well, the courses are tougher today.

CP: All golfers play on the same course.

P: Yes, but it is much harder to maintain consistency on more difficult courses.

CP: The equipment they use today is far superior to when Nicklaus played.

P: The high-tech equipment used today makes it tougher for the best player to separate himself.

CP: I don't buy that.  If guys like Johnny Miller or Seve Ballesteros had today's equipment they would have been even more formidable.

P: They all use pretty much the same equipment so you should find another argument.

CP: Really?  Tiger has his own club designer, his own branding, and his entire wardrobe is picked out before the year starts.  He is a top athlete but there has never been a more pampered great in any sport.

P: He does that because he can.  It doesn't give him any advantage.

CP: Oh yeah, don't forget the easier travel on Wood's jet, a lighter schedule, and he  has so much dough that he can pick and choose events much more than the the guys from Nicklaus' era.

P: Has Nicklaus won four consecutive major championships?


P: How about three majors in the same year?  Has Nicklaus accomplished that?

CP: Um, that would be another no.

P: You know...Woods won the U.S. Open by 15 strokes while Nicklaus's largest margin of victory in the U.S. Open was four shots.

CP: Well, now we're back to the quality of Nicklaus' opponents.  Nicklaus finished second in majors a record 19 times.  His competition was top notch.

P: Woods made 142 consecutive cuts vs. 105 for Nicklaus.

CP: I get it.

P: Woods won at least five tournaments in five consecutive seasons.

CP: Nicklaus did that for three years in a row.  Once again, this all comes down to the level of competition.  Nicklaus' competition would not be hyperventilating when Woods teed off.

P: Maybe not.

CP: Four times Lee Trevino beat Nicklaus at major championships.  Nicklaus had three major championships later in his career that were taken away by Tom Watson.  Who is Woods' rival?  Phil Mickelson?

P: Hey, Mickelson is a great player.  Are you saying that if Trevino and Watson weren't great, Nicklaus would have won 25 majors?

CP: We don't know.  A great player like that may be looming.

P: You don't dispute that Woods is a better chipper, do you?

CP: He probably is, but Nicklaus was an amazing putter and probably the best pressure putter ever.  Compared to the field, Nicklaus also hit the ball longer than Woods.

P: Did I mention that Woods has won eight tournaments in a season a ridiculous three times?

CP: No, but I don't dispute that he is a phenomenal golfer.  That is unquestioned.

P: Who do you think would win head to head?

CP: It would be close, but I'm sticking with Nicklaus.

P: I'll take Woods.  He is four major victories away from tying Nicklaus and five away from breaking a great sports record.  There is no doubt that he will do it.

CP: Not so fast, winning majors is a lot tougher when you are 35 vs 25.  Can you name the golfers who have won five majors past the age of 33?

P: I'm not sure.  I'll assume there is a long list.

CP:  Sorry, but wrong.  Jack Nicklaus is the only one and he won seven majors after he turned 33.  Also, Woods has had some injuries and personal problems to deal with.  That won't help.

P: It obviously can be done and Woods has plenty of time.

CP: Five major championships is a huge feat, considering that only eight men have been able to do that in the last 50 years.  I wouldn't assume that it will happen.

P: Too bad we can't actually settle this.

CP: Indeed, it was exhausting, but fun.