Siberian Baseball

Thursday, November 30, 2006

Haven't we been over this before?

Mike Piazza is on the market again and it looks like his agency (I wonder if it's still the Beverly Hills group) might get it right this time.

As I pleaded last spring (and in between taking pot shots at his representation on the sister site - bonus points for being the very first baseball post at either site).

While aging pitchers now flock to the NL for the Bronson Arroyo treatment (I know he's not old, but his was the biggest turn-around last season from a simple league switch) sluggers will continue to take DH jobs to tack a few years onto their careers.

Why this hasn't happened with Piazza yet is well beyond me. Now, looking to fill the gap left by Frank Thomas' departure to Canada, it sounds like they're the front-runners to sign Piazza this off-season.

Please, oh please, do not let this man continue to catch. Granted, the Padres were more than happy to bump Doug Mirabelli out of the top slot in Spring Training in favor of an everyday catcher in Piazza, but let's hope Jason Kendall will stick around to keep his starting spot.

Just for old times' sake:

I thought the whole damned point was to get him a slot in the AL where he can DH and and catch every few days to spell the everyday catcher...There are only a handful of AL teams that don't have a great DH and a deep enough catching bench. In an era where Sammy and Corey are shopped in back-to-back years, Kevin Millar signs for a million plus for one year, Furcal breaks the bank (I could go on and on here) Mike Fucking Piazza isn't enough of a draw (if not so much a bat anymore and I contend that his numbers will get better when he's not squatting on Jake Taylor's knees) to maybe check in with the Beverly Hills Sports Council? Or maybe they can't make a few calls?

Yeah, that was me. I'm going to stand by that.

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Monday, November 27, 2006

Good point

Want to see how far salaries have gotten out of control this offseason?

Check out this little math lesson courtesy of Boston Dirt Dogs and Gordon Edes of the Boston Globe.

His [J.D. Drew's] asking price, according to sources, is at least $14 million. That's $4 million a year more than the Sox offered last winter to Johnny Damon before he signed a four-year, $52 million deal with the Yankees. Bobby Abreu, the right fielder the Sox passed on in July because of luxury-tax ramifications before he was dealt by the Phillies to the Yankees, is due $15 million in 2007, with the Yankees holding an option of $16 million for 2008.

Yeah, I feel better now. God, Mondays are the best, aren't they campers?

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Monday, November 20, 2006

They signed Alfonso Soriano, not Ralph Soriano, right?

You know the problem with being a man of the people?

By the time you get home and have time to settle in for a blog post, most of the pertinent comments have been made. The people have sucker punched me time and again, and today was no different.

It's OK, though, I have an e-mail trail a mile long from going back and forth over the pros and cons of the Alfonso Soriano signing and on the whole I think it's a positive.

While some will mock the cash thrown about to close the deal and the fact that it's one of the first times in recent memory that the Tribune Company opened its wallet to try and put together a team that isn't made of rookies, past-their-prime veterans and fans selected to play in that day's game as part of a promotional stunt, I say it is a sign of good faith from the team.

Year after year of seeing the big names swing by, meet with the team, take a tour of the city and sign on either coast made me skeptical of the rumors at first, but according to, it's official (great move there, Nationals - was it worth keeping him on the sinking ship for the final two months of the season?).

The fact that the team has spent the money it needs to in order to secure its own free agents so far - in Aramis Ramirez and Kerry Wood - as well as signing Mark DeRosa and Soriano, seems to indicate that the "Loveable Loser" tag is starting to wear on Cubs brass as much as it has on the fan base.

Is it being done to sweeten the pot for potential buyers who are eyeing up the franchise? Maybe. Is it giving Cubs fans reason to look forward to the spring in a way they haven't for years? For sure.

For the quick wrap - and yes, I know much of this has been written and discussed at length over the past 24 hours:


* Instant credibility with this year's free agent class - If you need any more evidence that the Cubs are serious this year when trying to court a few arms for the rotation or to plug gaps, they need only point to Lou Piniella and Soriano.

* Another bat in the lineup - Ramirez, Derrek Lee and Soriano as the boppers in the Cubs lineup next year are solid starters. In flux is Juan Pierre and at first blush, it's the most recogizable infield that will take the field on Opening Day.

These are all good things.

* Who's the big winner? Lou's the big winner! - There's something to be said for taking the top prize in this year's free agent class. The pitching is pretty weak and I challenge you to find a better pick from this year's free agents. Psychologically speaking, this is a big play for the ballclub.

And its neurotic fans.


* The age thing - Soriano is listed at age 31. This monster deal is eight years long. How old will he be at the end of this contract, assuming no one wants to take over the contract of an aging slugger? That's right class, pretty freaking old.

As much fun as it was to walk around today talking to the other baseball fans in the office, this was the major buzzkill. It's a situation that you can easily see going south. I e-mailed Frankie pretty early in the day to say if there are no World Series wins in five or six years, people might be pretty bitter about this signing around that time.

* That's a lot of money - Don't trust the Chicago Tribune, they aren't really your friends. Sure, they provide all sorts of information daily, have a pretty building and give you cartoons every single day, but they aren't your friends.

If the Soriano deal goes bad, don't think the Tribune company won't hide behind this as a reason to stop spending money hand over fist.

Frankie has long held the opinion that Cubs fans should have rioted and burned down Wrigley years ago because with full seats and crappy teams, the company was happy to collect everyone's cash and keep fielding teams of losers and nobodies.

He's right, but only to varying degrees throughout the years.

If the company can go back to business as usual - full seats and empty teams - they'll do this in a heartbeat.

It bears repeating - the Tribune Company is not your friend.

* One player, does not a World Series champion make - I'll direct you to the Ron Karkovice Fan Club for an extended discussion on this one - check out the final two paragraphs in particular - where it's argued that the Cubs are not in position to make the jump from second-rate to top dog with the addition of one bat to the lineup.

For starters, they need starting pitching. Wood will be in the bullpen, Mark Prior had arm trouble the same day Piniella was signed and the only real arm is Carlos Zambrano who is probably getting pretty sick of being the only strong arm in that rotation.

While home runs are fun to watch, they kind of suck when it pulls your team within eight runs in a 10-2 blowout.

Just ask A-Rod's fans.

(Photo from

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Sunday, November 19, 2006

Q and A with Will Carroll

I was driving home late last Wednesday when The Girl called me after seeing the Deadspin link to my gyroball post. After seeing a spike in visitors throughout the day, I was out of the office in the afternoon and lost track for a few hours.

"Do you know who Will Carroll is?" she asked. "He just posted a comment on your blog."

"Are you serious?" I said. "Does he sound pissed or anything?"

Mr. Carroll is a contributor to Baseball Prospectus and weighed in himself on the subject of the gyroball this week on his own colun there. It sounds like he's been sucked in - as many of us have - by the promise of a new pitch in an old game, so there's hope for all of us baseball nerds who will have two or three baseball conversations, even in the dead of November.

I wish I could lie and say that I took it all in stride, but hearing about the comment post made me wish I'd spent a lot more time doing prep work. In any event, he'd left a very nice comment and said that if I had anymore questions, to feel free to ask away.

A few days later, that's where we're at. The following is the series of questions I'd sent along as well as Mr. Carroll's unedited answers. I'd like to thank him once again for the time he's spent on this and if you're looking for a little more information, I've also found this link to Rob Neyer's blog, which has a great post on the gyroball as well.

(Quick note: the above link is from the first writing Mr. Carroll had done on the subject of the gyroball. There are some portions that aren't 100 percent accurate after he's spent more time researching it. Still has some good background, so I'll leave it up for now.)


Siberian Baseball: You'd said in your post on the site, "I'm still learning about the pitch - turns out the version I teach is a variation on the "pure gyro." It's more like a slider/cutter variant than a screwball."

Can you explain the motion as it relates to pitches that we're all familiar with? Also, are there many variations on the pitch?

Will Carroll: There are three variations, each doing slightly different things based on the position of the rotation of the ball in relation to the direction of the pitch.

One drops, one doesn't drop so much, and the last, my variation, moves like a slider/cutter, but more. I actually think what I've been teaching is a combo of the last two, so there might be a de facto fourth variation.

For the last three years, I've been teaching a version that is thrown "normally" and moves across or away from a RH batter (from a RH pitcher.) It moves significantly, with what observers have called "legit 3-9 movement."

SB: How did you initially become involved with the pitch? You've been able to teach it to others and are seen as one of the top sources for information on it – what is the basic timeline of how that level of understanding came about?

WC: Rob Neyer had a question asked to him in a chat and I chased it from there. Odd how things like this start.

The timeline? Learned about it in 2003, got the book on it from Japan about two months later, tried teaching it (as a goof) for the first time in 2004, and really got serious about it this year. I'm still learning about the pitch and have probably learned more about the pitch in the last month than I have in the previous couple years.

SB: From what I've heard and read, the a lot of throwing a true gyroball comes down to timing. What are the key points to consider here? Is it a matter of release point, body rotation, ball rotation or something else?

WC: I'd rather not get to technical on the delivery of the pitch. This isn't to keep it secret, but because it's difficult to explain. The last thing I want is for someone to misunderstand what I'm saying, throw the pitch wrong, and hurt themselves. Thrown properly, the pitchers that have thrown it say that the pitch is less stressful than a slider, but done wrong, any pitch can be dangerous.

It is a very "fine" pitch. A slight variation can make the pitch do or not do things in pretty significant degree. One of the biggest 'problems' I had with the pitch is that occasionally, the pitch would break in rather than out for no apparent reason. I finally understand why, after a physicist broke down the motion. Now, instead of a problem, it's a weapon!

SB: How difficult is the pitch to throw and is there an overriding reason why it hasn't made it to the major league level? Comparitively, how tough is it on a pitcher's arm?

WC: No one besides me teaches it, as far as I can tell. I'd be happy to show any pitcher, especially if they're high level where we could see how this works in comparison to other high-quality pitches. It's one thing to say a HS kid from NJ can make this thing move, but entirely another to see if ... I don't know, Anthony Reyes could make it dance.

Tough on the arm? See above. Like I said, the experience is very limited, but anecdotally, it's not harsh. The pitch itself is a side effect of Japanese research on biomechanics, so it comes from a place of safety.

SB: Have you seen the pitch thrown in competition? It seems that many people (myself included) have had a hard time telling the difference between what is presented as a gyroball and what is a really tough slider. There are rumors that major league pitchers have asked about the pitch, so have you seen anyone quietly try it out in competition? Have you seen enough from (Daisuke) Matsuzaka to say one way or another if you think he is able to throw the pitch for strikes?

WC: A few times. And yes, it does look like a slider to some. Face it, a breaking ball is a breaking ball and even the best of us will mix up pitches that are moving at high speed. How many times has a pro announcer said a pitch is something else? I have had a couple major leaguers ask about the pitch, but none have asked to see it. Matsuzaka, I think, throws it, but does not control it well enough. I hope to meet up with him now that he's in America!

SB: While it's certainly exciting for fans to talk about the birth of a new pitch, do you think it can have an impact in the majors?

WC: That's the million dollar question. I don't know. Did the split-finger change the game? The curveball? I think it would be interesting and maybe for the guy who becomes the gyroball version of Bruce Sutter, it will change things for him.

Maybe. I'll be honest, I don't know, but it's fun to think about.

(Image from The New No. 2 as posted on /

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Tuesday, November 14, 2006

The prom queens of the NL: Your New York Mets!

Think back two years to the winter that Carlos Beltran was on the market.

He'd had a monster postseason in 2004, taking the Astros down to the wire against St. Louis and after wasting away in Kansas City, he'd suddenly exploded onto the national scene.

It's not overstating things to say that Beltran was the hot property in that year's free agent class. Teams came and went on the rumor mill columns, with the big bank teams leading the charge.

Would he take the Yankee money? Would he stay in Houston? The man could write his own ticket at that point and most people - myself included - saw the Mets buzzing around and immediately wrote them off.

Two years later, they not only picked up Beltran, but Pedro Martinez, Billy Wagner and a handful of other guys to take them to October this year.

Where is all of this going?

This evening, the Rumor Mill promo on has a Barry Zito to the Mets headline. Doesn't seem so strange anymore, does it?

* The Cubs have reportedly signed Mark DeRosa for $13 million over three years and fills a hole at second. While we're on the subject, he can play pretty much anywhere around the infield, with time at second, third and short, which is always a good thing for anyone who read at least two injury reports from the Friendly Confines last year.

According to

DeRosa, 31, is coming off a career year in which he set highs in batting average (.296), doubles (40), home runs (13), RBIs (74) and games (135).

I always get nervous about guys coming off career years, but as we're fond of saying at Wrigley, "He can't be worse than the last guy, right? Who was the last guy, again?"

* The Red Sox have "won" the right to work out a deal with Daisuke Matsuzaka for paltry $51.5 to $40 million dollars.

For the right to negotiate with Scott Boras.

At least $50 million.

That's not the contract, or anything... I hope the Boston brass gets a free "I fucked the Yankees" t-shirt or something.

That's great and I'm pretty excited overall, but I'm still stung over the NL Rookie of the Year announcement. I thought Moneyball was supposed to make the cost of running a successful team cheaper.

* And finally, the Oakland A's are eyeing a new home where they won't have to fork over funding for a tarp to cover half he seats every season and Cisco Systems is happy to slap their name on the new front door.

Two things:

First, they have plans for a spa at the park - I have no idea what to do with this information, but I'm pretty sure my sperm count just dropped.

Second, they better play The Thong Song before every home game, or the terrorists win.

(Photo from:

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Monday, November 13, 2006

Gyroball - Fact or Fiction?

I was talking baseball with my boss last week and of course the name Matsuzaka came up. It had to.

Between the outrageous outlay of cash (Boston is rumored to be the winner Monday night night with a pledge of $42 million to the Seibu Lions just for the right to negotiate with Scott Boras according to Peter Gammons) and the mythical gyroball as part of the right-hander's arsenal, there's not a more interesting topic for baseball fans in November.

My boss made some comment about how he'd heard that Matsuzaka can only throw it a few times a game if that and it didn't really add up for me.

Check on YouTube and the best videos can be found here:

And here:

Gyroball or not, that's pretty nasty stuff. There's a longer clip of him pitching in the World Baseball Classic but he's making guys look pretty stupid throughout using a full array of pitches in that.

As for the gyroball, Yahoo! did a piece on it during the WBC's and it's a crazy, crazy story. Assuming the write-up is on the level, it's some monster pitch developed by scientists who were working out physics problems.

The best that I can gather is that the pitch itself is thrown like a spiral on a football - which makes sense, actually and gives it a crazy rotation. From the descriptions I'd read, it behaves a lot like a screwball, but for right-handers. The cool thing is that it's also described as looking like a hanging curveball a split second before it darts back over the plate.

One of the only confirmed pitchers to use the pitch is a teenager, Joey Niezer, and in one of the articles on him, there are reports of batters backing out of the box, afraid of being hit only to jump back to try and chase it as it paints the inside corner.

Need more? The pitch thrown nearly incorrectly - that is to say the bare minimum of spin and coordination - can drop up to a foot. Thrown well, it's rumored to dance a full yard. Are these tall tales? Probably, but just imagine the damage you could do if the claims are only half-substantiated...

Yeah, awesome.

To speak to my boss' assertion that it's only thrown once in a while, apparently you need to synch up your arm and your hips perfectly to get the desired rotation.

Even the man who will supposedly bring the pitch to the major leagues isn't saying much about it, other than that he's trying to get command on it and has throw it sparingly and sometimes by accident. "I would like to make it my out pitch," Matsuzaka said. "But it's not a miracle pitch."

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