Thursday, December 25, 2008

Jewish Baseball on Christmas! Because all the stores are closed.

Fans, here are some links to enjoy before you head off to the Chinese restaurant and a movie.

At the indispensable Kaplan's Korner, Ron Kaplan of the New Jersey Jewish News details what some "Jewish Sports Personalities" wanted for Hannukah. It was an honor to participate!

Seriously, though- bookmark this site. Endless enjoyment.

Jews in Baseball has a compiled list of most total bases by a Jewish hitter, season-by-season.
I think it is worth noting that 4 of the top 11 were by Shawn Green- he was a far better player than he gets credit for, thanks to that early decline.

The site editor, Josh Borenstein, also has a piece on Bob Melvin, Jewish manager, though as I said to Josh, his religion is Jew-be-determined.

And here's a piece about one of my favorite Jewish players ever, Andy Cohen, by a terrific writer, Irwin Cohen.

Last but not least, you couldn't have Christmas without a video tribute to Brad Ausmus, could you? I didn't think so.

Now let's go have a terrific fifth night of Hanukkah!

Monday, December 8, 2008

Jewish Baseball Everywhere!

Peter Gammons checks in with Kevin Youkilis, regular guy:

"One can argue just as long about who was the Red Sox's MVP, Dustin Pedroia or Kevin Youkilis. When it came to Pedroia's payday, he needed no record deal. What he wanted was to play where he started, with a team that is competitive, in a city where people love baseball, and where he walks a couple of blocks every day from his condominium to Fenway Park. Youkilis may soon follow in signing a long-term deal because he wants to stay where he has become such a devoted contributor to the city's social issues."

Ron Kaplan checks in on Jewish players sponsored at the indispensable

And Josh Borenstein continues the Jewish baseball boomlet with his site, Jews in Baseball.

Monday, December 1, 2008

Quiet Year in Jewish Free Agency

So as many of you know, the biggest prizes in this year's free agency sweepstakes aren't Jewish. (No, despite his size, CC Sabathia didn't have a Jewish mother urging him to eat.) But there are two major league Jewish free agents to watch with the Winter Meetings around the corner.

The first is Brad Ausmus, the veteran catcher, who has indicated that he doesn't want to return for a 17th season if he isn't on the west coast. That works for the San Diego Padres, who, according to the USA Today, are interested in Ausmus as a backup to Nick Hundley.

Ausmus hasn't been a prolific offensive player, in the sense that Sarah Palin hasn't been a whiz on foreign geography or turkey-killing optics. His OPS+ numbers since 2001: 57, 74, 55, 63, 80, 54, 68, 60. Even his raw totals aren't greatly inflated by Houston's home park: just .218/.303/.296 in 2008. But in San Diego? I shudder to think what those numbers would look like in 2009. Still, Ausmus is a terrific interview, and his grandfather was a rabbi. Let's hope he catches on.

The other Jewish free agent is Gabe Kapler, who had a fantastic season with Milwaukee before a September injury (listed by various outlets as a shoulder or upper back issue) ended his season. He finished with a season line of .301/.340/.498, and assuming he is healthy, can greatly help a team (Hello? New York Mets? This is the righty outfielder with power you need to spell Ryan Church).

Let's hope for a return to good health for Kapler, who showed skeptics he was right to end his one-year retirement.

Among the minor league Jewish free agents to watch, there's the star-crossed Adam Greenberg, who needs a break. Greenberg, remember, had just one major league plate appearance, got hit in the head, and never even made it to first base. He's like Moonlight Graham crossed with Jerry the Cat. He deserves another MLB plate appearance, ideally with Greg Maddux pitching.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

2008 Jewish MVP

After a lot of back and forth in my mind- it's got to be Ryan Braun. A good case can be made for any of the top three. Here's my overall list*:

1. Ryan Braun
2. Kevin Youkilis
3. Ian Kinsler
4. Craig Breslow
5. Jason Marquis
6. Gabe Kapler
7. John Grabow
8. Scott Feldman
9. Scott Schoeneweis
10. Brad Ausmus

* List modified to include Jason Marquis- great catch by the esteemed Ron Kaplan.

Monday, September 29, 2008

That Darn Jew

It would have been Albert Brooks' sitcom, had his character in "Looking for Comedy in the Muslim World" accepted al-Jazeera's offer.

Instead, for Mets fans, that was Ryan Braun all week, particularly Sunday, hitting game-winning home runs to help Milwaukee get past New York and into the playoffs.

Plenty of Jewish players in the postseason, and we'll have a Jewish playoff preview this week.

But worth noting- in what may be his final game, Brad Ausmus homered for the Astros. One of the better Jewish catchers ever. I hope he comes back.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

A Plea for Adam Greenberg

Dear Los Angeles formerly California Angels now of Anaheim:

You have in your possession what would be one of the feel-good stories of the baseball season. At AA, you have outfielder Adam Greenberg.

Back in 2005, Greenberg was a prospect, and finally got his chance to come to the plate on July 9 against the Florida Marlins. But if Moonlight Graham was disappointed in never getting to the plate, he wouldn't trade places with Greenberg, who was hit in the head by the pitch. His 2005 season was history, and he has struggled to return to the major leagues ever since.

Now, according to my calculations, you have a 12 gazillion-game lead in the American League West, and are set to clinch the division in the next few minutes. You also have an expanded roster, and I see no reason why you shouldn't bring up Adam Greenberg, and give him a chance to live down his demons. He was not a spectacular AA player, but he held his own: .271/.347/.361. He suffered a hamstring injury on August 25, but he certainly should be healed prior to the end of the regular season. You could certainly do worse for a game.

And who knows- if Greenberg faces down his demons, he may just recover the form that made him a top prospect back in 2005. Do it for the 21st century Moonlight Graham. I have a feeling if you do, he will someday save your daughter from choking on a hot dog.

Howard Megdal

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

The AL Batting Title and the Jewish People

Well, the news isn't good for the injured Ian Kinsler. What was initially diagnosed as a sore left groin now appears to be a sports hernia that will likely sideline Kinsler for the rest of the season.
While this is bad news for Kinsler, it may not be the worst news for him from the AL batting title standpoint. Here is how the race currently shapes up, through games of August 18:

Mauer .325
Pedroia .320
Kinsler .319
Youkilis .317
Bradley .316
Italics indicates Jewish player

But with more than the required 502 plate appearances, Kinsler is now locked in at .319. Mauer, the 2006 champion, is having a tremendous August, hitting .360 so far. But he has historically slowed down as the season progresses, unsurprising for a catcher. His .290 September average is the lowest of any of his career months.
Pedroia, meanwhile, has been hot for three months, hitting above .350 in June, July and August. But he hit just .276 last September.
Kinsler, by dint of injury, has also protected his batting average against a September slump. He is a career .276 September hitter- a month he will not have to factor into his batting average.
As for Kevin Youkilis, the active hope for Jewish batting title supremacy, he could hardly be having a better August, checking in at .368. But for Youkilis, it's a long, long way from great to September, with a career .221 mark. Just as his entire 2008 season has revised upwards what can reasonably be expected, Youkilis will have to greatly improve on his previous Septembers to win the batting title.
After all, we already know what Ian Kinsler will be batting at the end of September: .319.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Possible Jews to Watch: B.J. Rosenberg, Robert Roth

Thirteenth-round pick B.J. Rosenberg out of the University of Louisville has quickly put himself on the Phillies' prospect map with a dominating first professional performance.
The 22-year-old 6'2" righty has a microscopic 1.06 ERA in his first 17 innings with Williamsport of the New York-Penn League, striking out 29 and walking 8. He has allowed just one home run, and has six saves.
As for Robert Roth, the 2006 19th round pick by the Phillies, the recovery from labrum surgery that cost him all of 2007 appears to be coming along nicely. Now 19 years old, Roth has pitched to a 1.59 ERA in 45 2/3 innings over 7 starts, also for Williamsport. He's allowed just 12 walks, though the strikeout rate is not overwhelming- just 18. Still, the year after such surgery, health, rather than performance, is the primary concern, and he's answered the bell all year so far. A 1.59 ERA is just a bonus.
I will try to see them both in the coming weeks- unfortunately, he makes only one trip to Staten Island, and it isn't clear whether I'll be able to get there.
But to get a clear look at Rosenberg and Roth, let's vote him into the New York-Penn League All Star Game!
More on them both as I hear more-I currently have an e-mail into the Crosscutters. If I can get them, I will be posting interviews in the coming weeks.

Friday, July 25, 2008

I Just Can't Quit You, Scott Feldman!

The Texas Rangers, who have developed more pitchers over the past 10 years than virtually anyone, not including all other major league teams, converted Scott Feldman to a reliever at the All Star Break in order to reduce his innings total in 2008. He'd never thrown more than about 70 innings, and was at 100 innings this season, so already, there was a danger in pitching him beyond where he is.
Then an injury occured, and Feldman filled in on July 21, going six innings against the White Sox. And when Kevin Millwood came out of Wednesday's game, guess who was tabbed to take his next start? That's right: Scott Feldman.
Makes sense, doesn't it? The Rangers are now just 10.5 games out of first place- ruining a middling arm that represents one of the few current Texas properties that could provide innings in 2009 and beyond to chase a highly improbaqble playoff berth- sign me up!
It's still not clear what Feldman will be. In his first season as a starter, his control has been decent- 39 walks in 93 2/3 innings- but the strikeout rate does not befit his 6'5", 210 lb. frame- 42 Ks. He's never been much of a strikeout pitcher, even as a reliever, so it's hard to say that will improve all that much.
Essentially, my guess is he can be a league-average innings eater. That certainly has value. Of course, that is if Texas doesn't run him into the ground, first.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Kevin Youkilis: The Greek God of Production

So Kevin Youkilis homered again last night. It's getting to the point where you'd have to say Youkilis has made a real jump in his performance. Considering that prior to 2008, he was still a very valuable offensive player, this represents a jump into baseball's elite. A 144 OPS+ and top-flight defense at first base is quite impressive.
Compare this to Hank Greenberg, and it still falls short, of course. Greenberg put up full-season OPS+ of 156, 169, 172, 169, 156, 163, and in his final year, 132 at first base. Now, his defensive reputation seems to indicate he wasn't in Youkilis' class as a fielder, which narrows the gap somewhat.
But to fall a bit short of Greenberg, whose production makes him an inner-circle Hall of Famer, even as the war kept his career totals from the lofty ones put up by, for instance, Lou Gehrig (who was so reluctant to fight in the war that he contracted his own disease back in 1939) is impressive.
The problem Youkilis has with Hall of Fame possibilities are two-fold- one, he doesn't seem like he'll put up the kind of 40-home run seasons that draw the attention of Hall voters for first basemen. Two, his late-career start-he didn't debut until age 25, and didn't start until age 27-makes it very difficult to pile up the kind of career stats looked for in lieu of a sustained period of absolute dominance.
If Youkilis has made the leap from 110 OPS+ player to 140 OPS+ player, he'll need to sustain that performance until roughly age-36 to merit Hall consideration. That would put him in the neighborhood of 2100 hits- figure a normal decline from there gets him to about 2500. Averaging 25-30 home runs from age 30-36, assuming 30 this year, gets him to between 220-250 home runs. But he'd end up with an OPS+ in the 125-130 range. Tony Perez is at 122. Eddie Murray was at 129. Add a run of gold gloves into the mix, and Youkilis is certainly in the discussion.
Clearly, this is a long shot. But for a player who looked to be a poor man's Dave Magadan, it's astounding how far he's come.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Ian Kinsler: Second to None

Mike Pindelski has a great piece establishing just how dominant Ian Kinsler has been this season.

Just a brief, Jewish lens addition- Kinsler currently has na OPS+ of 152 in 2008. Buddy Myer, the best Jewish second baseman ever, had a season-high OPS+ of 138 in his career. So he's in pretty uncharted territory here.

Monday, July 14, 2008

Tonight: Ryan Braun in Home Run Derby

Get ready, Jewish baseball lovers! A prospective minyan member will be part of the minions aiming to win the Home Run Derby at Yankee Stadium tonight. Ryan Braun, the Jewish people wish you luck.
There has been a fair amount of complaining on the absence of big names in this year's derby, but between Braun, Evan Longoria, Grady Sizemore, Chase Utley, Josh Hamilton, etc., some of baseball's elite sluggers are participating in the event. In fact, in a relatively short time, these guys may be viewed as huge names- particularly Sizemore, who is leading the AL in homers, and Utley, who seems to be having the best year in the National League, period.
Braun can compete with any of them, though. He's having another monster year, and his career line, to date? .307/.349/.595. A .944 OPS, and he doesn't turn 25 until November 17! Ridiculous.