Wednesday, July 30, 2008

...And A Half Dozen Thoughts for Good Measure

1) While perusing a list of available, unrestricted free agents on, one name caught my eye who may actually be a fit with the Celtics. That name? Jason Williams. No, not murdering Jason Williams. Nooo, not motorcycle riding Jason Williams. The other Jason Williams. White Chocolate. As much as I genuinely do not like players who are poor shooters (.396 FG% for his career) with poor shot selection I actually think he could be a match for the Celtics bench.

Consider this....

He can dribble. Seriously. A main rationale for giving Cassell minutes over Eddie House was the fact that Cassell could handle being pressured while Eddie House could not. Jason Williams fixes this problem. And because he is actually a point guard that can pass, he gives them a semblance of a playmaker off their bench. I'm not saying he is anything close to what he was in his prime but at least he would be a guy who could come off the bench and create offense for other people. They had officially zero of that last year. And isn't that of added importance when the other key reserves (Eddie House, Tony Allen, Big Baby, and Leon Powe) figure to be guys who can't and don't create their own shot? Of course it is. I really think everybody would benefit there. Plus, all the bricks he would put up would provide for great garbage points opportunities for Leon Powe and that is his specialty. Are you intrigued yet?

2) With Bartolo Colon nearing a return, wouldn't it make sense to go the Justin Masterson route and put Clay Bucholz in the bullpen as well? Right now I think the returns would be roughly the same between starting Bucholz and starting Colon every fifth day so may as well try and add another young, quality arm to the pen because the less Craig Hansen, David Aardsma, and Mike Timlin we see, the better.

As a point of reference, for Clay Bucholz, look how the Dodgers handled their young, hot-shot pitching prospect Chad Billingsley who made his major league debut in 2006:

In 2006 Billingsley made 18 appearances, 16 of them starts and pitched 90 innings with a 4.49 ERA and 1.67 WHIP. He also struckout 59 while walking 58. At the time though he was just 22 so while the results were not dazzling, he at least held his own at age 22 in the big leagues.

The following year, in 2007 when Billingsley was 23 they started him out in the bullpen and kept him there until late June. Overall he made 23 relief appearances and 20 starts. As a reliever he struckout 40 in 35 innings and walked 13. He also had a 3.09 ERA and 1.23 WHIP. Pretty nice for a reliever who could give you more than just an inning.

When he joined the Dodgers rotation on 6/21/07, he pitched 112 innings the rest of the way going 8-5 with 101 strikeouts to 54 walks (a little on the high side but you like the K numbers) and a 3.38 ERA and a 1.39 WHIP. Sure the walks are higher than you'd want but the rest of the numbers are pretty appealing for a 23 year old pitcher.

And this year? This year, Billingsley is 10-9 in 21 starts and 129.2 IP. He has a 3.26 ERA and a 1.30 WHIP. More amazing than that though are the 137 Ks he has registered. Yes, he has still walked 56 batters and walks more batters than you'd like - almost 4 per 9 innings - but again he is 24 now and in looking at those stats probably well on his way to having a really nice career assuming health.

Look, I'm not saying that Bucholz and Chad Billingsley are the same player, but what I am saying is that a temporary transition to the bullpen for him for the rest of this year and maybe even a bit next year could potentially do him a lot of good. The tactic certainly worked well for Billingsley and with a seemingly equal fifth starter replacement about to become available in Bartolo Colon I think the experiment is well worth a try especially because it could be beneficial both in the present and future.

3) Conventional wisdom says that Mark Texiera makes the Angels now prohibitive favorites to win the World Series. I'm not one to disagree. However, there is a big difference between favorites in late July or early August and the favorite in October. Right now, I'd be willing to wager a fairly significant amount of money that the Angels will wind up with the best record in the AL. Because of this, they'll face the Wild Card winner in the first round and my guess is that will be an AL East team, either the Red Sox, Yankees, or Rays. All of these matchups would be interesting in their own right. The Angels seem to own the Yankees in October - beat them in '02 and '05 - and are owned by the Red Sox - swept in '04 and '07 - so recent history says that both of those potential showdowns would feature teams trying to exorcise recent demons. That is always fun. To me though, the most intriguing of these three likely matchups would be the Angels against the Rays because the two teams seem to be mirror images of each other as they are based around pitching, defense, and "non-traditional" (read fast) offense. Yes, Texiera gives the Angels a second dynamic force for their lineup which will help a ton, but they still should be at their core the ultra-aggressive and "small-ball" style team we have known since 2002. With all of this being said, I could still see the Angels losing a playoff series against any of these three teams as easily as I could see them winning one. Once again, there is a big difference between being the favorites in August and the favorites in October.

4) I am not particularly enamored with the current Red Sox team as they can't seem to beat good teams. Of course I said the exact same thing last year and I think that that squad was even more maddening during their June through late September malaise. I've said this all before here though and I keep on harping on it just because let's not all go flushing the season down the toilet just because the team looks like crap right now. October can change a lot. Or it could change nothing like in 2005. We'll see. But do you think that White Sox series turns out different that year if Tony Graffanino doesn't make that error to open the flood gates in Game 2? Who knows. Probably not honestly, but something to think on regardless.

5) This is kind of crazy, but if you were to ask me right now which pitcher in the AL I'd least like to see the Red Sox facing in a do-or-die playoff or late season game do you know who I'd say? Tampa Bay's Matt Garza. No joke. Since the start of May, Garza is 9-6 with a 3.08 ERA, 1.13 ERA, and 74 Ks in 111 IP. Those numbers are very good, but not outstanding. Still, there is just something about that guy that I think is special and I bet if you put him on the postseason stage you would find that he has the Josh Beckett, Big Game Gene. I could be wrong, but it's a strong hunch.

6) The Globe's Mike Reiss' training camp dispatches on are absolutely must reads for Pats fans. Reading this though frustrated me. Doesn't this absolutely sum up the whole Ben Watson Experience to date:

3) Benjamin Watson can’t haul it in. Some of the day’s best work came in 11-on-11 drills with the Patriots forgoing a huddle and working in hurry-up mode. With 27 seconds showing on the scoreboard clock, Brady surveyed the field and lofted a beautiful pass down the middle to tight end Benjamin Watson, who had a step on rookie linebacker Jerod Mayo into the end zone. Watson got his hands on the ball, but while offensive players and coaches up the field prematurely put their arms in the air to signal touchdown, the ball came loose as Watson crashed to the ground. Had Watson made the catch, it would have been considered a tough one. At the same time, it’s the type of grab that top-tier tight ends do come down with.

You can read all of these aforementioned dispatches here.

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