Mike Silva's New York Baseball Digest » Blog Archive » Remembering El Duque, Cone Argues Sabermetrics, Zambrano’s Legacy, Munson Bio on SABR, Batting Stance Guy Imitates the MLB Network

Remembering El Duque, Cone Argues Sabermetrics, Zambrano’s Legacy, Munson Bio on SABR, Batting Stance Guy Imitates the MLB Network



By Mike Silva ~ August 17th, 2011. Filed under: Morning Digest.

It appears Orlando Hernandez is finally going to hang up his spikes and announce his retirement. I believe El Duque has been retired since he hurt his big toe late in the 2007 season with the Mets. Although he pitched only 9 seasons in the big leagues, he left his mark as one of the great postseason pitchers of the modern era.

His story started in Cuba. Hernández played for Industriales of Havana in the Cuban National Series, helping the team win that title in 1992 and 1996. He also represented Havana in Selective Series, on teams including Ciudad Habana and Habaneros. He was 126-47 with 3.05 ERA over his ten-year career in the National Series. His career winning percentage in National and Selective Series, .728, is the league record. Hernandez was also a fixture on the Cuba national baseball team, and was part of the gold-winning Olympic team at Barcelona in 1992.

When his half-brother Livan defected to the United States in 1995, El Duque was banned from Cuban baseball the following season. He would defect Cuba and seek asylum in Costa Rica. The Yankees would sign him as a free agent in 1998 to a 4 year/$6.6 million dollar contract.

Many forget the ’98 Yankees were on the brink of an historic upset to Cleveland as they trailed 2 games to 1 heading into Game 4 of the ALCS. El Duque threw seven shutout innings that night to lead the Yankees to a 4-0 victory. The ’98 squad never looked backed as they swept their way through the rest of the postseason to win their second title of the decade. He would win another 3 titles (2 with the Yankees, 1 with the White Sox) and finish his postseason career with a 9-3 record and 2.55 ERA.

Mets fans were treated to El Duque as well. The 2006 team was in desperate need of pitching when Omar Minaya scouted Hernandez, who was pitching poorly in Arizona (2-4, 6.11 ERA). Miraculously, he found his “stuff” in New York. El Duque would team with Tom Glavine to anchor a Mets rotation that lost Pedro Martinez. His two years in New York produced some of the best pitching of his career. He would finish 18-12 with a 3.88 ERA as a Mets. Even more extraordinary, is he did it in his age 40 and 41 season. Some claim he was actually four years older. It’s possible that El Duque was pitching at a high caliber into his mid-to-late forties.

The double-edged sword of El Duque was injuries. The Mets reliance on him turned out to be a burden as he injured his foot prior to Game 1 of the 2006 NLDS. He would miss the entire postseason. The following year he was unable to start down the stretch due to a foot injury, and could only come out of the bullpen as the Mets blew a 7 game lead with 17 to play. His injured foot allowed him to make only 4 minor league starts in 2008.  He tried comebacks with both Texas and Washington the last two seasons, but neither organization believed he had the ability to help them at the big league level.

The El Duque story is one that will probably be discussed for years to come. He is retiring in grand fashion this Saturday at La Ley Sports Complex in Homestead, Florida. I will always remember his ability to pitch when the game meant the most. He is a classic case of a pitcher that didn’t need velocity to be successful. He knew how to command his pitches, change speeds, and work a batter. I always enjoyed his starts because it was treated to a pitcher, not a hurler.

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I posted this commercial on the site before, but it never gets old. Remember the “El Duque?”

***

I didn’t catch this live, but apparently David Cone and John Flaherty got into it over sabermetrics during the YES broadcast on Monday Night. Matt Imbrogno of The Yankee Analyst provides the details:

After the results of the Toyota Text Poll were revealed, the booth was having a conversation about the stats used–BA/HR/RBI/R–in the poll. David Cone, of course, wondered where WAR was and mused about defense and runs created. Flash would have none of it. He wasn’t dismissive or rude to Cone, and I doubt he’d ever be. As boring as he is, he’s not unprofessional.

I was told Bob Lorenz, doing the play-by-play, wasn’t giving Cone any support as well. In a booth that includes Flaherty, Ken SingletonPaul O’Neill, and Michael Kay it’s not easy for a forward thinker like Cone to generate a solid discussion on advanced stats.

It seems like every time Cone tries to discuss some new ideas in that booth it gets snuffed out. I have been critical of the advanced stat movement, but that is more about those who use it as an ideology, not the actual tool itself. When used properly and in the right context, WAR, OPS+, Run Creation, and FIP can help you assess the performance of a hitter or pitcher. It would behoove the YES booth to embrace Cone more. I would at least gain more respect for them and give them more credibility. As it is, any booth that employs Michael Kay is starting with two strikes against it. During his radio show, Kay does exactly the opposite of what advanced stats tries to achieve. He creates fake outrage by spouting biased statements based on either popular talking points or loose facts.

Personally, I enjoy listening to Cone and would welcome him making the switch to SNY. I think he could debate these issues far better with Gary Cohen, Ron Darling, and Keith Hernandez. Mex will probably be the most difficult to engage in modern baseball thinking, but the trio usually finds a way to embrace most discussions.

If the YES Booth is getting lonely David come on home to where you made your name.

***

I debated Carlos Zambrano‘s legacy with Howard Megdal and Chris Plummer over at the Perpetual Post.

Here is a quick blurb.

I think the legacy of Carlos Zambrano is still in the process of being written. I don’t think it will include many more stories from his Chicago days. The Cubs and Zambrano have become a marriage that needs to end because of irreconcilable differences. It’s what’s best for both sides going forward. That doesn’t mean 29 other teams can’t give a Zambrano union a whirl. I also think Carlos Zambrano wouldn’t mind that either.

If Zambrano is released by the Cubs would you be surprised if the Yankees, Red Sox, or Phillies picked him up? He could help in the bullpen, and if he comes free what’s the harm? You bring him aboard with financial impunity. Of course, there is the issue of the 40-man roster spot.

Zambrano is on the 30 day disqualified list. They need to sort that out first before discussions of him being released become serious.

Figured it was interesting food for thought.

***
NYBD contributor and author Frank Russo co-wrote with Jimmy Keenannew a bio for Thurman Munson for the Society of American Baseball Research (SABR) Bio Project. You can click here for the entire piece. Below is a small excerpt.

The burly backstop was well known for his tumultuous relationship with Yankee owner George Steinbrenner and teammate Reggie Jackson as well as his heated run-ins with Boston Red Sox catcher Carlton Fisk.

Munson played every inning as if it were the seventh game of the World Series, and Yankee fans loved him for it. Off the field, he was a private man who lived his life as a devoted husband and father. 

The bio was in-depth and well written by both Frank and Jimmy. This seems like a very worthwhile project for SABR.

Considering I spent yesterday at the Hall of Fame it certainly got my interest. More pictures and details on that in the coming days.

***

Finally, check out Batting Stance Guy do his impression of Matt Vasgersian, Peter Gammons, Tim Kurkjian, Buster Olney, Craig Sager, Rex Hudler, Jon Heyman, Ken Rosenthal & Pedro Gomez.

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Mike Silva has hosted sports shows on 107.1 FM Champions ESPN Radio Long Island ,1240 AM WGBB , Blog Talk Radio and live from Mickey Mantle’s Restaurant. He’s also built and maintained two popular social media hubs: New York Baseball Digest and Sports Media Watchdog. Mike has broken national and local stories, as well as been mentioned on the YES Network, SNY.tv, WFAN, Sports Illustrated, ESPN, NY Daily News, New York Magazine, Journal News and the NY Post. Contact Mike professionally at mikesilvamedia.com

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9 Responses to Remembering El Duque, Cone Argues Sabermetrics, Zambrano’s Legacy, Munson Bio on SABR, Batting Stance Guy Imitates the MLB Network

  1. Chuck Johnson

    I had that batting stance guy thing e-mailed to me yesterday…I’m thinking about suing him.

    What a monumental waste of time, and I feel sorry for anyone who thought it was funny.

    And I thought my life sucks.

  2. Joseph DelGrippo

    It is hard to believe that Frank Russo had anything to do with the Munson bio since not one sentence stated that Frank had to call his guy down in Tampa for information.

  3. Stu B

    The D-backs, Giants, Brewers, Tigers, Indians, and Rangers also are contenders. Why wouldn’t one of those teams take a flyer on Zambrano?

  4. Frank Russo

    Joe,

    Are you trrying to be funny or sarcastic or just plain tongue-in-cheek?

  5. Joseph DelGrippo

    All of the above.

  6. Steve S.

    I cant get enough of Coney. He’s part stat geek, part Beavis and Butthead. Funny, off beat, enthusiastic about the game. By far and away my favorite announcer.

  7. Frank Russo

    As long as your not being a nasty that’s all that matters.

  8. Russ Cress

    I know this is wacky but at this point I would consider trading AJ Burnett and his 2 years & 33 million bucks left on his deal for one year of Carlos Zambrano and his 18.5 mil.

    Yes, Carlos Z is crazy but he’s 31 to AJ’s being 34 and a change of scenery and reunion with Rothchild may get one good bounce back year out of him.

    To get out of that AJ deal I would do it. It’s a gamble but there is little to lose.

  9. Mike Silva

    @Benny – great comment and you are right about ROI. Although what is the return on relavance? As the reader/listener catches up with the FAN they become more of the AM version of Z100, except for sports. They do kitch bar parties, games, and contests. Nothing of substance. I will be coming out with something fun with regards to radio in about 2 weeks. Hopefully this will seperate my media and baseball rants. Stay tuned….

    @Russ – that is an interesting debate. I will throw that up to the fans at some point in the next couple of days.

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