Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Grunge is not dead!

It's not raining in Victoria tonight, just a hop north of Seattle, but it probably should be. On Tuesday afternoon, we were greeted with the sombre news of Mike Starr's death.
I've got to come clean here; I'm a misplaced grunge kid, 20 years past my due date. Got the beard, the long-hair, the melancholy, even the thing for heroin chicks (not heroin chic, mind you - it was more about the destitution), but no music scene. I don't know why it is that a genre that passed its prime in my infancy holds such an appeal; in my more cynical moments, I wonder if maybe 1993 is simply my Jerusalem, and I'll do anything to bring back the memories:
Maybe this grunge obsession subconsciously hints at why I emigrated the Pacific Northwest (Canadian Southwest?) in the first place. Am I searching for a bridge to hovel under?

To be fair, I did spend the summer after high school sleeping in the backseat of a Ford Explorer, but the only time I ever made the pilgrimage to the homeland of grunge was for this:

Scoring Summary

4thV Wells doubled to deep right center, M Scutaro scored, A Rios to third.10
4thG Zaun grounded into fielder's choice to left, A Rios scored, V Wells out at third, L Overbay to second.20
4thA Lind singled to right, L Overbay scored, G Zaun to third.30
4thR Sexson reached on infield single to pitcher, A Beltre to third, A Beltre scored, R Sexson to second on throwing error by pitcher J Litsch.31
4thY Betancourt singled to right, R Sexson scored, J Clement to second.32
6thG Zaun singled to right, V Wells scored, L Overbay to third, S Rolen to second.42
6thA Lind doubled to left, L Overbay and S Rolen scored, G Zaun to third.62
6thY Betancourt singled to center, J Reed scored, J Clement to second.63
7thA Beltre homered to right, J Vidro scored.65
8thR Sexson homered to left.66
9thW Bloomquist singled to deep left center, R Ibanez scored, A Beltre to second.67
In short, I didn't spend much time railing heroin. In fact, I wound up rather benignly hitching a cab to Safeco with a gentrified couple from the Lower Mainland, and then spending the innings between the third and the seventh discussing Dustin McGowan's potential, Roy Halladay's Cy Young chances and the meaning of life with a cheerful, heavyset Calgarian in a Blue Jays uni.

So, I wasn't exactly living in Kevin Bacon's Seattle. (For those who don't get the reference, Singles features a not-quite-famous-yet incarnation of the band.) There was no Mark Teixieira on the field.

At heart, in spite of the appearance, I'm more baseball geekboy than Cobain. That Canada Day we watched a strong start from Jesse Litsch (pre-injury) laid to waste thanks to an impressive meltdown by the normally reliable Snakeface and that punk-ass Carlson. (Someone who works at SkyDome once told me that Carlson was only right when he had his bong in the bullpen, but I can't corroborate the story.) In four short innings at spacious Safeco the two lefties managed to transform a 6-2 lead into a 7-6 loss at the hands of Willie Bloomquist. (Yes, that Willie Bloomquist, who looks far too gentle for Cornell or Cobain's dulcet tones, but who am I to judge?)

In that game, you'll notice, Brandon Morrow got the win en route to the best year of his career, according to ERA. Obviously a season in which he threw 146 innings should be held to a different standard than a season in which he threw 64 innings, but regardless, his 2008 was very strong.
(Yes, I suck at photoshop. Don't shoot me.)

As 2011 approaches, we've been hearing a lot of calls of ACE! ACE! when it comes to our boy Brandon, 26-year-old superstud. I'm here to tell you to hold your horses.

Over at GROF, Drew previewed the 2011 rotation a couple of weeks ago. All four projection systems he lists (Marcel, RotoChamp, James, and fan voting) place Morrow's 2011 ERA between 3.78 and 4.04, which seems not only a miniscule range, but also a touch optimistic. As much as I love Morrow's electric arm - and, with the possible exception of a healthy McGowan, he's certainly got the most charged arsenal on the staff - and his fantastic finish to 2010, pitchers don't always develop on a linear curve. How many times have we been warned about small sample sizes? Yes, his OPSA fell almost a hundred points between the first half and the second half of 2010, which supported the naked-eye perception that he seemed to be improving before our eyes. But it's not a necessary leap to say that will carry forward.

For comparison's sake, in 2007 AJ Burnett's OPSA dropped 94 points between the first and the second half as he put together his best Toronto season. In 2008, he managed to stay healthy and add an extra 8 victories, but his ERA floated up to 4.07 and we all know how his time in New York has worked out. While I do understand that a 30-year-old Burnett is not a perfect comparison for a 26-year-old Morrow, I am prompted to wonder: how many times did we hear AJ reiterate that he wanted to be a pitcher, not a thrower? How many times did we hear he was working on a new changeup? (Three times in three years, if my count was right.)

Again, I look back upon the trifecta of Carpenter, Halladay, and Escobar, all of whom would eventually become superlative pitchers, but each had his own personal struggles along the way. I like Morrow's potential as much as anybody. But young power pitchers have a high crash-and-burn ratio, whether due to injury, mechanics, or psychological issues, so let's not get our expectations out of line.

A mind map from Mike Starr to Brandon Morrow:
1) In 2010, Starr starred with Dennis Rodman in Celebrity Rehab with Dr Drew
2) In 1996, Rodman and Michael Jordan won the NBA Finals
3) In 1994, Terry Francona managed Jordan on the AA Birmingham Barons
4) In 2010, Jon Farrell was Francona's pitching coach on the Boston Red Sox
5) In 2011, Farrell will manage Brandon Morrow on the Toronto Blue Jays

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