Monday, February 28, 2005

"There can be only five!"

This little nugget of potential strife lurks within an otherwise appropriately laudatory article on Tim Wakefield in today's Globe:

[Wakefield] assumes he will be a starter again this season, though a healthy Wade Miller seemingly would leave manager Terry Francona with a choice of bumping Wakefield or Bronson Arroyo from the rotation. [...] "I know the situation with Wade Miller, too," he said. "I don't see any reason why I should be the guy who goes to the bullpen."

I don't think I was happier for anyone in the champagne-soaked visitors' locker room in St. Louis last October than Tim Wakefield. He'd endured the most for this city and this team; he'd been the direct recipient of Aaron Boone's unkind cut the year before. Perhaps the most horrible sports-related feeling of my life was seeing the venerable knuckler in tears after that game, apologizing for letting the team down when he'd done no such thing. This was a man who deserved better, not just for his performance but for the sincerity of his pain in an era when excuses and ego so often preclude a real sense of responsibility, however admirably misguided.

Having said that, forced to choose between sending Wake or The Paper Airplane to the bullpen, I'd have to send Wake. I'll get to my reasons in a moment, but first let's examine Wakefield's elaboration of his own case for starting, drawn from the same link as above.

I think Bronson's the more likely candidate for [the bullpen]. He's more of a situational type of guy. He can come in and get righties out better than lefties out. I can get both guys out.

Many Red Sox fans would find this plausible on the surface, as Arroyo struggled conspicuously with lefties at times last year, but the numbers over the course of the season don't bear out Wakefield's assertion. Here are the lefty/ righty splits for each pitcher, in OBP/SLG/OPS format.

Wake vs. lefties: .295/.360/.656
Wake vs. righties: .366/.514/.879
Wake for the season: .333/.441/.775

Arroyo vs. lefties: .341/.429/.769
Arroyo vs. righties: .283/.375/.658
Arroyo for the season: .314/.403/.716

We might notice, at first, that Wakefield was really tough on lefties last year. However, Arroyo was just as tough on righties, and his struggles against southpaws seem to have been somewhat exaggerated in the popular imagination. At the very least, Arroyo is no more "situational" than Wakefield is, going by last year's numbers. Wait, though. Wakefield has another reason why Arroyo should be sent to the bullpen, should push come to shove.

At his age [28], he might be a little more resilient than I am right now.

This might actually be true, but I think that Arroyo's age argues for his inclusion in the rotation rather than against it. Last year was Arroyo's first year as a starter and he finished 11th in the league in ERA, 11th in K/9, and 6th in WHIP. He didn't pile up a ton of innings, and he hit a lot of batters. Stack him up against Yankee Auxiliary Rotation Savior Carl Pavano, though, and something interesting emerges. Arroyo had a better strikeout rate than Pavano and a comparable WHIP, in spite of the fact that he pitched in a tougher league and a much tougher home park. Plus, he's a year younger than Pavano. In other words, his age suggests that he could continue to develop, and the rotation is where he can best find the innings to do it.

It should be pointed out that there's no guarantee that Wade Miller will be ready by April, or that David Wells will be able to drag his Crisco-assisted guile to the mound 33 times this year. It's quite possible that the "odd man out" between Wakefield and Arroyo could end up making fifteen to twenty starts as health in the rest of the rotation waxes and wanes.

It should also be pointed out, however, that Wakefield's most valuable work last October came in Game 3 of the ALCS, when he spared his mates some worthless innings in a blowout so that they could contribute indispensable outs in the following two marathons, and in Game 5, when he refused to let three passed balls in an inning amount to a winning run. Both of those appearances were out of the bullpen, and a veteran handled them better than an emerging talent could have. I understand that Wakefield would prefer to start, but his signature virtue throughout his tenure in Boston has been his ability to subordinate his preferences to the needs of his team. Hopefully, if the time comes, he'll respond with as much character and dignity as he always has.

Monday, February 21, 2005

Attention Omar Minaya

From Peter Gammons' most recent ESPN column:

There's also Byung-Hyun Kim, who actually has thrown the ball better thus far this spring than he has the last two years. The Kim who pitched in Arizona would be another welcome addition, but there are layers of issues that cloud his return to Boston. More likely, he will end up being traded to one of the teams that intend to come watch him this spring, among them the Mets, Astros, Brewers, Rockies and Dodgers. But with the concerns about the use of Timlin and Embree the last two years, the Sox will not give Kim away if he can pitch in the seventh or eighth inning.

Gammons is, if anything, grossly understating Kim's potential. He's clutch. He's a tremendous clubhouse presence. Highly coachable. You are getting sleepy. BK is the kind of talent that thrives in the bright lights of the major markets. The Mets are just one piece away. Very sleepy. And that missing piece is Byung-Hyun Kim. You can't afford to let the Brewers scoop him up. That would shift the balance of power in the National League. You are now completely relaxed. Hurry, Omar. Before it's too late.

Dammit, how does Billy Beane do it, anyway?

Sunday, February 20, 2005

Gathered Wool

I just caught up with a smart piece over at RotoJunkie investigating the effect that switching from the NL to the AL has on starting pitchers. There's a lot of buzz about the boost Pedro will get from a free out every nine batters, but we don't often think about the reverse impact of suddenly being deprived of this luxury. In light of the fact that the marquee teams in the AL East have imported Carl Pavano, Jaret Wright, Wade Miller and Matt Clement from the senior circuit, it will be interesing to see who makes the adjustment more quickly.

How the heck do you project VORP for a knuckleballer, anyway? Is there some poor equivalent of Doug Mirabelli slaving away in the thankless employ of the PECOTA people? Or do they just drop a jumping bean on a scattered pile of bingo cards and see where it stops?

The defending world champions haven't started the season with a new shortstop since the '92 Blue Jays replaced Manny Lee with Tony Fernandez for 1993.

Speaking of the offseason's Three Shortstop Monte, I'm not at all sorry that David Eckstein has taken his .332 slugging percentage to a place where he will trouble the Red Sox no longer (or at least much less...stupid interleague play). He was a mere 17 for 36 against Boston during the regular season last year. I know I should be inspired by his tireless efforts to maximize his modest physical gifts, but man do I hate that twerp.

Robert De Niro has charged headlong into so many bad movies of late that I'm led to believe that Wendell Kim is his agent.

Speaking of third base coaches, Varitek has nobly defended third-base coach Dale Sveum. I have the same concerns that most Sox fans do with respect to Sveum, but I also think his missteps are magnified by the fact that he follows someone who was actually pretty good. How many people remember leaving a game upset over a Mike Cubbage decision?

I just saw a box of new Chocolate Lucky Charms at the grocery store. Somewhere in the wilderness Bill Watterson is screaming "I told you so!"

David Wells is currently listed at a slim 248 pounds. Methinks that measurement is towel-rack assisted.

Wednesday, February 16, 2005

Bearing Repeating

"Indulgent basking in success must end;
Turn now to spring, and see what it portends."
--Alexander Pope, "Epistle to a Feckless Seamhead"

So, can the Boston Red Sox do it again?

As Peter Gammons often reminds us, the question is frankly premature. In the previous two seasons, the teams that won it all didn't take their final and most effective shape until the July 31st trading deadline. At the very least, however, we can begin identifying the factors that will guide the 2004 world champions as they prepare their first title defense in 86 years.

I'm not going to offer a hard and fast prediction yet. What I'd like to do today is browse, in an anecdotal sort of way, a list of numbers that shed some light on the relationship between what happened last year and what's likely to happen this year

157. This is the number of starts that Boston's top five pitchers made last season. Given that three of the projected starters for this season (Schilling, Wells, and Wakefield) are 38 or older, this seems unlikely to happen again.

48. The number of games Trot Nixon played last year. It's hard to remember, given the exceptional run production of last year's line-up, that for roughly half the season our shortstop was Pokey (574 OPS) Reese and our right fielder was Gabe (701 OPS) Kapler. The Red Sox figure to be better offensively at each of these positions.

37. The number of home runs Johnny Damon and Mark Bellhorn combined to hit in 2004, with Damon recording a career best of 20. The odds are against the Sox getting this kind of production from these two again.

12. This is the margin by which the Yankees exceeded their Pythagorean expectation for wins last year. A lot of people in New England are looking south and seeing a rival that added arguably the greatest left-hander of all time. I look south and see a team that a) overachieved last season and b) chose to get older instead of younger as it attempted to fill its key needs.

3 (going into 2). If the bad news is that the rotation can't be expected to be as consistently durable this year as it was last year, the good news is that the Red Sox have more options should someone spring a leak. Even better, those options don't necessarily include Byung-Hyun Kim, last seen on QVC tethered to a sweetening box of Ginsu knives. Boston doesn't necessarily need 35 starts from either Wells or from Wade Miller. If they deliver thirty-five starts between them, we'll be in good shape. John Halama's around to make the emergency spot-start as needed. No, I am not crazy about John Halama. But, my provisional sanity aside, he's a more reliable stop-gap than anyone the Sox had available to them last year, had a similar situation occurred.

2...1? The number of prominent players in the Red Sox organization named Ramirez. Manny will continue to hold down left field at least through the end of this year. Hanley Ramirez, on the other hand, still has the kind of value that could pry a catalyzing ingredient from another club with the dog days looming.

1...2? The number of players likely to start on opening day who are a product of the Red Sox farm system. Trot Nixon is the definite "1" in question; Kevin Youkilis might become the second against the Yanks if Bill Mueller's surgically repaired knee isn't ready to go. If the Red Sox want to compete beyond, say, 2006, this number has to increase, which means Hanley Ramirez may not be someone they'd want to deal for help this year after all.

-11.5. According to Baseball Prospectus this is Derek Lowe's VORP for 2004 , which is the worst figure for any pitcher who logged enough innings to qualify for the ERA title. Take the October heroics (for which I'm grateful of course) out of the equation, and the Red Sox would almost have to improve on this "performance" by default.

What do these admittedly eclectic numbers add up to? Despite a roster with very little wiggle in it as spring training begins, there still seems to be a lot of room for the pendulum to swing among even the known quantities. Perhaps this spring is more like the springs we've known before than a fan of the defending champs would have expected.

Tuesday, February 15, 2005

Vorpal Swords, Part II

Quick note here: I've finally posted the answers to my Friday Diversion for those of you interested. Sorry it took me so long, but my body's still recovering from the twin hits of a weekend of skiing and a bout of the flu. And yes, I did ski even though I was sick and I still had a spectacular time. Anyhoo...

Jacob Luft now turns his attention to the NL rotations (using DIPS too). He ranks 'em, but let's take a look at their changes and PECOTA projections for next year.

We're going to play by the same rules as last time: Only the top five starters will be considered for VORP purposes. I know this sucks for the Nats who only had one pitcher, the rubber-armed Livan Hernandez, made 30+ starts but I really don't care. For fairness purposes though, I have listed the number of starts each pitcher made in 2004. Again, we're looking for gross differences here.

We'll start with the home towne team:


'04 Rotation GS '04 VORP '05 Rotation ERA dERA '05 VORP
Tom Glavine 33 42 1. Pedro Martinez 3.9 3.7 53.3
Steve Trachsel 33 25.8 2. Tom Glavine 3.6 4.41 12.2
Al Leiter 30 46.2 3. Kris Benson 4.31 3.87 13.6
Jae Seo 21 8.3 4. Steve Trachsel 4 4.91 9.3
Matt Ginter 14 3.4 5. Victor Zambrano 4.37 5.19 4.7
Totals 131 125.7


Losses: Al Leiter, Jae Seo, Matt Ginter
Additions: Pedro Martinez, Kris Benson, Victor Zambrano
Lucky Guys: Trachsel, Glavine
VORP Differential: -32.6


'04 RotationGS'04 VORP'05 RotationERA dERA '05 VORP
Russ Ortiz 34 33.1 1. John Smoltz 2.76 2.75 20.8
John Thomson 33 34 2. Tim Hudson 3.53 3.58 31.8
Jaret Wright 32 40.3 3. Mike Hampton 4.28 4.47 9.5
Mike Hampton 29 24.4 4. John Thomson 3.72 3.93 16.3
Paul Byrd 19 16.2 5. Horacio Ramirez 2.39 5.01 7.4
Totals 147 148


Losses: Russ Ortiz, Jaret Wright, Paul Byrd
Additions: Tim Hudson, John Smoltz, Horatio Ramirez
Lucky Guys: Ramirez
VORP Differential: -62.2
(Note: Smoltz is projected here as a reliever. His VORP will probably double when projected for a starter's innings)


'04 RotationGS'04 VORP'05 RotationERA dERA '05 VORP
Dontrelle Willis 32 27.2 1. Al Leiter 3.21 4.98 14.9
Carl Pavano 31 62.4 2. Josh Beckett 3.79 3.7 32.3
Josh Beckett 26 28.3 3. A.J. Burnett 3.68 3.39 23.3
Brad Penny 21 34.1 4. Dontrelle Willis 4.02 4.02 31.2
A.J. Burnett 19 26.8 5. Ismael Valdez 5.19 5.84 4.7
Totals 129 178.8


Losses: Carl Pavano, Brad Penny
Additions: Al Leiter, Ismael Valdez
Lucky Guys: Leiter
VORP Differential: -72.4


'04 RotationGS'04 VORP'05 RotationERA dERA '05 VORP
Eric Milton 34 18.7 1. Jon Lieber 4.33 3.77 19.1
Brett Myers 31 -0.3 2. Randy Wolf 4.28 4.5 20.9
Kevin Millwood 25 9.3 3. Vicente Padilla 4.53 4.46 17.6
Randy Wolf 23 14.5 4. Cory Lidle 4.9 4.47 13.8
Vicente Padilla 20 10.9 5. Brett Myers 5.52 5.02 17.3
Totals 133 53.1


Losses: Eric Milton, Kevin Millwood
Additions: Jon Lieber, Cory Lidle
Lucky Guys: No one really
VORP Differential: +35.6


'04 RotationGS'04 VORP'05 RotationERA dERA '05 VORP
Livan Hernandez 35 58.3 1. Livan Hernandez 3.6 4.02 30.7
John Patterson 19 5 2. Tony Armas Jr. 4.88 5.73 6.6
Zach Day 19 21.7 3. Tomo Ohka 3.4 4.61 18.7
Sunny Kim 17 6.5 4. Esteban Loaiza 5.7 4.91 17.9
Tony Armas 16 5.1 5. Zach Day 3.93 4.68 11.2
Totals 106 96.6


Losses: John Patterson, Sunny Kim
Additions: Tomo Ohka, Esteban Loaiza
Lucky Guys: Armas, Ohka
VORP Differential: -11.5

2005 Summary

1. Marlins 106.4 (-72.4)
2. Mets 93.1 (-32.6)
3. Phillies 88.7 (+35.6)
4. Braves 85.8 (-62.2)*
5. Nationals 85.1 (-11.5)

*Expect this to rise about 20 or so once Smoltz' new projection comes out.

So what can we say about this?

1) The Phillies rotation in 2004 was like the Mets lineup: So bad, they have no where to go but up in 2005. In fact, they're the only NL East team projected to improve by VORP. Over at RLYW, I was quite surprised at how well the Phillies did in a simulation of the 2005 season. I'm now starting to see why.

2) PECOTA projects a huge year for Pedro Martinez and doesn't think much of Kris Benson and Victor Zambrano. Rick Peterson has to come through here. Even with an off-year, Mike Cameron had a significant effect on the Mets pitching staff if you look at the dERA of Steve Trachsel, Al Leiter, and Tom Glavine. This of course, bodes well for the Mets pitching staff in general and doesn't bode very well for the good Senator.

3) Livan Hernandez is literally carrying a team on his shoulder. And if it were to fall off...

4) If everyone stays healthy, the Marlins could have a scary good rotation. That's a big if, though.

5) I'll factor John Smoltz' projection in when it comes out...and I'll bet that the Braves will jump to the top of the rotation list. But not by much.

So where do we stand overall? Let's add the VORP totals for the lineups and rotations.

Rotation Lineup Total
Marlins 106.4 199.5 305.9
Phillies 88.7 216.8 305.5
Mets 93.1 207 300.1
Braves 85.8 180.9 266.7
Nationals 85.1 129 214.1

Again, the Braves will probably go up by about 20 or so once Smoltz is factored in, making the top four slots awfully tight. All else being equal, it's going to come down to health this year.

Of course, everything else isn't equal and that's why I'll look at the bullpens and benches of the NL East once the rosters are set.

Monday, February 07, 2005

Vorpal Swords

Jacob Luft
over at Sports Illustrated takes a look at the new Mets lineup by VORP (PECOTA projection) and position and comes away impressed:

Pos. Player VORP Player VORP (Proj.)
C Jason Phillips -5.3 Mike Piazza 24.2
1B Mike Piazza 29.9 Minky 12.7
2B Jose Reyes 5.2 Kazuo Matsui 25.9
3B David Wright 21.2 David Wright 32.4
SS Kazuo Matsui 23.7 Jose Reyes 12.7
LF Cliff Floyd 20 Cliff Floyd 23.1
CF Mike Cameron 27 Carlos Beltran 51.6
RF Richard Hidalgo 7.4 Mike Cameron 24.4

Totals 129.1

Losses: Jason Phillips, Richard Hidalgo
Additions: Minky, Carlos Beltran
Estimated VORP differential: +77.9

A couple things to point out here:

1) The Mets lineup last year was, for lack of a better word, vomitous.

2) However, for 2005, PECOTA predicts improvements at every position but 1B and SS

Hitting rock bottom may suck in the current season but it certainly gives one hope for the future (oh, and Carlos Beltran gives a wee bit of hope as well). One can easily expect improvements from David Wright, Jose Reyes, and Kaz Matsui. Minky upgrades first over Jason Phillips (who should have a bounce back year as a backup) and Beltran is, well, god.

But do the Mets improvements catch them up to the rest of the NL East? Let's take a look at the changes in the other lineups using PECOTA. For the sake of my sanity, I'm only using the primary player at each position rather than adding in the backups. I know this doesn't work well for platoons but we're looking for gross differences here anyway.


Pos. Player VORP Player VORP (Proj.)
C Johnny Estrada 41 Johnny Estrada 20.5
1B Adam LaRoche 19.1 Adam LaRoche 19.9
2B Marcus Giles 35.9 Marcus Giles 35.8
3B Chipper Jones 32 Chipper Jones 30.3
SS Rafael Furcal 38 Rafael Furcal 28.3
LF Charles Thomas 12.9 Brian Jordan -0.7
CF Andruw Jones 36.6 Andruw Jones 39.2
RF J.D. Drew 78.7 Raul Mondesi 7.6

Totals 294.2

Losses: JD Drew, Charles Thomas
Additions: Brian Frickin' Jordan, Raul Mondesi
Estimated VORP differential: -114.7


Pos. Player VORP Player VORP (Proj.)
C Mike Redmond 3.7 Paul LoDuca 16.3
1B Hee Seop Choi 27.5 Carlos Delgado 42.5
2B Luis Castillo 33.5 Luis Castillo 20.3
3B Mike Lowell 53.9 Mike Lowell 33
SS Alex Gonzalez 11.3 Alex Gonzalez 14.7
LF Jeff Conine 20.1 Jeff Conine 9.8
CF Juan Pierre 44.6 Juan Pierre 19.9
RF Miguel Cabrera 54.4 Miguel Cabrera 43

Totals 249

Losses: Mike Redmond, Hee Seop Choi
Additions: Paul Lo Duca, Carlos Delgado
Estimated VORP differential: -49.5


Pos. Player VORP Player VORP (Proj.)
C Mike Lieberthal 26.8 Mike Lieberthal 22.8
1B Jim Thome 60.3 Jim Thome 47.2
2B Placido Polanco 31.5 Chase Utley 21.9
3B David Bell 32.2 David Bell 4.9
SS Jimmy Rollins 50.9 Jimmy Rollins 34.9
LF Pat Burrell 21.8 Pat Burrell 19.7
CF Marlon Byrd -8.7 Kenny Lofton 10.6
RF Bobby Abreu 83.8 Bobby Abreu 54.8

Totals 298.6

Losses: Placido Polanco, Marlon Byrd
Additions: Kenny Lofton, Chase Utley
Estimated VORP differential: -81.8


Pos. Player VORP Player VORP (Proj.)
C Brian Schneider 16.6 Brian Schneider 7.3
1B Brad Wilkerson 48.2 Nick Johnson 22.9
2B Jose Vidro 36.9 Jose Vidro 30
3B Tony Batista 10.3 Vinny Castilla 0.1
SS Orlando Cabrera 5.3 Cristian Guzman 9.7
LF Termel Sledge 18.1 Brad Wilkerson 23.5
CF Endy Chavez 14.5 Endy Chavez 10.5
RF Juan Rivera 30.2 Jose Guillen 25

Totals 180.1

Losses: Tony Batista, Orlando Cabrera, Termel Sledge, Juan Rivera
Additions: Nick Johnson, Vinny Castilla, Cristian Guzman, Jose Guillen
Predicted VORP differential: -51.1

2005 Totals:

1) Phillies 216.8, (-81.8)
2) Mets 207, (+77.9)
3) Marlins 199.5, (-49.5)
4) Braves 180.9, (-114.7)
5) Nationals 129, (-51.1)

Looking these over there are several things that stand out:

1) The Mets are the only NL East team with a positive differential, and would have one even if all of their youngsters failed to improve thanks largely to Mr. Beltran.

2) JD Drew is a huge loss to the Braves that they haven't replaced at all.

3) The declines in VORP for the Marlins and Phillies is based largely upon declines in players who had outstanding (Bobby Abreu) or breakout (Juan Pierre) years. These are players that could sustain those levels of production even though PECOTA projects them to come back to earth a bit. In fact, I wouldn't be totally surprised to see the Marlins or Phillies improve offensively next year at all.

4) Nationals of 2005, meet the Mets of 2004 and welcome to hell.

5) I hate Brian Jordan, even if he sucks.

So what's the bottom line to take away from all of this?

Out of all the teams in the NL East, the Mets have the most potential for improvement offensively.

Of course, offense is only half of the game. I'll take a look at the projections for the NL East starting rotations sometime soon...

Saturday, February 05, 2005

In the Meantime

"In the spring a young man's fancy lightly turns to thoughts of baseball."
--Not quite Alfred, Lord Tennyson's "Locksley Hall"

While we anxiously look forward to pitchers and catchers reporting, something seems to be obstructing the vision of a certain segment of baseball fans. They can't see the sunflower seeds through, what's that, lace? They're pulled right past that favorite bar where the television is set at just the right angle. Some place sinister, insisting on reservations and definitely not serving nachos, is exerting an unspeakable gravity. They try to start their favorite "Let's go home team" chant, but a tepid, syrupy dribble of Hallmarkese is all that escapes their lips.

They're rounding third, heading for spring training and rotisserie drafts, but Valentine's Day is blocking the plate.

It is my custom to wax bitter and cynical about this little observance, and while my reasons for doing so are as strong as ever, I'm trying to be a little more generous about the whole thing. In this precariously renewed spirit, I'm listing ten quotes from some of my favorite love poems, with authors and titles removed in shameless imitation of my co-blogger's Friday diversion. The prize for correct identifications is the cozy glow of self-congratulation, and the knowledge that you're not the only person in the world who likes that bit from mystery poet four.

As is the case with Jay's lyrics-fest, a Google search would likely lift the veil on many of these. Let's stick to our wits, and the honor system, instead. One hint, and one caveat. The vast majority (not all) of these were written in the 20th century. (Bit of an upset, given my usual interests.) Finally, one of these quotes is not from a love poem, exactly, but rather from an extended meditation on love in a much longer poem. Within the narrower context, I thought it worth including. Happy hunting; I'll post identifications as intrepid readers provide them.

It well may be that in a difficult hour,
Pinned down by pain and moaning for release,
Or nagged by want past resolution's power,
I might be driven to sell your love for peace,
Or trade the memory of this night for food.
It well may be. I do not think I would.

After eleven years I was composing
Love-letters again, broaching the word 'wife'
Like a stored cask, as if its slender vowel
Had mutated into the night earth and air

Of California. The beautiful, useless
Tang of eucalyptus spelt your absence.
The aftermath of a mouthful of wine
Was like inhaling you off a cold pillow.

Your glancing eye, your animal tongue,
Your hands that flew to mine and clung
Like birds on bough, with innocence
Masking those young experiments
Of flesh, persuaded me that nature
Formed us each other's god and creature.
Play out then, as it should be played,
The sweet illusion that has made
An eldorado of your hair
And our love an everywhere.

I was ill, lying on my bed of old papers,
when you came with white rabbits in your arms;
and the doves scattered upwards, flying to mothers,
and the snails sighed under their baggage of stones...

No voice as yet had made the air
Be music with your name; yet why
That asking look? that yearning sigh?
That sense of promise every where?
Beloved! flew your spirit by?

Oh then
I stood up in my gold skin
and I beat down the psalms
and I beat down the clothes
and you undid the bridle
and you undid the reins
and I undid the buttons,
the bones, the confusions,
the New England postcards,
the January ten o'clock night,
and we rose up like wheat,
acre after acre of gold,
and we harvested,
we harvested.

Half-close your eyelids, loosen your hair,
And dream about the great and their pride;
They have spoken against you everywhere,
But weigh this song with the great and their pride;
I made it out of a mouthful of air,
Their children's children will say they have lied.

Tell me why, if it was no more than this,
the unmuddled tumble, the renegade kiss,
today, rapt in a still life and unaware,
my paintbrush dropped like an amber hawk;
thinking I'd heard your footfall on the stair,
I listened, heartwise, for the knock.

Let seed be grass, and grass turn into hay:
I'm martyr to a motion not my own;
What's freedom for? To know eternity.
I swear she cast a shadow white as stone.
But who would count eternity in days?
These old bones live to learn her wanton ways:
(I measure time by how a body sways).

There it was, the valentine that Maya,
Kneeling on our threshold, drew to bless us:
Of white meal sprinkled then with rum and lit,
Heart once intricate as birdsong, it
Hardened on the spot. Much come-and-go
Has blackened, pared the scabby curlicue
Down to smatterings which, even so,
Promise to last this lifetime. That will do.

Friday, February 04, 2005

Friday Diversion

I picked this one up from Shannon, among other places. Here's a fun exercise if you have iTunes.

1) Take a playlist or random shuffle of your library and post a stanza from 25-35 diffent songs.
2) If the first is too obvious, take a middle one instead.
3) Try to keep the artists and albums as diverse as possible (don't take five songs from the same album).
4) Now try and guess the song, group, and album in the comments. It can be a fun way of maybe discovering something new to try.
5) I'll post the answers as people guess correctly and put up the full list next week.

6) Now, of course, the answers to all of these can be found with several simple Google searches so only post the ones that you know off the top of your head. Honor system is in effect here.

(I've started updating some of the answers people have e-mailed me with. I'll continue as they come in -- let me know if you want credit .)

This is a fairly representative crossection of my musical tastes (it's actually my current gym/running rotation):

Answers in BOLD: Song/Artist/Album

1. What I Got/Sublime/Sublime
Early in the morning, risin' to the street
Light me up that cigarette and I strap shoes on my feet
Got to find a reason, a reason things went wrong
Got to find a reason why my money's all gone

2. Goodnight Moon/Shivaree/Kill Bill Vol. 2
There's a nail in the door
And there's glass on the lawn
Tacks on the floor
And the TV is on
And I always sleep with my guns when you're gone

3. World On Fire/Sarah McLachlan/Afterglow
Hearts are worn in these dark ages
You're not alone in this story's pages
Night has fallen amongst the living and the dying
And I try to hold it in, yeah I try to hold it in

4. I'm Gonna Be (500 miles)/The Proclaimers/Best Of
When I wake up
Well, I know I'm gonna be
I'm gonna be the man that wakes up next to you

5. Jesus Of Suburbia/Green Day/American Idiot
Dearly beloved, are you listening?
I can't remember a word that you were saying,
Are we demented? Or am I disturbed?
The space that's in between insane and insecure

6. The Impression That I Get/Mighty Mighty Bosstones/Live From The Middle East
(I guess we know this fucking song)
Have you ever been close to tragedy
Or been close to folks who have
Have you ever felt a pain so powerful
So heavy you collapse

[Bonus points if you guess the correct album]

7. Harder To Breathe/Maroon 5/Songs About Jane
How dare you say that my behavior is unacceptable
So condescending unnecessarily critical
I have the tendency of getting very physical
So watch your step cause if I do you'll need a miracle

8. Hello, I Love You/The Doors/Best Of
She's walking down the street
Blind to every eye she meets
Do you think you'll be the guy
To make the queen of the angels sigh?

9. Here We Go/Dispatch/Bang Bang
I got the mean time slippin' down
the slide some uptight right wing,
political homicide, do what you
want, take what you will, take it in
like a south paw, flip it on the grill

10. The Dark Of The Matinee/Franz Ferdinand/Franz Ferdinand
You take your white finger
Slide the nail under the top and bottom buttons of my blazer
Relax the fraying wool, slacken ties
And I'm not to look at you in the shoe, but the eyes, find the eyes

11. Twenty-Five Miles/Edwin Starr/Best Of
It's twenty five miles from home
Girl, my feet are hurting mighty bad
Now I've been walking a three day, two lonely nights
You know that I'm mighty mad

12. Get Off This/Cracker/Kerosene Hat
All these cats with holey jeans,
Dirty hair and titty rings
Say "what's your scene man? We got these questions...

13. You Will You Won't/The Zutons/Who Killed...The Zutons
While your thinking, thinking, thinking up a storm in you
All the things you're thinking, are they false, are they true
You know the dipsydoodle rag, it tells no lie
But all the time you're thinking, well you're tricking your mind

14. Hold Me, Thrill Me, Kiss Me, Kill Me/U2/Batman Forever
You don’t know how you took it
You just know what you got
Oh lordy you’ve been stealing
From the thieves and you got caught

15. Hardest Button To Button/White Stripes/Elephant
We started living in an old house
My ma gave birth and we were checking it out
It was a baby boy
So we bought him a toy
It was a ray gun
And it was 1981

16. The Real Slim Shady/Eminem/ The Marshall Mathers LP
I'm like a head trip to listen to, cause I'm only givin you
things you joke about with your friends inside your living room
The only difference is I got the balls to say it
in front of y'all and I don't gotta be false or sugarcoated at all

17. The Last Stop/Dave Matthews Band/Before These Crowded Streets (Jenn)
The sun is well asleep
Moon is high above
Fire grows from the east
How is this
Hate so deep
Lead us all so blindly killing killing

18. Sweet Home Alabama/Lynyrd Skynyrd/Forrest Gump
Well, I heard mister Young sing about her
Well, I heard 'ole Neil put her down
Well, I hope Neil Young will remember
A Southern man don't need him around anyhow

19. Come Downstairs And Say Hello/Guster/Keep It Together
To tell you truth I've said it before
Tomorrow I start in a new direction
One last time these words from me
I'm never saying them again
And I shut the light
And listen as my watch unwinds

20. Get Off My Cloud/Rolling Stones/Hot Rocks
I live in an apartment on the ninety-ninth floor of my block
And I sit at home looking out the window
Imagining the world has stopped
Then in flies a guy who's all dressed up like a Union Jack
And says, I've won five pounds if I have his kind of detergent pack

21. The Fly/U2/Achtung Baby
It's no secret that a conscience can sometimes be a pest.
It's no secret ambition bites the nails of success.
Every artist is a cannibal, every poet is a thief;
All kill their inspiration and sing about the grief.

22. Hitchin' A Ride/Green Day/Nimrod
Hey mister, where you headed?
Are you in a hurry?
I need a lift to happy hour.
Say oh no.
Do you brake for distilled spirits?
I need a break as well.
The well that inebriates the guilt.

23. Kryptonite/3 Doors Down/The Better Life (Jenn)
I took a walk around the world to
Ease my troubled mind
I left my body laying somewhere
In the sands of time
I watched the world float to the dark
Side of the moon
I feel there is nothing I can do, yeah

24. Connected/Stereo MC's/Connected
If you make sure you're connected
The writing's on the wall
But if your mind's neglected
Stumble you might fall

25. About An Hour Ago/O.A.R./The Wanderer
Now we're kickin back and we're sippin beers
and there's a man telling stories about his inner fears
We was all choked up and too close to tears
Well then we moved on up to some margaritas
and we started makin faces at the senoritas
Playing drinking games but they were all too drunk to beat us

26. Devil's Haircut/Beck/Odelay
Somethin's wrong cause my mind is fadin'
And everywhere I look there's a dead end waiting,
Temperature's dropping at the rottin' oasis
Stealing kisses from the lepers faces

27. Curbside Prophet/Jason Mraz/Waiting For My Rocket To Come
You see it started way back in NYC
When I stole my first rhyme from the M-I-C
At a west end avenue at 63
It's the beginning of a leap year February ‘96
win a guitar picked it up in the mix
I committed to the licks like a nickel bag of tricks

28. Under African Skies/Paul Simon/Graceland
This is the story of how we begin to remember
This is the powerful pulsing of love in the vein
After the dream of falling and calling your name out
These are the roots of rhythm
And the roots of rhythm remain

29. No Alibis/Eric Clapton/Journeyman
I beg your pardon, hello darlin'
This is me you're talkin' to
Sit down and tell me about it
You don't have to shout it at me
Tell me what you really want to do

30. The Rising/Bruce Springsteen/The Rising
Can’t see nothin’ in front of me
Can’t see nothin’ coming up behind
I make my way through this darkness
I can’t feel nothing but this chain that binds me