Kevin Millar, chemistry and the Cubs

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Kevin Millar.jpgKevin Millar makes the case for his value to the Cubs:

“Everybody is looking at stats … I get it. But my point is when you’re making a team
and trying to bring in a bunch of different personalities I think
everybody’s got a certain amount of intangibles that they bring.

“Obviously, I’ll bring some leadership qualities. I’ve won a World
Series. Having a chance to play with guys like Ryan Dempster and Derrek
Lee, we came up together in Florida. It’s trying to make a family
atmosphere and trying to get everybody to pull on the same rope and
trying to get everybody to believe that we can do this.”

There’s a saying among lawyers: when the facts are on your side, argue the facts. When the law is on your side, argue the law.  In Millar’s case you can substitute with “skills” and “chemistry.”  The skills, unfortunately, are no longer there:  Millar is a first base/DH type who can’t hit enough to carry that job, and there’s little reason to think that he’ll add anything positive from a baseball prospective to the Cubs’ 2010 season.  It appears based on his comments that even he knows that, and to that extent it’s actually refreshing to hear that he is not deluded about his abilities the way so many other close-to-the-end ballplayers have been before him.

But what about the chemistry? Does it matter? Is it worth giving Millar a spot on the roster?

I won’t go so far as some of my sabermetic colleagues and suggest that chemistry is totally  meaningless. After all, we’ve all worked with jerks before, and while a jerk can’t necessarily make you any less good at your job, in the aggregate, one can bring down the group’s performance.  By all accounts, Kevin Millar is a great guy to have in the clubhouse, and as long as you’re not giving him too many plate appearances, it’s nice to have a fun guy around, especially after a summer with Milton Bradley on the team.

But really, chemistry is almost always a retrospective application that, in the context of baseball, approaches meaningless.  Teams that win are later said to have good chemistry (except when they don’t have good chemistry).  I’ve yet to hear anyone refer to a team that went 76-86 as having good chemistry. And of course, unlike basketball and football, where the whole concept of chemistry was probably invented, baseball has comparatively few true “teamwork” moments. You basically have the double play and relay throws and a whole bunch of individual as opposed to team moments.

At the end of the day, you have to ask: would anyone be talking about Kevin Millar and all of the intangibles he brings to the table if Dave Roberts had been tagged out at second in Game 5 of the 2004 ALCS?

Mets to move Matt Harvey to the bullpen

Matt Harvey
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Mets right-hander Matt Harvey is heading to the bullpen, according to comments made by club manager Mickey Callaway on Saturday. As predicted, Harvey doesn’t appear to be taking the news particularly well, going so far as to tell Callaway that the decision has him “at a 10 with being pissed off” and that he’s motivated to prove himself as a starter.

It’s been rough going for Harvey this spring. After missing significant time to a shoulder injury last season, the 29-year-old righty returned to the mound with a lot left to prove. He pitched to an 0-2 record in four starts, issuing 14 runs, four home runs and 17 strikeouts in 21 innings. It’s been a while since the Mets have seen anything better out of their starter — he hasn’t turned in a sub-4.00 ERA since 2015 and hasn’t pitched well enough to earn an All-Star berth since 2013 — and now it appears they’re at the end of their rope.

At this point, the Mets insist that the shift is a temporary one. While Callaway has helped successfully convert several starters to the bullpen, including Trevor Bauer and Carlos Carrasco, that’s not the plan for this veteran right-hander. Instead, both the team and Harvey seem to view the change as a way to clear up any mental blocks Harvey may be encountering on the mound. “We know he’s healthy,” assistant GM John Ricco told reporters. “He’s feeling good. Then you get to, is this a little bit of a mental thing, a confidence thing? One of the things we talk about is getting him into the ‘pen, where he can have success in short spurts, get that confidence back and really let it go and get back to being a guy who can dominate the way he’s shown in the past.”

Harvey will be eligible to pitch out of the bullpen on Tuesday, when the Mets are scheduled to kick off their next road series against the Cardinals. As for his replacement, left-hander Jason Vargas will resume his role in the rotation when he comes off the disabled list next Saturday.