Saturday, May 17, 2003

Breaking my promise

I know I promised a post tonight, but after working for the last 10 hours I'm completely drained. I'm just going to sit back, relax and enjoy the second half of this game seven between Dallas and Sacramento. I'll try to make my Red Sox post tomorrow, but I have to work even more tomorrow than I did today, so I may not be able to. I definitely promise more consistent posting after tomorrow though, because the busiest time of the year will be over for my day job. Until then, visit any of the wonderful links to the right to quench your baseball thirst.

Sorry for the delay

Unfortunately, I won't be able to make my "State of the Red Sox Saturday" post until tonight as I have to go out and cover a high school track meet in a little while (I wonder what will get more readers: my high school track story or my post later tonight...). I was also supposed to go golfing today, but you don't move up on the journalistic ladder of success by turning down writing assignments, no matter what they are. Before I go, however, I'd like to leave all you Red Sox fans with this from Bill James' chat on

Nomar (Boston): Am I better than Jeter?

Bill James: Coitenly, And it is No-mah.

You may all now go around chanting, "Nomah's bettah than Jetah" for the rest of the day.

Crazy 18's

It's not often that two teams each score 18 runs on the same night, so I thought I'd talk about each game. First I'll look at the Blue Jays, who defeated Kansas City 18-1.

Toronto collected 22 hits, and all 10 of the hitters who played had at least one hit and scored at least one run. Shannon Stewart, Tom Wilson and Chris Woodward each had three hits. Vernon Wells went 4-for-6 with two doubles, a home run, three runs scored and four RBI.

Wells now has a .559 SLG, but he only has an .884 OPS because he doesn't draw very many walks (11 in 41 games). Wells also has 11 homers, 32 runs scored and 43 RBI. I usually don't care too much about runs and RBI because they're so team dependent, but those are great numbers. He's on pace for 43 homers, 126 runs and 170 RBI. Wells is one reason more fans should be going out to see the Blue Jays. He's a good, young hitter with the potential to be great who plays a terrific center field and won't be very expensive for the next five years.

The Kansas City pitchers spread the awfulness around as they each allowed at least two runs and none of them allowed less than a run per inning. Also, three of them threw wild pitches and two of them hit batters.

Meanwhile, the Royals batters got 10 hits, but were only able to score one run thanks to two double plays and no clutch hitting. Toronto starting pitcher Mark Hendrickson allowed one run on eight hits and a walk with one strikeout in seven innings. It was his third quality start of the year and he has his ERA down to 5.40 with a 1.48 WHIP. Unfortunately, he's only striking out 4.32 batters per nine innings (and just 2.84 per nine innings in his last three starts), so his newfound success may not last long.

Fun with blowouts: The Royals have now scored just one run more than they've allowed this season, so they are four games better than their expected record of 20-20.

The other big scorers of the night were the Minnesota Twins, who defeated the White Sox 18-3.

The Twins pounded out 22 hits, and all of their starters had at least one hit and one run scored. The Twins catchers combined to go 5-for-5 with two doubles, a home run, three runs scored and two RBI. A.J. Pierzynski went 4-for-4 with two doubles and Tom Prince hit a solo homer.

Strangely, even after this offensive outburst, only one of the players who were in the starting lineup has an .820 or better OPS. Here's a list of the nine players who started for Minnesota and their OPS's after the game:

Christian Guzman - .741
Doug Mientkiewicz - .763
Corey Koskie - .819
Bobby Kielty - .919
Torii Hunter - .708
Dustan Mohr - .781
Pierzynski - .764
Denny Hocking - .310 (28 at-bats)
Luis Rivas - .653

That's a little misleading, however, as two of the Twins best hitters missed the game due to injury. Jacque Jones has an .842 OPS, but he also has a strained quadriceps that may land him on the DL. Matthew LeCroy has a .910 OPS, but he was on the bench after a pitch hit him in the face and broke his nose on Thursday.

The White Sox actually took the early lead when they scored two runs in the top of the second inning and they still led 2-1 at the end of the second. Then starting pitcher Mark Buehrle imploded and had to be pulled in the fourth. When all was said and done, he gave up 10 runs (nine earned) on 10 hits and two walks with no strikeouts in 3.1 innings. Buehrle is now 2-7 with a 4.96 ERA and a 1.56 WHIP.

In 2001 and 2002, Buehrle was fairly consistent with his strikeout rates. He struck out 5.12 batters per nine innings in 2001 and 5.05 per nine innings last year. He had 2.63 strikeouts per walk in 2001 and 2.20 strikeouts per walk last year. In those two seasons, he went 35-20 with a 3.44 ERA and a 1.16 WHIP. This year, his dangerously low strikeout rates have fallen off the map. He's struck out 3.65 batters per nine innings and he has 1.09 strikeouts per walk.

I don't want to say that Buehrle's done as a top-notch starter, but it's very difficult to succeed for a long time if you strike out as few batters as he has in his career. It could be that he just had a two-year run of good luck and now his luck has changed.

Friday, May 16, 2003

Big Hurt is back

Don't look now, but Frank Thomas is back. After play on May 6th, Thomas was hitting .226 with a .430 SLG. Since then, however, he's hit six home runs while going 13-for-29 to raise his average to .279 and his SLG to .566. He also has a .438 OBP, but even when he was batting .226 he had a .422 OBP. He's drawn 30 walks in 37 games, but only three have come during his seven-game hot streak.

Anyway, Thomas now has a 1.003 OPS, which has pushed his career OPS right back up to an even 1.000. Thomas has had a very strange career. It began with seven straight full seasons with an OPS+ of at least 174. With a .330 batting average, 1,261 hits, 257 home runs and 854 RBI at age 29, Thomas looked like a definite future Hall-of-Famer. Then he slipped and had two straight seasons with sub-130 OPS+'s. He rebounded nicely with a 160 OPS+ in 2000, but he lost most of 2001 to injury and he posted a 117 OPS+ last year.

Through the 2002 season, he had a .314 average, 1,902 hits, 376 home runs and 1,285 RBI at age 34. In 2000, Thomas had a great season after two straight subpar seasons, and maybe he can do the same thing this year. As for the question of what he needs to do to get back into Hall-of-Fame discussions, I'll let Aaron Gleeman over at Aaron's Baseball Blog answer that if he wants to because he did such a nice job discussing the cases for Rafael Palmeiro and Fred McGriff.

Wasted Gems

The Chicago Cubs and Milwaukee Brewers wasted a pair of great pitching performances yesterday. The Cubs wasted a nice outing from Kerry Wood when Antonio Alfonseca blew the save. The Brewers wasted a great performance by Ben Sheets because they couldn't score against Wood and because they couldn't score more against Alfonseca.

Wood pitched seven scoreless innings, allowing three hits and two walks with 13 strikeouts for a game score of 82. He departed with a 1-0 lead, having thrown 119 pitches. Sheets stayed in one more inning and allowed one run on four hits and a walk with eight strikeouts in his eight innings for a game score of 77. He was taken off the hook for a loss when Milwaukee scored a run off Alfonseca in the eighth.

After a scoreless ninth, each team scored one run in the tenth and then went scoreless until Corey Patterson, who went 3-for-5 after pinch-hitting for Wood in the eighth, hit a two-run homer off Brooks Kieschnick in the 17th. Of course, it doesn't matter that Kieschnick's a bad pitcher because he allows them to do cool things like using him to get a pinch-hit single to lead off the 15th.

Wood now has a 2.44 ERA and a 1.20 WHIP and he leads the majors with 76 strikeouts (10.9 per nine innings and 2.42 per walk). Sheets improved his ERA to 4.19 and his WHIP to 1.25 with his best performance of the season and his third straight quality start. The amusing thing is that people forget how young these two pitchers are because they've both been around so long. Wood will turn 26 years old in June and Sheets will be 25 in July. If they both stay healthy and stay in the same division, I think we can look forward to at least a few more nice pitching duels like this between them, and maybe next time one of them will actually get the win.

Jeter sees a win through

For the first time in the 2003 season, Derek Jeter was able to shake hands with his New York Yankees teammates on the field after a victory. As I'm sure you all know, Jeter dislocated his shoulder in the first game of the season. The Yankees won that game 8-4, but Jeter was obviously not able to shake hands with anyone after the game. Jeter was then on the disabled list until the beginning of this week. In his first game back, the Yankees lost to Anaheim 10-3 and the next day they lost to the Angels again, this time 5-3. But yesterday, finally, Jeter was able to experience a win with the rest of his teammates as the Yankees defeated the Angels 10-4.

Jeter went 3-for-5 with two doubles yesterday and has now gotten a hit in all four of the games in which he's played. He doubled and walked in the season opener before getting hurt, he went 1-for-4 in his return on Tuesday and he went 2-for-4 on Wednesday. In an extremely small sample size, Jeter's batting .500 with a .533 OBP and a .714 SLG. While I'm interested to see how his shoulder affects his hitting, I'm more interested to see how it affects his base stealing. The Yankees have a great offense and they don't really need Jeter to steal bases and produce extra runs. Jeter stole 32 bases last year and in seven full seasons he's stolen 167 bases at 79.5-percent success rate.

I don't think Jeter will stop going all out by any means, but he may realize that he should pick and choose the spots where a stolen base is most likely to lead to an important run. If Jeter runs the same way he did last year, the Yankees might win an extra game or two. If he gets hurt by running with the same frequency as last year, the Yankees will be without their captain (even if he hasn't technically been named the captain) for the playoffs. I think Jeter knows this and realizes that it's more important for him to stay healthy than it is for him to steal bases.

Thursday, May 15, 2003

An odd trio

I know today's games are well underway, but I was very busy today and didn't get a chance to do as much posting as I wanted to. So, I wanted to belatedly ask one question. What do Curt Schilling, Danny Graves and Rick Reed have in common? Well, until yesterday, probably nothing. But now they can all say they threw a complete game shutout on May 14, 2003.

Schilling's was not much of a surprise. It was his second complete game shutout in a row and his third complete game of the year. He struck out 14 and allowed two hits and a walk. In his previous start, he struck out 10 and allowed four hits and no walks. Before these two complete game shutouts, Schilling was 1-2 with a 5.01 ERA and a 1.21 WHIP (which was probably an indication that his ERA was a little too high). Now, he's 3-2 with a 3.22 ERA and a 0.91 WHIP.

I think it's safe to say that Schilling is definitely back. He looked like he might be back after the first complete game (in which he struck out 10 and allowed two runs on four hits and a walk), but then he had the appendectomy that set him back again. With Schilling ready to dominate again, San Francisco might have to think about getting a little bit worried sometime soon. The Giants have lost five straight games and 10 of their last 17 (strangely with a six-game winning streak in the middle) and now have a five-game lead over the Dodgers with Arizona seven games out.

Those may still seem like big leads, but one thing I heard a lot when the Giants were racking up victories was that they could let Kurt Ainsworth and Jesse Foppert learn in the big leagues. Well, Ainsworth is 3-3 with a 4.56 ERA and a 1.50 WHIP after winning his first three starts of the year with a 3.79 ERA as of May 15th. Ainsworth only has two quality starts in his last five trips to the mound and his strikeout rates are not good: 5.89 K/9IP and 1.55 K/BB. Foppert is 2-3 with a 5.23 ERA and 1.55 WHIP and has yet to pitch seven full innings this year. He is striking out 7.03 batters per nine innings, but he's walked exactly as many batters as he's struck out (19). I still think both of them will be fine major leaguers, but if Schilling is ready to put the Diamondbacks on his shoulders, San Francisco may not have the luxury of keeping both youngsters in the rotation all year.

Okay, enough about the NL West because the other two complete game shutouts from yesterday were more interesting. We'll stay in the NL for now and talk about Graves.

As most of you know, Graves was Cincinnati's closer last year and he saved 32 games with a 3.19 ERA and a 1.26 WHIP. In fact, he averaged 30.25 saves over the last four years, but the Reds decided they'd be better served with Graves in the rotation and a healthy Scott Williamson as the closer. Well, Graves' transition did not start off well as he had an April that he won't be eager to talk about soon. He went 0-2 with a 7.81 ERA and a 1.77 WHIP.

May has been much kinder to Graves, although it could hardly have been meaner. He started the with seven shutout innings on May 2nd, allowing six hits and two walks with five strikeouts. On May 7th, he allowed two runs on five hits and three walks with one strikeout in 7.2 innings. Then yesterday, he threw the complete game shutout, allowing four hits and a walk with one strikeout. He is now 3-2 with a 4.56 ERA and a 1.36 WHIP.

With the offense they have, the Reds could be very dangerous if they start to get pitching like this from Graves. Unfortunately, I don't know that Graves' success will necessarily continue. As you may have already noticed, Graves has hardly been dominant in May. Sure, he hasn't given up many hits, but he has give up too many walks and he hasn't struck out many hitters.

In April, Graves struck out 3.90 batters per nine innings and had 1.2 strikeouts per walk. In May, he's struck out 2.66 batters per nine innings and has 1.17 strikeouts per walk. The only difference is that the balls that are going into play are not falling in for hits anymore, and there's a lot of luck involved with balls in play. Graves seems to be getting more ground balls, which is probably helping, but even that's not a guarantee that he'll continue to allow so few hits.

The other complete game shutout of the night belonged to Rick Reed. Reed's performance was surprising for two main reasons. First, he was 1-4 with a 5.87 ERA and a 1.47 WHIP before the start. Second, he had missed his last start with a sore back. But there he was, allowing just three hits and a walk while striking out two.

When Reed missed the one start, Johan Santana made his first start of the year and threw five scoreless innings to beat the Red Sox. A lot of people wish Santana had Reed's spot in the rotation permanently and I'm one of them because Santana is a star in the making. However, with Reed's performance last night and Santana's first real tough outing today (he allowed four runs on five hits and a walk with three strikeouts in three innings), there may be slightly fewer people clamoring for that change right now. The biggest reason I think it's a mistake to leave Santana in the bullpen is that, given a full season in the rotation, he could quickly develop into the type of ace pitcher who would swing a postseason series in Minnesota's favor. Reed's a fine pitcher, but he never has been and never will be the kind of pitcher who can intimidate another team whenever he steps onto the mound. Santana has the ability to become that kind of pitcher.

So, there you have it. It's not often that you get three complete game shutouts in one night and I just had to talk about all of them, even if I had to wait almost a full day to do so. I hope you all thought it was worth the wait.

Runelvys slipping

I don't want to brag about it because it was a fairly easy thing to predict, but I was right about Runelvys Hernandez. After his start on April 27th, Hernandez was 4-0 with a 1.36 ERA and a 1.01 WHIP. He has now lost his last three starts, allowing at least three earned runs in each one, and he has a 2.79 ERA and a 1.10 WHIP.

On May 3rd, Hernandez allowed four runs (three earned) on seven hits and a walk with three strikeouts in seven innings. On May 9th, Hernandez allowed five runs (three earned) on five hits and three walks with four strikeouts in 6.1 innings. And yesterday, Hernandez allowed six runs (all earned) on six hits and two walks with three strikeouts in five innings. His lowest game score for a start in April was 53 and his average game score in April was 63.3. His game scores for his last three starts have been 51, 48 and 32, respectively.

Hernandez may very well have a bright future, but I'd honestly be surprised if his stats are much better than league average at the end of this season. Of course, another reason I don't want to brag about predicting this correctly is that so far I've been dead wrong about the other pitcher I thought would go bust. Esteban Loaiza was also terrific in April, going 5-0 with a 1.25 ERA and I thought there was no way he could keep it up.

He did have a rough start on May 2nd, allowing five runs on nine hits and three walks with two strikeouts in 3.2 innings, but he has rebounded quite nicely since then. On May 7th, he allowed two runs on four hits and a walk with one strikeout in six innings. On May 13th, he threw seven shutout innings, allowing five hits and two walks with seven strikeouts. He is now 7-1 with a 2.05 ERA and a 0.95 WHIP. He has struck out 7.69 batters per nine innings and he has 3.46 strikeouts per walk. I still can't imagine that Loaiza's suddenly turned into a good pitcher, but he's given us very little reason so far this season to think that he hasn't. And that's a good thing for the White Sox, because their "aces" aren't pitching as well as expected.

Wednesday, May 14, 2003

A couple of odd Beanes

While visiting Rob Neyer's page on, I checked out the Beane Count rankings and saw some very surprising results. For those of you who don't know, the Beane Count is a little tool Neyer invented based on the assumption that hitting home runs and drawing walks is good and allowing home runs and walks is bad. To get your teams Beane Count, simply add up their league ranking in Home runs hit, Walks drawn, Home runs allowed and Walks allowed. The best teams generally have the best Beane Counts. The surprising thing I discovered is that Kansas City has the second-best Beane Count in the AL and Baltimore has the fourth best.

Now, you might not be surprised to see the Royals so high up because they've been winning a lot, but who'd have thought the Orioles would rank that high. Last year, Baltimore and Kansas City tied for the second-worst Beane Counts in the AL (better than only Tampa Bay). Let's taker a closer look at each team.

Kansas City

The Royals rank ninth in both walks drawn and walks allowed, fourth in home runs hit and second in home runs allowed for a Beane Count of 24. Last year, they were 12th in home runs hit, eighth in walks drawn, 13th in home runs allowed and 10th in walks allowed for a Beane Count of 43. So, they're doing just about as well last year with the walks, but both the pitchers and the hitters are doing much better with the home runs.

The Royals don't have any players with more than seven home runs, but they do have five players with at least five homers. Also, Carlos Beltran has hit four homers since coming back from his injury. The Royals probably won't hit the 192 homers they're on pace for, but it wouldn't surprise me to see them hit 170-180 homers which would probably put them around the middle of the pack (and 5-6 spots higher than last year in the rankings).

Kansas City's pitching staff has given up, on average, a homer about every 10 innings this season. Last year, they gave up a homer every 6.8 innings. Just about every one on the pitching staff is giving up fewer home runs than they have in the past, and it's hard to tell if it's an improvement or just a fluke. Four of Kansas City's five starters are allowing fewer than one home run per 10 innings. The bullpen has allowed a home run every 8.85 innings, but that number would be much better (one every 11.3 innings) if you took out Albie Lopez and his four homers allowed in 18 innings.

What does the future hold for the Royals? Well, their catchers will probably stop hitting so many homers, their young pitchers will start allowing home runs at least slightly more frequently and Lopez will continue to pitch too many innings. If they can keep their walk levels where they are (and they should be able to because they're pretty much the same as last year) and keep their home run rankings in the top half of the league, they'll have a Beane Count of around 30. That would be a vast improvement over last year and would probably allow the Royals to have a record around .500. Interestingly, Kansas City's biggest competition (Minnesota) has posted back-to-back Beane Counts of 30 and has a Beane Count of 33 at the moment.


The Orioles rank 11th in home runs hit, sixth in walks drawn, tied for fourth in home runs allowed and fourth in walks allowed for a Beane Count of 25.5. Last year, Baltimore ranked ninth in home runs hit, 13th in walks drawn, 12th in home runs allowed and ninth in walks allowed for a Beane Count of 43. So, the Orioles are ranked about the same in home runs hit, but they're much better in the other three categories.

First, I'm going to look at the offense and it's newfound tendency to walk. As far as roster changes, they lost two players who received at least 350 at-bats, added two players who are on pace to receive at least 350 at-bats and have one player who is on pace to receive more than 300 fewer at-bats this year than he got last year. The players they got rid of are Chris Singleton, who walked just 21 times in 466 at-bats, and Mike Bordick, who walked 35 times in 367 at-bats. The players they added are B.J. Surhoff, who has eight walks in 83 at-bats, and Deivi Cruz, who has just one walk in 114 at-bats. Marty Cordova drew 47 walks in 458 at-bats last year and has eight walks in just 30 at-bats this year. Cordova's 300 at-bats seem to be going to Gary Matthews Jr.. Matthews had 43 walks in 344 at-bats last year and has six walks in 146 at-bats this year.

So, last year Bordick, Singleton and Cordova combined for 103 walks in 1,291 at-bats (one walk every 12.5 at-bats). This year, Surhoff, Cruz and Mathews have 15 walks in 343 at-bats (one walk every 22.9 at-bats). So, the change in personnel appears to have actually hurt Baltimore's ability to draw walks. Looking at the players who got at least 350 at-bats last year and have seen significant time this year, almost all of them have seen an increase in their walk rate. Two players in particular stand out.

Jeff Conine drew 25 walks in 451 at-bats last year, but he already has 19 walks in 139 at-bats this year. Jerry Hairston Jr. drew 34 walks in 426 at-bats, but has 19 walks in 138 at-bats this year. Baltimore's walk ranking this year will hinge upon whether these are new performance levels for Conine and Hairston or whether they are just fluky starts.

Last year, Baltimore had five pitchers throw at least 130 innings and each of them gave up at least 19 homers. This year, the Orioles have four pitchers on pace to throw at least 174 innings and only one of them is on pace to allow more than 13 homers. Last year's quintet allowed 109 homers and 282 walks in 802.1 innings. This year's quartet is on pace to allow 65 homers and 234 walks in 745 innings. Sidney Ponson has been much better in both homers and walks and Jason Johnson has allowed fewer home runs and more walks. The Orioles also had five pitchers allow at least 10 homers in fewer than 85 innings. This year, they only have two relievers on pace to allow more than 10 homers.

I think that the Orioles are just pitching a little above their heads right now. I don't know that they'll be as bad as they were last year, but I'll be surprised if their pitchers end up ranked better than seventh in either category. That would have Baltimore headed for another season with a Beane Count around 40. I could be wrong, but just looking at their roster there's no reason to think they suddenly have a pitching staff that will be among the best in the league at not allowing home runs or walks.

Not a thief anymore

Yesterday, Andruw Jones stole his first base of the season. I knew Jones wasn't running as much as he used to, but I don't understand why. He's only 26 years old, and he's obviously still fast. It's not like he was hurting his team when he stole bases either as his career success rate is 73.7 percent.

Jones hit 18 homers and stole 20 bases in his first full season in the majors, and it looked like he would rack up 20-20 seasons for a long time. He followed that showing up with 31 homers and 27 steals in 1998, 26 homers and 24 steals in 1999 and 36 homers and 21 steals in 2000. Then, he changed from power-speed combo to just a 35-homer hitter. He hit 34 homers in 2001 and 35 last year, but stole just 19 bases in the two seasons combined. This year, he's on pace for 37 homers and four steals.

Strangely, even without Jones, it's a good time for fans of power-speed players. Last year, nine players hit at least 20 homers and stole at least 20 bases and two of them were in the 30-30 club (with both just missing the 40-40 club). This year, there are 12 players who are on pace for at least 20 homers and at least 20 steals. I thought it would be interesting to take a look at each one and see what his chances are of getting to 30-30 or even 40-40.

Derrek Lee has seven home runs and 11 steals (on pace for 28 homers and 43 steals). Last year, Lee hit 27 homers and easily set a career high with 19 steals (he had just 11 career steals before last year). I'm willing to guarantee you that Lee is not going to join the 30-30 club. He has a decent shot at hitting 30 homers, but he's not going to steal 30 bases. After stealing 10 bases in April, he's already slowing down with just one steal in 12 games in May. It's probably more likely that he'll hit 40 homers than it is that he'll steal 30 bases.

Juan Encarnacion has five homers and nine steals (on pace for 20 homers and 36 steals). Encarnacion was in the 20-20 club for the first time last year with 24 homers and 21 steals. He just missed the club in 1999 when he had 19 homers and 36 steals. Some people in the Marlins organization seem to think that Encarnacion is a candidate for the 40-40 club, but he's not. He's got a good shot at getting back to 20-20 this year, but playing all of his games for Florida may hurt him. He hit 16 of his home runs for Cincinnati last year and Florida's home park is tough on hitters.

Gary Sheffield has nine home runs and eight steals (on pace for 37 homers and 33 steals). Everybody knows about Sheffield's power; he's got five 30-plus home run seasons despite having played most of his career in some very tough parks for hitters. Most people don't realize that he was in the 20-20 club in 1998 with 22 of each or that he has 11 seasons with at least 10 steals, including 12 last year. I think he's more likely to have 40 homers and 20 steals than 30 and 30, but you never know. He's got a lot of power and he can steal bases if he stays healthy.

Raul Mondesi has eight homers and eight steals (on pace for 34 of each). Even while he was stinking up the joint with a .740 OPS last year, Mondesi still managed to hit 26 homers and steal 15 bases. He has five 20-20 seasons and two of them are 30-30 seasons. If Mondesi stays healthy this year, there's no reason he shouldn't add a third 30-30 season.

Johnny Damon has five homers and eight steals (on pace for 21 homers and 34 steals). Probably the most unlikely name on this list, Damon's never hit 20 homers. He hit 14 last year and his career high is 18 (set in 1998 with Kansas City). He's clearly better at the second half of the club, with six 25-plus steal seasons and 78.7-percent career success rate (222/282). Damon's definitely capable of keeping this pace for steals (or even improving it if he starts getting on base more), but he'll probably end up in the neighborhood of 15 homers.

Ivan Rodriguez has six homers and seven steals (on pace for 24 homers and 28 steals). Rodriguez hit 35 homers and stole 25 bases in 1999. If you throw out that season, his career highs are 27 homers and 10 steals. So, while he's capable of being in the 20-20 club, he's certainly not shown that ability every year. Given about 145 games (he's played in all but four games so far), Rodriguez should get 25-30 home runs. If Jack McKeon keeps the Marlins running all over the place, then Rodriguez will probably have himself a 20-20 season.

Aaron Boone has 10 homers and seven steals (on pace for 42 homers and 29 steals). After being plagued by injuries early in his career, Boone managed to stay in the lineup for all 162 games last year. He showed what he can do when healthy for a whole year by hitting 26 homers and stealing 32 bases. Before that, he'd never hit more than 14 homers or stolen more than 17 bases, but that was probably largely due to all the injuries. I'd say Boone probably has the best shot at joining the 30-30 club of all the players I've mentioned so far besides Mondesi.

Alfonso Soriano has 11 home runs and seven steals (on pace for 47 homers and 30 steals). In his rookie season, Soriano hit 18 homers and stole 43 bases. He followed that up with last year's incredible 39-homer and 41-steal season. He's clearly got the ability to join the 40-40 club (he hit his 39th homer on September 17th last year and then started pressing and didn't hit any over the last 11 games). The question is whether or not he'll attempt enough steals. The way the Yankees offense is clicking, he may not feel that he needs to try to steal as many bases.

Reggie Sanders has six homers and five steals (on pace for 25 homers and 21 steals). Sanders is always good for double digits in both categories. His best season in terms of homers plus steals (1995) saw him hit 28 homers and steal 36 bases and his worst season (1992) saw him hit 12 homers and steal 16 bases. He had 23 homers and 18 steals last year, and he'll probably fall just short in at least one of the two categories this year too.

Alex Rodriguez has 11 homers and five steals (on pace for 47 homers and 21 steals). The only player on this list with a 40-40 season (42 homers and 46 steals in 1998), Rodriguez stole just nine bases last year. However, that was his first full season with fewer than 15 steals. He'll almost certainly hit at least 40 homers and he can steal 20 (or even 30 or 40) bases if he wants to as he's got a 78.9 percent career success rate. It's pretty much up to him.

Preston Wilson has 11 homers and five steals (on pace for 46 homers and 21 steals). Wilson hit 23 homers and stole 20 bases in each of the last two years. Before that, he hit 31 homers and stole 36 bases in 2000. If Wilson can stay healthy, Coors Field will allow him to set a career high in homers. However, leaving Florida also means he won't be given the green light to steal as often. You don't want to give away outs in Colorado, and Wilson will probably have trouble stealing 30 bases.

Corey Patterson has seven home runs and five steals (on pace for 30 homers and 21 steals). Patterson hit 14 homers and stole 18 bases last year in his first full season in the majors. He's clearly got the tools necessary to be a 30-30 player, but I don't know if he knows quite how to use the tools yet. I think he'll get there someday, but I'd be a bit surprised if he gets to either 30 homers or 30 steals this year.

You've probably noticed that one of last year's two 30-30 players is not on this list. Vladimir Guerrero has seven homers and four steals (on pace for 29 homers and 17 steals). Guerrero actually has had two straight 30-30 seasons. He hit 39 homers and stole 40 bases last year and had 34 homers and 37 steals the year before. However, it may be a good thing for Montreal if he doesn't try to steal 30 bases again. Guerrero's very fast, but he's one of the worst base stealers around. He has 118 steals in his career and has been caught 68 times for a success rate of 63.4 percent. Whether you think the break-even point for helping your team with steals is two-thirds or 70-percent, Guerrero's baserunning has clearly hurt the teams he's been on. Maybe Guerrero should be the one who gives up on stolen bases and Jones should get back to his 20-steal-a-year level.

Trading places

Okay, who switched John Lackey and Mike Mussina before yesterday's game between the Angels and Yankees without telling anyone?

Going into yesterday's game, Mussina was 7-0 with a 1.70 ERA and an absurd 0.85 WHIP. His average game score over his previous six starts was 74.7 (he had a game score of 50 in his first start of the year) and he had yet to make a start in which he allowed more walks plus hits than strikeouts. Lackey, meanwhile, was 1-2 with a 7.17 ERA and a 1.91 WHIP. He had only made one start with a game score above 50 and he had allowed at least four runs in six of his eight starts. Naturally, I assumed it was a mortal lock that the Yankees were going to win yesterday.

But it was Lackey who did not allow a hit over the first four innings and it was Mussina who was touched up early and often. Lackey ended up going six innings, allowing two runs on four hits and a walk with three strikeouts. Mussina left after five innings, having allowed four runs (three earned) on six hits and two walks with just two strikeouts. That's, as they say, why they play the games.

In addition to Lackey surprisingly outperforming Mussina, the Angels bullpen predictable outperformed New York's. Anaheim had three relievers combine for three shutout innings while the Yankees had three relievers allow six runs in four innings. So, the Yankees got blown out 10-3, their biggest margin of defeat this year.

While the Yankees were getting pounded, the Red Sox won another game in come-from-behind fashion to finally break that damn three-games-back barrier. If you looked in the morning paper each day for the last two weeks, you saw that the Red Sox were exactly three games behind the Yankees on 10 of those 14 days. One morning the Red Sox were four games back, another morning 3.5 and twice 2.5 games back. Now they stand just two games behind New York. With five games for each team between now and then, it's very possible for Fenway Park to be an even-more-exciting-than-normal location when the Yankees head to Boston next Monday through Wednesday.

If the Red Sox can pull one game closer (or even pull into a tie with the Yanks) by then, either team could be in first place at the end of the series. As great as all Red Sox/Yankees series are, they're better when first place in the division (even if just momentarily) is on the line. In addition, the final game of the series on Wednesday could see Roger Clemens going for his 300th career victory against the team with which he got the first 192 wins if he can beat Texas on Friday. Next Wednesday's game could have been the matchup of the year if the Red Sox had decided to hold Pedro Martinez back a day for his next start because of his groin, but it now looks like he'll start tomorrow as scheduled against Texas which would put him on track to make his next start Tuesday against Jeff Weaver.

Tuesday, May 13, 2003

Another Day, another win

Zach Day rebounded from his worst start of the season to improve to 4-1 with a 2.73 ERA yesterday. Day allowed one run on eight hits and two walks with just one strikeout as Montreal edged San Francisco 4-3. More important than Day's 4-1 record is the fact that the Expos are 7-1 when he takes the mound this year (coincidentally, the Expos also won the last five games in which Day appeared last year).

This year, Day only has 26 strikeouts in 52.2 innings (4.44 K/9IP), but he's posted a goundball-to-flyball ratio of 3.96. You don't need to go very far to find an example of a sinkerball pitcher succeeding with a ton of groundballs instead of a ton of strikeouts.

Last year, Derek Lowe posted a 2.58 ERA with 127 strikeouts in 219.2 innings (5.20 K/9IP) thanks to a 3.46 GB/FB ratio. The difference is that Lowe only walked 48 batters (2.65 K/BB) and Day has already walked 22 batters (1.18 K/BB).

Day's WHIP this season is 1.20, compared to the 0.97 WHIP Lowe had last year. The difference is almost entirely Day's walks. Had Lowe allowed walks at the same rate Day is allowing them this year, his WHIP would have been 1.17. It gets even closer if you add in their hit batters. Lowe hit 12 batters last year, so if he had walked 92 batters (the same rate Day is walking batters this year) his BB+H+HBP/IP would have been 1.23 and Day's BB+H+HBP is 1.22 because he's only hit one batter.

If you compare Lowe from last year and Day this year, they look very similar. They both allowed a .211 batting average, Lowe had a 3.46 GB/FB ratio and Day's is 3.96 and Lowe had a 2.58 ERA to Day's 2.73. The only real difference between the two are the walks, which for some reason are not hurting Day right now. Who knows if Day will be able to continue to have success with few strikeouts, too many walks and a lot of groundballs, but you also don't have to look very far to see how slippery the slope is.

This year, Lowe's strikeouts are up (6.08 K/9IP), but his walks are also up a lot (1.42 K/BB) and his GB/FB ratio is down a little (2.87). Even the groundballs he is getting are finding holes though, and the result is a 6.53 ERA and a 1.78 WHIP. Hopefully Day can continue to walk that tightrope without falling off.

Just getting attention?

Before the season, the Milwaukee Brewers made quite a bit of noise about how they planned to try and use Brooks Kieschnick as both a pitcher and a position player. Obviously, no player has been used like that recently and it promised to be a very cool experiment whenever they got around to trying it. So, when I saw that Kieschnick hit his first home run of the season today against the Cubs, I thought the experiment was underway and I got very excited.

Well, that excitement was for nothing as there hasn't been any experimentation thus far. Kieschnick started the season with Triple-A Indianapolis, where he went 0-for-10 with a walk and four strikeouts as a hitter and posted an 8.56 ERA with 14 K/10 BB in 13.2 innings. He appeared in 11 games, but did not take the field except to stand on the pitcher's mound eight times.

After this rousing debut (nothing like a pitcher/hitter with a 8.56 ERA/.091 OPS), Kieschnick "earned" a promotion to Milwaukee. So far, Kieschnick has appeared in five games for the Brewers, posting a 5.40 ERA in 6.2 innings and collecting two hits (including today's home run) in five at-bats. Basically, he's just allowed them to not use the double-switch as much. I'm hoping that before too long, the Brewers try to utilize his flexibility in other ways because it would be a lot of fun to have a guy go back and forth from hitting to pitching, pitching to fielding all the while making things difficult on publications that only display either pitching or hitting stats for each player.

Success with short starters

Both Houston and Florida won their games today despite somewhat strange-looking pitcher usage. Both teams had starting pitchers who did not allow any runs, but also did not go the five innings required to be eligible to earn the win.

For Houston, Scott Linebrink went 3.2 innings, allowing four hits and four walks with three strikeouts. He was removed after he struck out the opposing pitcher for the second out of the fourth, at which point he had already thrown 89 pitches and just 43 for strikes. Jeriome Robertson came in and allowed two runs on four hits and three walks over the next 1.2 innings. Since Houston never trailed, Robertson could have gotten the win, but the official scorer used the rule that allows an ineffective reliever to not be considered for the victory. Roy Stone pitch 1.2 perfect innings to improve to 4-0 with a 1.19 ERA and Octavio Dotel pitched a scoreless inning before the Pirates scored two meaningless runs in the ninth.

For Florida, 28-year-old rookie Tommy Phelps pitched three scoreless innings with five hits allowed and three strikeouts after having made eight appearances in relief so far this season. Allen Levrault, the next pitcher in, threw two shutout innings to pick up his first win of the season and three more relievers combined to allow one run in four innings to close out the win.

So, two teams with rather unusual pitching patterns, but they both manage to pick up wins. They probably can't afford to do this too often though or else it will really wear down on the bullpen (this was actually the third game in a row and the seventh time in the last eight games that Houston has needed its bullpen to pitch at least four innings).

Welcome back, Mac

Mike MacDougal picked up his 11th save of the season tonight as Kansas City topped Minnesota 3-2. The save was MacDougal's first since April 26th. After that game, MacDougal had 10 saves and a 1.50 ERA. The next day, MacDougal blew his first save of the season and his ERA rose to 2.19. Three days later (April 30) in his next appearance, MacDougal blew his second save of the season and his ERA rose to 3.55.

After that, MacDougal rode the bench for five days and before today's game he had only appeared in two of the Royals' 11 games in May, both in non-save situations. He didn't allow a run in either appearance, and apparently Tony Pena decided that it was time to get the kid back into the hot seat (in fairness, there really hadn't been any situations which would have strictly called for a closer since MacDougal's two blown saves). MacDougal's performance tonight was typical of what he had been doing earlier in the year. He pitched one scoreless inning, allowing no hits, one walk and one strikeout while throwing just 9 of 17 pitches for strikes.

In fact, the entire game was reminiscent of how the Royals started the season. KC's starting pitcher (Jeremy Affeldt) threw well, allowing two runs on seven hits and a walk with eight strikeouts in six innings. Jason Grimsley then threw two shutout innings to bridge the gap to MacDougal. Meanwhile, the offense did just enough, scoring two runs on two walks and two singles in the first and adding an insurance run later on a Carlos Beltran solo homer.

Kansas City has now won all three games against Minnesota this season and pushed its lead back up to 3.5 games. If the Royals can win three of the four games in this series (and I'd give them the advantage as far as starting pitchers in two of the next three games), then they will have a 4.5-game lead heading into the toughest part of their schedule. It sure would be exciting if the Royals could stay in first place at least until the All-Star break.

More Dave Roberts

Robert Tagorda over at Priorities and Frivolities has sent me links to a couple things he wrote about Dave Roberts. The first item is about Roberts' success as a leadoff hitter and the second item is about LA's lack of success driving Roberts in.

I've also added a link to Priorities & Frivolities in my list to the right. Since I've been busy, I haven't had a chance to check it out real thoroughly, but I've liked what I've seen. Head on over and check out what Robert has to say. He writes about the Dodgers, but he also writes about the real world for those of you who pay attention to things besides sports (Huh? What's that? There's stuff besides sports?).

Monday, May 12, 2003

I can't take it

I don't know if I'm going to be able to survive a season of rooting for these Red Sox. You just can't make an assumption one way or the other in any of their games this year. Today, the Red Sox trailed 9-1 before battling back to make it 9-8 with two on and two out in the top of the ninth. Only a superb defensive play by Doug Mientkiewicz, stretching out to keep his foot on first base while fielding a poor throw from Christian Guzman, kept the Red Sox from scoring the tying run and keeping the inning alive.

Still, one of the only times a loss feels like a win is when you come back from an eight-run deficit to make it really close, and there were some good signs in the game. The best sign is that Jeremy Giambi went 4-for-4 with two home runs. After the series against Minnesota in Boston, Giambi was hitting .125 with a .576 OPS. After Sunday's performance, he's hittin .209 with a .793 OPS. Hopefully he gets more playing time to allow his current hot streak (7-for-11 with a double and two homers in his last three games) to continue. The other good news is that the top four hitters in Boston's lineup went 7-for-20 with a walk and the bullpen allowed just one run in four innings.

The very bad news is that Derek Lowe continues to struggle, but for some reason he only struggles on the road. He's allowed at least five runs in each of his five starts on the road while he's allowed just four total runs (two of which were unearned) in his three starts at Fenway Park. On Sunday, Lowe didn't walk anybody and he got a ton of groundballs, both of which are good signs. The problem is, most of the groundballs found holes and he gave up eight runs (six earned) on 10 hits.

I also want to mention one thing that annoyed me about ESPN radio's broadcast. In the bottom of the first, Todd Walker made a bad throw on a tough play that was ruled a hit and the ESPN radio guys went on and on about how the Red Sox traded defense at second for offense and a good second baseman would have made that play. In the very next half-inning, Luis Rivas made a bad throw on a tough play that was ruled an error and the ESPN radio guys didn't say anything about his defense. In fact, earlier they had mentioned how good the Twins defense was (which it is).

There were two differences. First, Walker's got a reputation as a poor defensive second baseman (which is probably undeserved) who can only hit and Rivas has a reputation as a good defensive second baseman (which some people say is undeserved). Second, the baserunner Walker's play allowed to reach base eventually scored. Rivas' throw was so bad, however, that it got away from Mientkiewicz and the runner tried to go to second. A.J. Pierzynski was backing the play up and easily threw the runner out at second, so no harm was done. I'm probably just getting annoyed by trivial matters, but broadcasters who perpetuate common misperceptions about players really annoy me.

Anyway, some of you may be wondering why I've made all of these posts around midnight. Well, work is going to be really busy for me this week, and I didn't know if I'd have time to make any posts during the day. So, I thought I'd touch on everything that occured to me before I went to bed tonight. If posting is a little bit lighter than normal from here on out this week, it's because I'm really busy at work. Hopefully I'll be able to make at least a few posts per day though.

Take a mulligan

I've never understood baseball's postponement rules. Why don't they just pick up every game that gets postponed from the spot where they left off? The players played the game, after all, why shouldn't their work count? Well, Brett Tomko and Matt Clement are both very happy that the rules are set up the way they are.

Each pitcher pitched 3.2 innings in Sunday's game between the Cubs and Cardinals that was called after four innings with St. Louis leading 11-9. Tomko allowed all nine runs (all earned) on nine hits, four of which were home runs. He walked one and struck out one. Clement allowed all 11 runs (all earned) on 11 hits, three of which were home runs. He walked two batters, hit two batters and struck out five batters.

As much as I don't understand the rule, this time I'm glad it's set up that way too. You see, I have both Clement and Tomko on one of my fantasy teams and I decided to put both of them in my lineup for their starts on Sunday. Had their numbers counted, my already struggling team would have been devastated. Instead, it's still got a chance to climb back into contention. So thank you, MLB, for the rule I don't understand the usefulness of.

Feel my power

If you look at the statistics for Luis Castillo today, you will see something that is very unusual. He has a .380 OBP and a .409 SLG. This is strange because in each of Castillo's previous seven seasons, his OBP has been higher than his SLG. For his career, he has a .367 OBP and a .347 SLG.

The reason Castillo's SLG is higher than his OBP right now is not just that he hit his second home run of the season on Sunday. Heading into that game, his SLG (.375) was eight points higher than his OBP (.367). On the season, he has three doubles, two triples and two home runs. He's on pase for 31 extra-base hits (13 doubles, 9 triples and 9 homer). His career high is 27 extra-base hits (23 doubles and four triples) in 1999. He has never his more than two home runs in a season in his career. In addition to his power spike, he's also on pace (his eight steals put him on pace for 34) to challenge his career-low in steals (33) for a full season and the worst success rate (66.7 percent) since he stole 16 bases in 26 attempts over 71 games in 1997.

Has Castillo forgotten what he does best or is this just another case of something being noticed because it's happening at the beginning of the season? I'm obviously not sure, but I'll be a little surprised if Castillo hits another two homers this year. After all, Castillo hit two home runs in a two-week span last year as well, but after hitting the second one on June 5th his extra-base hits were all doubles and triples the rest of the season.

How does he do it?

Detroit's Nate Cornejo made his sixth consecutive quality start today, going six innings and allowing two runs on seven hits and a walk. He's now 3-2 with a 2.66 ERA on the season. The number that stands out in the box score is the 0 under the strikeouts column. For the third time this season, Cornejo pitched at least six innings and did not strike anybody out. In fact, he has yet to strike out more than three batters in a game this season.

For the season, Cornejo's struck out just seven (or one per start) while walking 12 in 40.2 innings. That works out to an indescribably bad 1.56 strikeouts per nine innings. Opponents are hitting .271 against him and he has a 1.33 WHIP on the season. So, how on earth is he keeping his ERA so low? Last year, Cornejo struck out 4.14 batters per nine innings (still bad, but much better than this year) and got tagged with a 5.04 ERA over 50 innings. Obviously, the key has been Cornejo's work with runners on base and especially with runners in scoring position.

Coming into today's start, Cornejo had allowed an .837 OPS in 68 at-bats with the bases empty. In 62 at-bats with runners on base, that OPS went down to .576 and the majority of that success came in the 32 at-bats against him with runners in scoring position. Opponents have a ridiculously low .364 OPS in those at-bats and Cornejo has only allowed one hit in 16 at-bats with at least two runners on base. Those trends continued in today's start as Tampa Bay went 6-for-12 with a walk, three doubles and a home run with the bases empty, but went just 1-for-10 with runners on base and 1-for-5 with runners in scoring position (the Devil Rays never got two runners on base at the same time against Cornejo).

It is very likely that this early success with runners on base is just a fluke, and that Cornejo will start getting hit very hard, very soon. I am very interested to see how soon it happens.

Sunday, May 11, 2003

Congratulations, Raffy

As I'm sure most of you already know, Rafael Palmeiro hit his 500th career home run today, becoming the 19th player in major league history to do so. Palmeiro's average is unusually low at .258 this year, but all of his other numbers are right where you'd expect them to be. He has 10 home runs and 25 RBI to go with a .380 OBP and a .556 SLG for a .936 OPS. He's on pace for 45 homers, 113 RBI, 104 BB and 90 K's.

There has been some debate about whether or not Palmeiro would be Hall of Fame worth if his career were to end right now, but there's no questioning his consistency. His pace for this year mirrors his last three seasons, in which he's averaged 43 HR, 116 RBI, 103 BB and 87 K. He's hit at least 38 homers with more than 100 RBI for eight straight years. In seven of those seasons, he's had an OPS above .925 and in only one of those seasons has his K/BB ratio been worse than 1.15 (probably not coincidentally, he posted an .814 OPS in 1997 when he had 67 walks and 109 strikeouts).

If Palmeiro can maintain this level of play for the rest of this season and two more seasons, he will erase any shadow of a doubt that there might be about his candidacy for the Hall. If he could do that, he could finish his career with more than 1,800 runs, 3,000 hits, 600 homers, 1,900 RBI and more walks than strikeouts. So, even if he can only do half that well for the next two and a half years, he's probably a sure thing HOFer.

With that being the case, I just want to point out how much the Baltimore Orioles have fallen since 1996. That Baltimore team probably had five future Hall-of-Famers on it: Palmeiro, Cal Ripken Jr., Eddie Murray, Roberto Alomar and Mike Mussina. Now the Orioles don't even have a single star player and the franchise seems to have no direction at times. It's amazing how quickly a team can go from a great-to-watch contender to a cover-your-eyes-awful cellar dweller.

Too much sports to handle

Since I already had a Super Sports day this week, I'm not going to have another real one today. I did, however, want to point out that yesterday was one of those days when I wished there were two of me. I sat down on my couch at 3 p.m. to watch game one of the NHL Western Conference finals between Anaheim and Minnesota. You could not have asked for a better way to open a series between two underdogs. For four straight periods, nobody scored a goal. Then Anaheim finally broke through eight minutes into the second overtime.

Jean-Sebastien Giguere was marvelous once again. That save he made on a Wild power play in the second period may have been lucky, but it was a thing of beauty. With Giguere guarding the left side of the net, Andrew Brunette slid a pass to Marian Gaborik right in front of the crease. Gaborik's shot went in between two Anaheim defenders, but Giguere dove across the crease and got the heel of his stick on the ice directly in the puck's path just before it crossed the line.

Giguere has now played in three playoff series and in each series game one has gone to multiple overtime. Giguere won all three games, topping Detroit 2-1 in 3OT in the first round, getting past Dallas 4-3 in 5OT in the second round and now shutting out Minnesota 1-0 in 2OT in the conference finals. He's stopped 162 of 166 shots in those three games.

Unfortunately, I had to leave yesterday's game midway through the third period. I was going to the Rochester Red Wings game against the Columbus Clippers. The game didn't start until 7:15, but Bucky F***ing Dent and Mike Torrez were signing autographs in honor of the 25th anniversary of that damn home run. I was going with a Yankees fan and his parents and his dad is an extreme Yankees memorabilia collector. He had an enlarged copy of the story that Peter Gammons wrote for the Boston Globe on that game and he wanted to get it signed. In case anybody's curious, he was able to get it signed and Torrez seemed to be the nicer of the two autographers.

The Red Wings won the game 2-0 and there were some interesting things to note. Michael Cuddyer played left field after being sent down by the Twins and went 0-for-4. He looked bad striking out in his first at-bat and several times in the game he swung chest high at pitches that were in the dirt. Better news for Twins fans is that Justin Morneau continues to hit lasers all over the field. He went 2-for-4 and is now hitting .425 with five home runs and a 1.352 OPS in 10 games. If he's not the starting first baseman (or at least DH) in Minnesota next year, I will be absolutely shocked. In Morneau's final at-bat, he fouled off pitch after pitch after pitch before my friend said, "He's going to slam one soon. He's right on top of all of these." On the next pitch, Morneau hit one almost out of the stadium, but just foul. He then lined a foul ball into the section next to ours that luckily found the back of a seat and caromed back onto the field. Finally finished peppering the foul territory, Morneau flew out to the warning track. Everett Stull was also very impressive, pitching 6.2 shutout inning with seven strikeouts, three hits and a walk. In the interest of full disclosure, Stull was not facing the Bronx Bombers. Columbus only had one player in the lineup with an SLG above .400.

Speaking of the Clippers, Juan Rivera has a rocket arm. With a runner on third one inning (I wasn't keeping score so I don't remember which inning), Rivera caught a fly ball in medium depth right field and threw a pea to home plate on the fly. Luckily the runner didn't go or he would have been out by 10 feet at least. In another inning, Rivera misplayed a ball hit off the wall in the right field corner, but his throw came into second base on the fly and was almost in time for the second baseman to make a play on the unsuspecting runner.

Of course, the object of greatest interest is Drew Henson. Henson went 1-for-3 and is now batting .198 with four homers and a .651 OPS. He's struck out 30 times in 31 games with nine walks. In between pitches of his second at-bat, Rochester put a picture of the Houston Texans helmet on the scoreboard. Henson responded with his only hit of the night, a ground-ball single between the shortstop and third baseman. He did make a fine defensive play, diving to his right to stop a hard-hit grounder just inside the bag at third and easily throwing the runner out.

So, I thoroughly enjoyed the baseball game, but since I was there I didn't get to see either of the playoff games that were played at the time. Ottawa topped New Jersey 3-2 in OT in the first game of the Eastern Conference finals of the NHL playoffs and Philadelphia beat Detroit in game three of their NBA playoffs series. I haven't even had time to really read about either game.

I did get home in time to see the second and third quarters of the game between Sacramento and Dallas, but as the Kings pulled away in the fourth I fell asleep (I'm turning into my father) on the couch. So, I didn't see the Mavs come back to tie the game, I didn't see the two teams match each other in the first OT and I didn't see the Mavs win the game in the second OT to take a 2-1 lead in the series. I did see the fabulous final score of 141-137 and I did see that four Mavs scored at least 20 points and seven Kings scored in double digits. Unfortunately, tonight's game starts at 10:30, so I won't be able to see much if any of that game either.

It's tough being a sports fan when there's so much on that you can't watch it all.

Promoting Dave Roberts

Dave Roberts is a perfect example of why teams should let inexpensive players who have performed well in the minors try to do the same thing in the majors. Roberts played well for eight years in the minor leagues, but never got a real shot in the majors with Cleveland. After the 2001 season, Los Angeles traded for him and gave him the majority of the playing time in center field.

Roberts responded by hitting .277 with a .718 OPS and 45 stolen bases last year. This year he's been even better, hitting .298 with a .741 OPS and a major-league leading 15 steals. What's so great about a .718 and .741 OPS, you might ask? Well, I love OPS as a statistic, but people are definitely right when they say you can't boil a player's contributions down to a single number. I use OPS way too much and I'm going to try to start including other statistics that might help paint certain pictures better.

However, I do think OPS can be improved upon very easily and Roberts is a perfect example of why it should be. OPS = OBP + SLG. SLG is merely total bases divided by at-bats, but what's a stolen base if not another base? So, SLG could be (TB + SB)/AB. And then OBP could be changed to be (H + BB + HBP - CS)/TPA.

Now, before all of you fire off your emails showing me where I'm wrong, let me point out a couple things. I know a double is more valuable than a single plus a steal because it can move the runners who are already on base further along. And I know that if there are runners on second and third and you drive them in with a single and then get caught stealing, both runners still score whereas neither probably would have had you not gotten on base. However, making these changes can give you a better approximation of how good a player is for people like myself who are too reliant on OPS (which is better than being too reliant on batting average and RBI).

Anyway, let's see how these changes would affect Roberts. Last year, he stole 45 bases and was caught 10 times. Adding that into the formulas as I suggested would have given him a .328 OBP and a .472 SLG for an .800 OPS. This year, he's stolen 15 bases and been caught twice. Making the changes would give him a .353 OBP and a .492 SLG for am .845 OPS. That would put him 37th in the National League (although everybody else's OPS would have to be changed in the same way to see where he would really rank).

As a comparison, one of the other stats that I want to start using is Runs Created Per 27 outs. Runs Created is a formula that tells you approximately how many of a teams runs that player accounted for. Runs Created per 27 outs (or RC27) tells you approximately how many runs a team made up of nine of that player would score per game. Roberts ranks 36th in the NL with 6.18 RC27 this year. Despite ranking fifth among Los Angeles regulars in OPS, Roberts is first in RC27 and the only Dodger in the top 40 in the NL in that category.

That's the great thing about baseball. A 30-year-old who makes $217,000 can be a key piece of a team's offense and a fan who gets annoyed by people who only refer to batting average and RBI can himself be too reliant on one type of statistic. Now, just because I'm trying to broaden my own horizons does not mean I'm going to inundate all of you with a dozen different stats for every player I mention. I'm still going to use OPS frequently (probably the majority of the time), but I'm going to check and see if there are other stats that might contradict the argument I'm trying to make. One thing I hate about mainstream journalists is when they manipulate the stats to back up the point they want to make and I'm going to try to make sure I never do that here.