Saturday, June 21, 2003

State of the Red Sox Farm

Since I've been busy recently, I haven't really had a chance to follow the Red Sox closely this week. All I really know is that they split with the White Sox this week. So, I'm going to look at the Red Sox minor league teams instead of the Red Sox themselves today. Maybe tomorrow I'll have my normal look at the Red Sox.


The Pawtucket Red Sox are 41-30. There's not a ton to look at here because the most exciting player who was in Pawtucket is now in Boston. Freddy Sanchez is hitting .267/.267/.333 (.600 OPS) in just 15 at-bats since being called up on May 31st. I think I'd rather have him back in Pawtucket playing every day, but hopefully Sanchez will still be ready to become a full-time player next year.

Lou Collier is the best hitter at Pawtucket right now. The 29-year-old is hitting .311/.370/.523 in 52 games. Adrian Brown (who the Red Sox almost kept out of spring training instead of Damian Jackson) is hitting .256/.306/.314. So, while Jackson is showing that he can't hit at all, Brown isn't showing that he could do any better and Jackson has added some nice speed and versatility to the Red Sox.

Anton French, 27 years old, is hitting .316/.376/.439 with 24 steals in 31 attempts in 55 games. There aren't really any other interesting hitters here. There are a few intriguing pitchers.

Bronson Arroyo, 26 years old, has a 3.63 ERA and a very nice 87 strikeouts and 16 walks in 84.1 innings. Two 24-year-old pitchers are also somewhat interesting.

Paul Stewart has a 3.25 ERA with 48 strikeouts and 23 walks in 74.2 innings. Dicky Gonzalez has a 4.26 ERA with 46 strikeouts and 10 walks in 67.2 innings. Stewart's ERA is a run lower, but I like Gonzalez's strikeout-to-walk ratio a lot better.


The talk about him in Moneyball has not gone to Kevin Youkilis' head. He's hitting .300/.468/.400 in 61 games. The 24-year-old third baseman has walked 52 times and been hit by a pitch 14 times. I would guess that he will probably move up to Pawtucket before this season is over. Kelly Shoppach, 23 years old, is hitting .274/.368/.465 in 43 games. He had an .801 OPS in Class A last year, so this is a nice improvement at a higher level.

The only other two hitters worth discussing are both rather old. 27-year-old OF/DH Kevin Haverbusch is hitting .302/.407/.490 in 29 games, but is nothing special at his age in Class AA. 26-year-old OF Jeremy Owens is hitting .301/.361/.555 in 67 games. He's a little more interesting than Haverbusch, but still probably won't ever make any impact.

Jorge De La Rosa is a very nice looking pitcher. The 22-year-old has a 2.92 ERA with 65 strikeouts and 25 walks in 61.2 innings. Last year at Class A, he had 95 strikeouts and 52 walks in 120.1 innings. So, he's improved his strikeout rate while keeping his walk rate pretty much constant while moving up a level.

Anastacio Martinez, 24 years old, has a 2.57 ERA with 26 strikeouts and 17 walks in 28 innings. Nice strikeout rate, but he will need to improve his control. Josh Stevens has a 3.17 ERA with 59 strikeouts and 11 walks in 82.1 innings. He had much better strikeout rates before this season, but his walk rate this year is very nice.


This is the Black Hole of the Red Sox farm system. As far as I can tell, there are no pitchers worth talking about who have played more than a handful of games, and just one hitter. That hitter is 25-year-old Lammont Matthews, who is hitting .288/.399/.497 in 45 games. At 25 years old in Class A, he's not worth talking about that much.


Hanley Ramirez, who was named the top prospect in the Red Sox organization by Baseball America this season, is hitting .282/.330/.436 in 54 games. The 19-year-old shortstop has stolen 18 bases in 25 attempts and is hopefully past the off-field problems that made him report to extended spring training earlier this year.

Matt Cooper, 22 years old, is hitting .297/.424/.429 in 55 games. Last year at Augusta, Cooper had a .756 OPS. Hopefully he can move up a level soon and continue to progress. Chad Spann, 19 years old, is hitting .318/.406/.438 in 56 games. He had a .650 OPS in 57 games in the Gulf Coast League last year, so this is a very nice improvement.

Juan Cedeno, 19 years old, has a 3.83 ERA with 54 strikeouts and 25 walks in 52 innings. Very nice strikeout rate, control could use some improvement. Kevin Huang has a 5.82 ERA, but I like his 47 strikeouts and 18 walks in 43.1 innings.


The Spinners have won their first four games. David Murphy, Boston's top pick this year, is off to a .286/.421/.357 start and Jeremy West, Boston's ninth pick, is off to a .294/.294/.471 start.

So, that's the Red Sox farm system at the moment. My next look at it will probably be at the end of July, when we'll be able to take a better look at how the draft picks are doing to begin their pro careers.

Friday, June 20, 2003

A few transactions

My day at the LPGA Tournament took longer than I thought it would, so I don't have time to make a long post today. However, I do want to write something, and there were a few transactions today that I thought I'd give my opinion on.

Rockies trade Hernandez to Cubs

As you may have already heard, Colorado traded shortstop Jose Hernandez to the Chicago Cubs for infielder Mark Bellhorn and minor-league pitcher Travis Anderson.

In my opinion, the Rockies are the clear winners in this trade. Hernandez was batting .237 with a .308 OBP and a .362 SLG (.670 OPS) with eight home runs, 27 walks and 95 strikeouts. In 133 at-bats at Coors, he was hitting .256/.327/.376 (.703) with four home runs, 15 walks and 44 strikeouts. In 124 at-bats on the road, he was hitting .218/.287/.347 (.634) with four home runs, 12 walks and 51 strikeouts.

I know he was good last year, but there was absolutely no reason to think Hernandez was going to turn things around this season. In return for Hernandez, the Rockies got a super-utility infielder who is struggling himself. Bellhorn is hitting .209/.341/.317 (.658) with two home runs, 29 walks and 46 strikeouts. That's not good, but it's better than what Hernandez was doing because Bellhorn has a significantly higher OBP. And Bellhorn wasn't putting up those numbers playing in Coors field half the time. Also, Bellhorn hasn't been given consistent playing time by Dusty Baker this year.

Given consistent playing time at third, I think Bellhorn would have turned things around. Here is a look at some of the numbers Bellhorn has put up in his career.

1995, Class A, .258/.346/.389, 6 HR/27 BB, 229 AB
1996, Class AA, .250/.353/.387, 10 HR/73 BB, 468 AB
1997, Class AAA, .328/.472/.564, 11 HR/46 BB, 241 AB
1997, AL, .228/.324/.357, 6 HR/32 BB, 224 AB
1998, Class AAA, .259/.384/.437, 10 HR/62 BB, 309 AB
2000, Class AAA, .266/.399/.521, 24 HR/94 BB, 436 AB
2001, Class AAA, .269/.370/.538, 12 HR/22 BB, 156 AB
2001, AL, .135/.210/.243, 1 HR/7 BB, 74 AB
2002, NL, .258/.374/.572, 27 HR/76 BB, 445 AB

Bellhorn struggled in his first few trips to the big leagues, but his minor league numbers gave every reason to believe he could succeed in the majors. Last year, he showed that he could when given a fairly regular job for the first time, and this year he had that job taken away from him after 21 games, the first 10 of which were horrible (1-for-26 with seven walks) and the next 10 of which were fine (11-for-32 with a home run and nine walks).

Unfortunately for Bellhorn, it doesn't look like he will get regular playing time for Colorado either once second baseman Ronnie Belliard, who was hitting .313/.393/.406 (.799), is healthy again. The Rockies have Chris Stynes hitting .282/.368/.465 (.833) at third base. They have Juan Uribe, who is .271/.329/.443 (.772) since coming off the DL, at shortstop.

So while this trade has the potential to help the Rockies offense, I don't know that it will help the Rockies offense. If they are able to use Bellhorn nearly every day, I think he will put up some nice numbers. If they only use him once or twice a week, he will probably continue to struggle.

The main reason I think the Rockies won this trade is because it seems like a bad trade for the Cubs to me. First off, they lose a good hitter in Bellhorn, even if they weren't giving him the opportunity to show that he's a good hitter. Second, if Hernandez is going to play third base for the Cubs, then it would seem that the Cubs are no longer in the running for the services of Mike Lowell, whenever the Marlins decide to trade him.

Lowell came into today's game hitting .294/.351/.605 (.956) with 21 doubles and 22 home runs. He was on pace for 96 extra-base hits and 378 total bases.

Last year, in the best season of his career, Hernandez hit .288/.356/.478 (.834) with 24 doubles and 24 home runs. There is no question that Lowell is a much better hitter than Hernandez, even if Hernandez goes back to doing what he did last year now that he's out of Coors.

Rockies release Gabe Kapler

The much quieter move by the Rockies was the release of outfielder Gabe Kapler. It's not a surprise, but I find it interesting because Kapler was so good in the minor leagues and he just hasn't been able to cut it in the majors.

Kapler was drafted by Detroit in the 57th round in 1995. He reported to Class A Jamestown and hit .288/.351/.453 with four home runs and 23 walks in 63 games. In 1996, he hit .300/.378/.534 with 26 home runs and 62 walks in 138 games for Class A Fayetteville. In 1997, he hit .295./361/.505 with 19 home runs and 54 walks in 137 games.

At Class AA Jacksonville in 1998, Kapler hit .322/.393/.583 with 28 home runs, 66 walks and 146 RBI in 139 games. I usually don't care much about RBI, especially for minor-leaguers, but 146 in 139 games is pretty ridiculous. After his AA season, Kapler got a brief stint with Detroit, where he posted a .511 OPS in seven games.

Kapler went to Class AAA Toledo to start the 1999 season, but he was called up to Detroit after hitting .315/.400/.667 with three home runs and nine walks in 14 games. In 130 games for the Tigers, he hit .245/.315/.447 with 18 home runs and 42 walks -- not bad for a 23-year-old with just 14 games in AAA.

That offseason, however, the Tigers traded him as part of the fiasco that sent Juan Gonzalez to Detroit. In his first season with the Rangers, Kapler showed nice improvement from his rookie season, hitting .302/.360/.473 with 32 doubles, 14 home runs and 42 walks in 116 games.

That was his best season in the majors. Kapler hit .267/.348/.437 with 17 homers and 61 walks in 134 games for the Rangers in 2001 and hit .260/.285/.332 with no homers and eight walks in 72 games in 2002 before Texas sent him to Colorado. Kapler hit .311/.359/.445 with two homers and eight walks in 40 games for the Rockies last year and was hitting .221/.303/.250 with no homers and eight walks in 38 games (68 at-bats) before the Rockies sent him to the minors.

Now that he's been released, some team will probably pick him up and I'm sure he'll have as long a career as he wants as a backup outfielder. However, it's too bad he'll never become the player his minor-league numbers indicated he would be.

Royals release Albie Lopez

This is only interesting for two reasons. First, Rob Neyer has been hoping for awhile that the Royals would do it, but he didn't think they would. Second, Lopez was apparently the key to a three-team trade that would have sent Kapler to Milwaukee and Curtis Leskanic to Kansas City. The Royals wanted one of the teams to take on Lopez's remaining salary so they could take Leskanic without adding too much payroll. That probably would have helped the Royals at least a little this season, but they'll have to get by as long as they can with what they have instead.

LPGA Tournament

Like I said earlier this week, I was out at the golf course yesterday covering the LPGA Tournament. It was not only my first time covering a pro golf event, it was my first time at a pro golf event. I had an absolute blast. It was great walking around the course, talking to the fans and watching these great golfers. It was also awesome sitting in the pressbox and joking around with the other writers from the paper I work for. This is definitely something I could get used to doing more often. Anyway, I wrote two stories and the lead to the notebook. One story was about Grace Park, who is third on the money list this year. The other story was about Paula Creamer, a 16-year-old amatuer who is the No. 1 junior in the world. The notebook item was about Moira Dunn's hole in one, which happened a few yards away from me while I was interviewing Park. Here are the stories if you're interested in reading them:

Paula Creamer

Grace Park


As always, feel free to let me know if you liked the stories. I'll be out there again this morning, and I unfortunately don't have time to make a post before I leave. I'll definitely make a post or two when I get back, though, so check back this afternoon or later tonight.

Thursday, June 19, 2003

Nice Rule V pickup

It has come to my attention recently that Jay Gibbons is hitting the snot out of the ball. In his last eight games, Gibbons is 17-for-30 with three walks, four doubles, four home runs and 14 RBI. For the season, Gibbons is hitting .298 with a .367 OBP and a .523 SLG (.890 OPS) with 13 home runs, 17 doubles, 52 RBI, 27 walks and 29 strikeouts. He's on pace for 41 doubles, 31 homers and 126 RBI.

I knew that Gibbons had a pretty decent year last season, but I didn't know where he came from. So, I decided to find out.

Gibbons was drafted out of Cal State-Los Angeles by Toronto in the 14th round in 1998. He reported to rookie ball, where he hit .397/.457/.700 with 19 home runs in 73 games.

After that impressive debut, Gibbons began 1999 at Class A Hagerstown. He hit .305/.370/.551 with 16 homers in 71 games before being promoted to Class A Dunedin. At Dunedin, he hit .311/.382/.505 with nine home runs in 60 games.

After another successful season, Gibbons moved up to Class AA Tennessee in 2000, where he hit .321/.404/.525 with 19 home runs in 132 games.

So, what do the Blue Jays do with their 23-year-old slugger who has been tearing up the minor leagues for three seasons and getting named to the All-Star team each season? They do not put him on the 40-man roster. And Baltimore takes him in the Rule V Draft.

Why did this happen? You can't tell me the Blue Jays had 40 players more valuable to the organization than Gibbons. So, instead of playing 2001 in Syracuse getting ready for a September callup with the Blue Jays and maybe a full-time job in 2002, Gibbons was with the Orioles for all of 2001.

Gibbons hit .236/.301/.480 (.781) with 15 home runs in 73 games for Baltimore, which had to keep him on the 25-man roster the whole season. He obviously wasn't ready for the majors, but since he can definitely hit he was still a useful player.

Last year, Gibbons improved to .247/.311/.482 (.793) with 28 homers and 29 doubles in 136 games. That's still not great, but it's the type of promising performance a rebuilding club can deal with.

This year, Gibbons is 26 years old and he's turning into the hitting machine he was in the minors. The hitting machine the Blue Jays decided they didn't need.

Thank you

I'd like to thank everybody who stopped by to read my blog yesterday. There were 145 unique visitors, a new high for me. When I saw that number, I assumed most of them came over from Baseball Musings because David Pinto linked to my post comparing the Twins and Royals. However, most of the visits came from a link somebody posted on That just proves to me that there should have been more written about this series because Royals fans, at least, are excited about the series.

It seems they've been getting more excited about each win too. The first game of the series drew 13,442 fans. Kansas City won that game and the second game drew 16,359. Kansas City won that game too, of course, and last night's game drew 21,581 fans. That's an improvement, but there better be a sellout today. The Royals are back to four games above .500, they're going for a four-game sweep of the team in first place in their division and completing that four-game sweep would move them into a virtual tie for first place in the division.

Most everybody assumed Kansas City's hot start was a fluke and thought that the Royals would be done whenever either the Twins or White Sox knocked them out of first place. Today's the Royals' opportunity to prove all those people wrong, to show that they may have some staying power in this race after all. And their fans should be there to support them for it.

Wednesday, June 18, 2003

Beaneing perfectly

It should probably come as no surprise that the Yankees have the best Beane Count in baseball right now. After, they had the best Beane Count in baseball last year and, while they've been scuffling a bit lately, they had a tremendously hot start to the season and are in first place in the AL East.

What is surprising is their Beane Count number. Last year, when the Yankees were the best in baseball, their Beane Count was 7. This year, it's 4. No other team in baseball has a Beane Count below 20 (Boston has a Beane Count of 21.5, which is the lowest after the Yankees).

I suppose I should explain exactly what a Beane Count is. Basically, it's a stat that Rob Neyer created and named after Oakland GM Billy Beane as a quick and dirty method for seeing which teams have done the best at four important categories -- drawing walks, hitting home runs, not issuing walks and not allowing home runs. The Beane Count simply adds up a team's ranking in its league in each of those four categories.

Yes, that means the Yankees currently lead the American League in walks (308), home runs (104), walks allowed (159) and home runs allowed (57). They have a fairly large lead in three of those categories. Boston and Seattle are tied for second with 252 walks drawn (56 behind the Yankees). Minnesota is second with 184 walks allowed (25 behind the Yankees). Baltimore is second with 66 home runs allowed (nine behind the Yankees). Only the Rangers are breathing down the Yankees' necks with 103 homers (just one behind New York).

First of all, I suppose I need to convince you that having a good Beane Count is important. Well, of the 10 teams that currently have a Beane Count in the top five for in either league, only two have losing records. Baltimore (fifth-best Beane Count in the AL) is 32-35, but has an expected record of 34-33. Colorado (second-best Beane Count in the NL) is 35-37, but has an expected record of 36-36.

Last year, the Yankes had the best Beane Count in baseball at 7, like I said. San Francisco was next at 9, followed by Oakland (14), Boston (19), Houston (19.5), Arizona (20.5) and St. Louis (23.5). Of those seven teams, six won at least 93 games. Houston went 84-78.

In 2001, Oakland had a Beane Count of 10, the best in baseball. San Francisco was next at 17, followed by NYY (18.5), SEA (18.5), ARI (19.5) and CLE (20). All six of those teams won at least 89 games.

So, I think you'll agree with me that, while it's not vital to have a good Beane Count, having a good Beane Count can't hurt. Next, I wanted to see how rare an accomplishment it would be if the Yankees went on to lead the AL in all four categories. I decided I would just go back until I found the last team that led its league in all four categories. Well, I gave up after 1975, having not found a team that led its league in all four categories in 56 seasons (28 seasons each for the AL and NL).

Did I find anything that's useful for this discussion? Sure, 29 teams in the 56 seasons I looked at led their league in exactly two of the four categories. They had a combined winning percentage of .596 and all 29 of them finished the year with a winning record. Three of the teams were from strike-shortened seasons, but the 26 teams that played a full season averaged 96 wins.

Nine of the 29 teams won at least 100 games (including the 1995 Cleveland Indians, who went 100-44). The worst team was the 1976 Boston Red Sox, who went 83-79, and the best team was the 1998 New York Yankees, who went 114-48.

So, even if the Yankees slip and end up leading the AL in just two of the categories, history says they'll be in pretty good shape. What if the Yankees lead the AL in three of the categories?

Well, two teams in the 56 seasons I looked at did that. The 1999 Houston Astros led the NL in walks, walks allowed and home runs allowed (Colorado led the league in homers) and went 97-65. The 1988 New York Mets led the NL in home runs, walks allowed and home runs allowed (Pittsburgh led the league in walks) and went 100-60.

So the Yankees are definitely doing something pretty impressive. The next question is, how are they doing it? Let's take a look at the players involved, starting with the hitters.

Alfonso Soriano has 18 home runs and 22 walks, which puts him on pace for 42 home runs and 51 walks. Last year, he had 39 homers and 23 walks. He's maintained his home run rate while dramatically improving his walk rate.

Hideki Matsui has six homers and 23 walks, which puts him on pace for 14 homers and 53 walks. That's not what the Yankees had in mind, but it's no worse than what Rondell White did last year (14 home runs and 25 walks).

Raul Mondesi has 13 home runs and 25 walks, which puts him on pace for 30 home runs and 58 walks. Last year, he had 26 homers and 59 walks with the Yankees and Blue Jays.

Jason Giambi has been struggling (despite his recent hot streak, his OPS is still below .900), but he hasn't been hurting the Yankees in the Beane Count. He has 18 home runs and 49 walks, which puts him on pace for 42 homers and 113 walks. Last year, he had 41 homers and 109 walks. He's averaging a home run every 13.5 at-bats and a walk every 6.2 plate appearances this year. The last four years, he averaged a home run every 14.0 at-bats and a walk every 5.6 plate appearances.

Jorge Posada has 15 home runs and 46 walks, which puts him on pace for 35 homers and 106 walks. Last year, he hit 20 home runs and drew 81 walks. His career highs are 28 homers and 107 walks (both in 2000).

Robin Ventura has nine home runs and 25 walks, which puts him on pace for 21 homers and 58 walks. Last year, he had 27 home runs and 90 walks in about the same number of games as he's on pace for this year. What do you want? He's getting old...

Bernie Williams had seven home runs (one every 25 at-bats) and 32 walks (one every 6.5 plate appearances) before getting hurt. Last year, he had 19 home runs (on every 32 at-bats) and 83 walks (one every 8.4 plate appearances).

Derek Jeter has three home runs and 11 walks. Erick Almonte had one home run and eight walks. Combined, they're on pace for nine homers and 44 walks in 141 games. Last year, Jeter had 18 homers and 73 walks in 157 games.

Todd Zeile had six home runs and 17 walks. Projected out to a 600 at-bat season, he would have 26 homers and 74 walks. That's not bad production from your backup corner infielder.

Nick Johnson had five home runs (one every 24 at-bats) and 33 walks (one every 4.7 plate appearances) before getting hurt. Last year, he had 15 homers (one every 25.2 at-bats) and 48 walks (one every 9.2 plate appearances). He's slightly improved his home run rate and almost doubled his walk rate.

On the pitching side, David Wells has walked four batters (one every 25.2 innings) and allowed nine home runs (one every 11.2 innings). Last year, he walked 45 batters (one every 4.6 innings) and allowed 21 homers (one every 9.8 innings).

Mike Mussina has walked 17 batters (one every 5.8 innings) and allowed 12 home runs (one every 8.3 innings). Last year, he walked 48 batters (one every 4.5 innings) and allowed 27 home runs (one every 8.0 innings).

Roger Clemens had walked 26 batters (one every 3.4 innings) and allowed eight home runs (one every 11.2 innings). Last year, he walked 63 batters (one every 2.9 innings) and allowed 18 home runs (one every 10 innings).

Jeff Weaver has walked 24 batters (one every 3.4 innings) and allowed six homers (one every 13.8 innings). Last year, he walked 48 batters (one every 4.2 innings) and allowed 16 homers (one every 12.5 innings).

Andy Pettitte has walked 21 batters (one every 3.9 innings) and allowed 10 home runs (one every 8.1 innings). Last year, he walked 32 batters (one every 4.2 innings) and allowed six home runs (one every 22.4 innings).

The bullpen has walked 63 batters (one every 2.7 innings) and allowed 11 home runs (one every 15.6 innings). Last year, the bullpen walked 132 batters (one every 3.2 innings) and allowed 33 home runs (one every 12.9 innings).

So, can the Yankees do it? Well, the biggest problem will probably be staying ahead of Texas in home runs. The only Yankee I don't think can quite keep up this pace is Wells. What he's doing right now is ridiculous and he's got to fall off this pace a little. The Yankees can probably improve if Pettitte figures out what he's doing wrong and they take Weaver out of the rotation.

The main concern has to be the injuries to Williams and Johnson. The longer those two are out, the more the Yankees have to use players who just aren't as good. Of course, the Yankees could very well trade for a stud hitter tomorrow and then that wouldn't be a problem.

You want a prediction? I'll say that the Yankees end up leading the AL in walks, walks allowed and home runs allowed but that the Rangers pass them in home runs. If that ends up happening, history says the Yankees are probably still going to be playing in October.

Where'd this come from?

You may have noticed that Ryan Dempster pitched pretty well last night, allowing one run on six hits and two walks with seven strikeouts in seven innings. You may have also noticed that he allowed just one unearned run on four hits and two walks with five strikeouts in 7.1 innings in his previous outing. Finally, you may have noticed that despite posting a 0.63 ERA and a 0.98 WHIP in his last two starts, he still has a 6.50 ERA and a 1.72 WHIP for the season.

If you've been paying any attention to Dempster's career, you know that he had one pretty good year (2000) and he's been pretty lousy the rest of the time. Knowing that, it's probably safe to assume that 2000 was the unusual season and he's just not a good pitcher. Which makes these last two starts pretty confusing, because pitcher's who just aren't very good don't often put stellar starts back-to-back. I was so intrigued by these starts that I decided to take a look through Dempster's career.

Dempster was drafted by the Texas Rangers in the third round of the 1995 draft. In 1995 and 1996, he pitched 190 innings for Texas in rookie ball and Class A. He had a 3.13 ERA with 190 strikeouts (9 K/9IP) and 77 walks (2.47 K/BB).

In August of 1996, the Rangers traded Dempster and Rick Helling to Florida for John Burkett. Dempster pitched 191.2 innings in Class A for Florida in 1996 and 1997. He had a 4.60 ERA with 147 strikeouts (6.9 K/9IP) and 64 walks (2.30 K/BB).

In 1998, Dempster started the year in Class AA, posting a 3.22 ERA with 33 strikeouts and 15 walks in 44.2 innings. After being promoted to Class AAA, he had a 3.27 ERA with 24 strikeouts and 12 walks in 33 innings. He was then called up to Florida, where he had a 7.07 ERA with 35 strikeouts and 38 walks in 54.2 innings.

Dempster went back to AAA in 1999 and posted a 4.99 ERA with 29 strikeouts and 10 walks in 30.2 innings before the Marlins decided he was ready for the majors again. In 147 innings for Florida, he had a 4.71 ERA with 126 strikeouts (7.71 K/9IP) and 93 walks (1.35 K/BB).

In 2000, it seemed like Dempster was a young pitcher putting everything together. He had a 3.66 ERA with 209 strikeouts (8.31 K/9IP) in 226.1 innings and made the All-Star game. A lot of people declared him a true No. 1 starter, but they neglected to look at all of his numbers. He walked 97 batters, which contributed to him having a 1.36 WHIP.

The following season, Dempsters strikeouts dropped to 171 (7.28 K/9IP), but his walks increased to 112 in 211.1 innings. His WHIP went up to 1.56 and his ERA skyrocketed to 4.94.

Last year, Dempster had a 4.79 ERA with 87 strikeouts (6.51 K/9IP) and 55 walks (1.58 K/BB) in 120.1 innings before Florida traded him to Cincinnati for Juan Encarnacion, Wilton Guerrero and Ryan Snare. Dempster then had a 6.19 ERA with 66 strikeouts (6.70 K/9IP) and 38 walks (1.74 K/BB) in 88.2 innings for the Reds.

Then, Dempster started this season with a 7.96 ERA, 41 strikeouts (6.29 K/9IP) and 46 walks (0.89 K/BB) in 57.2 innings before his last two starts.

What do those starts mean? Probably nothing. All those seasons of mediocrity or worse outweigh a couple of good starts. I will, however, be very interested to see what he does in his next start.

As you can tell from looking at all those numbers, Dempster's big problem has been control. He has always walked way too many people, even in his one good season. He can strike a lot of people out sometimes, but the walks are always there. And as long as he continues to walk people, he will probably never be better than what he's been thus far in his career.

Tuesday, June 17, 2003

Here's the buzz!

Yesterday, David Pinto expressed disappointment at the lack of excitement surrounding the current series between Minnesota and Kansas City. Today, he noted that there was a pretty pathetic turnout at last night's game. I'm also a little disappointed that there's not more interest in this series.

Chicago was picked by many people to win the AL Central this season. The fact that the Twins are following up their magical 2002 season with a nice start to the 2003 season is a great story. The fact that the Royals are right behind them after losing 100 games last year is an even better story. Since nobody else is talking about it, I decided to compare this season's Twins and Royals. I hope you enjoy. (Note: whenever I talk about defense for a player, I am referring to the fielding runs above average numbers that player has been posting in recent years according to Baseball Prospectus.

Catcher - Big advantage Twins

A.J. Pierzynski is hitting .299 with a .336 OBP and a .490 SLG (.827 OPS) with eight home runs and 45 RBI for the Twins. Last year, he hit .300/.334/.439 (.773) with six homers and 49 RBI. Brent Mayne is hitting .250/.314/.378 (.692) with four homers and 15 RBI for the Royals.

Strangely, things looked a lot different on May 14th. At the end of play on that day, Pierzynski was hitting .254/.298/.395 (.693) with three homers and 17 RBI and Mayne was hitting .306/.355/.469 (.824) with four home runs and 12 RBI. I knew Mayne would come back to Earth, but I thought Pierzynski would continue to hurt the Twins. Mayne has, of course, come back down, while Pierzynski has rediscovered his singles stroke and newly discovered his home run stroke.

Both players appear to be about average on defense. Tom Prince has a .715 OPS in 25 at-bats as the backup catcher for Minnesota. Mike DiFelice has a .774 OPS in 87 at-bats as the backup catcher for Kansas City.

First base - Advantage Royals

Mike Sweeney is hitting .319/.438/.538 (.977) with 12 homers and 48 RBI in 60 games for the Royals. He has 46 walks and 28 strikeouts and is on pace for a career-best 43 more walks than strikeouts. He's had an OPS above .900 for the last four seasons - .907, .930, .916, .980. Last year he only played 126 games, but he averaged 152 games the three seasons before that.

Doug Mientkiewicz is actually doing pretty well, hitting .299/.364/.492 (.856) with seven home runs and 28 RBI for the Twins. He had an .851 OPS in 2001, but dropped to a .756 OPS last year.

Sweeney looks to be about average on defense, while Mientkiewicz is definitely better than average.

Second base - Advantage Royals

It says something - and not something good for the Twins - when Desi Relaford and Carlos Febles are your main contributors at a position and you still have an advantage at that position.

Febles was hitting .245/.287/.284 (.571), but has been out injured since May 27th. He did have five steals in five attempts and he seems to be pretty good on defense. Relaford is hitting .282/.343/.421 (.765) with four homers, 27 RBI and eight steals in 10 attempts and is probably slightly below average on defense.

For the Twins, Luis Rivas is hitting .256/.308/.337 (.645) with one homer, 10 RBI and five steals in nine attempts and he's horrible on defense. You know how people talk about how many wins better than a replacement level player player X is? Well, Luis Rivas is pretty much a replacement level player.

Third base - Advantage Twins

Joe Randa is hitting .251/.304/.414 (.718) with eight home runs and 26 RBI for Kansas City. He's playing a little below his established level, as he had a .767 OPS last year and has a .760 career OPS. He is 33 though, so he may just be declining. He's probably a little above average on defense.

Corey Koskie is probably one of the most underrated third basemen around. He's hitting .289/.390/.444 (.834) with seven homers, 38 RBI and six steals in nine attempts. His .834 OPS is exactly the same as his career mark, as he's had an OPS between .815 and .855 in each of his four full seasons. He's also played well on defense the last two years.

Shortstop Big advantage Royals

How come nobody's talking about Angel Berroa? He's hitting .286/.350/.482 (.832) with seven home runs and 24 RBI for the Royals. Since he's a rookie, I can't tell how his defense was the past couple years, but John Sickels said he has excellent range. His Range Factor this season is 4.85 (third-best among AL shortstops) and his Zone Rating is .850 (seventh in the AL). He does make a lot of errors (18 in 62 games).

For the Twins, Christian Guzman is hitting .270/.298/.373 (.671) with no homers (he does have nine triples) and 17 RBI. He's stolen just three bases in eight attempts and he's bad on defense. He's last in the AL in range factor (3.91) and second-to-last in zone rating (.833). I don't know how accurate those stats are at describing defense, but it can't be good be about the worst in the AL at them.

Left field - Advantage Twins

I'm not just giving Jacque Jones the nod here because he's my girlfriend's favorite player. He's hitting .307/.325/.480 (.805) with eight home runs, 27 RBI and six steals in six attempts. He plays good defense, probably good enough to be a centerfielder on most teams. He does not, however, draw walks. He's on pace for 17 this year, which would match his total in 94 games his rookie season (1999). He's never even drawn 40 walks in a season (his high was 39 in 2001).

Raul Ibanez is hitting .272/.324/.437 (.761) with eight home runs and 33 RBI and is about average on defense. In 2001, he posted an .848 OPS with 13 homers and 54 RBI in 104 games. Last year, he had an .883 OPS with 24 home runs and 103 RBI in 137 games. He may not be quite as good as he was last year, but he should be hitting better than he is right now.

Center field - Big advantage Royals

Torii Hunter is hitting .245/.327/.420 (.748) with nine home runs, 42 RBI and just two steals in nine attempts for the Twins. Since returning from his injury, Carlos Beltran is hitting .310/.417/.534 (.952) with 11 home runs, 34 RBI and 17 steals in 18 attempts. He is now the complete offensive force most people thought he would become.

Last year, Hunter got all the accolades for having a great season, but he was almost exactly as valuable as Beltran. Hunter hit .289/.334/.524 (.858) with 29 homers, 94 RBI and 23 steals in 31 attempts. Despite all the Web Gems, he was also probably just about average on defense. Beltran, meanwhile, hit .273/.346/.501 (.847) with 29 homers, 105 RBI and 35 steals in 42 attempts. Hunter had a .292 EqA and was worth 7.1 wins above replacement player (WARP) and beltran had a .291 EqA and was worth 7.6 WARP.

However, Beltran has been just about average on defense for his career, while Hunter really was phenomenal on defense in 2001.

Another problem is that Beltran is almost certain to be playing on another team before the calendar turns to August. It's hard to imagine that the Royals would still have an advantage at this position without Beltran.

Right Field/DH - Advantage Twins

I'm doing these positions together because the Twins have used three players extensively at these two positions. Bobby Kielty is hitting .253/.372/.440 (.812) with eight home runs in 166 at-bats, Matt LeCroy is hitting .305/.336/.500 (.836) with six homers in 128 at-bats and Dustan Mohr is hitting .292/.326/.478 (.804) with seven homers in 178 at-bats.

For the Royals, Michael Tucker is hitting .254/.324/.448 (.773) with nine home rnus, 32 RBI and six steals in 14 attempts. Ken Harvey is hitting .222/.281/.356 (.636) in 51 games and appears to be finally losing his job. Aaron Guiel has come up and is hitting .367/.406/.567 (.973) in 12 games. He was hitting .279/.408/.474 in 52 games for Class AAA Omaha, so it's not like he's coming out of nowhere.

It looks as though Guiel will take over in right, with Tucker sliding over to left and Ibanez becoming the DH.

Rotation - Advantage Royals

The Royals have been hammered by injuries to the rotation, but overall have still been better than the Twins. Runelvys Hernandez is 4-3 with a 2.79 ERA and a 1.10 WHIP with 31 strikeots (4.81 K/9IP) and 22 walks (1.41 K/BB) in 58 innings. He's been out since May 14th and is rehabbing in Arizona.

Kyle Snyder is 1-3 with a 3.86 ERA and a 1.24 WHIP with 23 strikeouts 4.22 K/9IP) and 12 walks (1.92 K/BB) in 49 innings. Darrell May is 0-3 with a 4.04 ERA and a 1.29 WHIP with 47 strikeouts (5.42 K/9IP) and 23 walks (2.04 K/BB) in 78 innings. Despite being winless, he's been the most reliable starter for the Royals.

Jeremy Affeldt is 3-3 with a 4.31 ERA and a 1.40 WHIP with 43 strikeouts (6.87 K/9IP) and 13 walks (3.31 K/BB) in 56.1 innings. Miguel Asencio is 2-1 with a 5.21 ERA and a 1.55 WHIP with 27 strikeouts (5.03 K/9IP) and 21 walks (1.29 K/BB) in 48.1 innings. He made his last apeparance on May 15th and is out at least until September.

Chris George is 7-4 with a 6.35 ERA and a 1.60 WHIP with 31 strikeouts (4.10 K/9IP) and 27 walks (1.15 K/BB) in 68 innings. Jose Lima allowed four runs on six hits and a walk with one strikeout in six innings in his only start for the Royals so far. Based on his recent track record, Kansas City fans better hope his services are not needed for very long.

The Twins best starter has been the one they're most reluctant to use, but I'll talk about him later. Kyle Lohse is 6-4 with a 3.23 ERA and a 1.10 WHIP with 68 strikeouts (6.46 K/9IP) and 20 walks (3.4 K/BB) in 94.2 innings. He's turning into a regular ace, which is good news for the Twins. However, his performance does not outweigh what the other four Minnesota starters have done, which is why Kansas City has the advantage here.

Rick Reed is 3-6 with a 4.37 ERA and a 1.29 WHIP with 29 strikeouts (4.37 K/9IP) and 13 walks (2.23 K/BB) in 59.2 innings. Kenny Rogers is 5-2 with a 4.67 ERA and a 1.44 WHIP with 51 strikeouts (5.81 K/9IP) and 16 walks (3.19 K/BB) in 79 innings. Joe Mays is 7-4 with a 5.80 ERA and a 1.43 WHIP with 34 strikeouts (3.79 K/9IP) and 25 walks (1.36 K/BB) in 80.2 innings. Brad Radke is 5-6 with a 6.00 ERA and a 1.49 WHIP with 45 strikeouts (4.82 K/9IP) and 17 walks (2.65 K/BB) in 84 innings.

The amazing thing is how few people each of these rotations strike out. Minnesota's staff is walking fewer people, but is probably getting hurt more by bad defense (specifically in the middle of the infield).

Bullpen - Big advantage Twins

Each team has had six relievers pitch at least 20 innings, so I'll just tell you what each of them has done.

For the Twins, Eddie Guardado has closed out games nicely with a 2.83 ERA and a 1.01 WHIP with 28 strikeouts (8.79 K/9IP) and five walks (5.6 K/BB) in 28.2 innings. Johan Santana has a 2.32 ERA and a 1.11 WHIP with 54 strikeouts (9.66 K/9IP) and 20 walks (2.8 K/BB) in 50.1 innings. LaTroy Hawkins has a 2.23 ERA and a 1.08 WHIP with 35 strikeouts (9.74 K/9IP) and six walks (5.83 K/BB) in 32.1 innings. J.C. Romero has a 3.54 ERA and a 1.54 WHIP with 17 strikeouts (5.46 K/9IP) and 20 walks (0.85 K/BB) in 28 innings. Juan Rincon has a 3.45 ERA and a 1.40 WHIP with 20 strikeouts (6.28 K/9IP) and 15 walks (1.33 K/BB) in 28.2 innings. Tony Fiore has a 5.50 ERA and a 1.47 WHIP with 21 strikeouts (5.75 K/9IP) and five walks (4.2 K/BB) in 36 innings.

For the Royals, Mike MacDougal has closed games out with a 3.52 ERA and a 1.53 WHIP with 24 strikeouts (7.04 K/9IP) and 16 walks (1.5 K/BB) in 30.2 innings. Jason Grimsley has a 3.92 ERA and a 1.26 WHIP with 33 strikeouts (7.62 K/9IP) and 12 walks (2.75 K/BB) in 39 innings. D.J. Carrasco has a 3.76 ERA and a 1.41 WHIP with 32 strikeouts (7.51 K/9IP) and 22 walks (1.45 K/BB) in 38.1 innings. Kris Wilson has a 4.41 ERA and a 1.29 WHIP with 19 strikeouts (5.23 K/9IP) and five walks (3.8 K/BB) in 32.2 innings. Sean Lowe has a 5.04 ERA and a 1.50 WHIP with 17 strikeouts (6.12 K/9IP) and 10 walks (1.7 K/BB) in 25 innings. Albie Lopez had a 9.90 ERA and a 2.30 WHIP with 14 strikeouts (6.3 K/9IP) and 13 walks (1.08 K/BB) in 20 innings before being demoted to Omaha (where he hasn't allowed a run in five innings).

Obviously, the Twins have a much better bullpen. Kansas City has a few decent relievers, but the Twins have three guys who are pretty much lights out (Guardado, Santana and Hawkins) and Romero was pretty lights out last year.

Depth - Big advantage Twins

This is probably where the Twins have their biggest edge. It's not just because they can deal with injuries better, but because they have stuff they can go out and trade to get help in places where they don't have as much depth (middle infield).

I'm not going to use links here, but the Twins have Justin Morneau (19 homers in the minors before being promoted), Lew Ford (.856 OPS in 43 games at AAA Rochester and 1.494 OPS in seven games for Minnesota), Michael Cuddyer (.995 OPS in 19 games since being demoted to Rochester after posting a .714 OPS in 24 games for the Twins), Michael Restovich (.775 OPS at Rochester) and Todd Sears (.779 OPS in 36 games for Rochester, .791 OPS in 17 games for the Twins.

Aside from having 10 players who are probably good enough for a 1B/LF/RF/DH position, the Twins also have 25-year-old Grant Balfour in Rochester posting a 1.08 ERA with 30 strikeouts and four walks in 25 innings.

The Royals on the other hand, have maybe two potential impact players at Omaha. Morgan Burkhart is hitting .276/.385/.460 in 70 games and Mike Kelley is hitting .307/.383/.503 in 40 games.

The Twins can also use LeCroy at catcher (he's started five games there this season) and use Santana in the rotatoin (as they've already done with great success and should continue to do regardless of injuries to the other starters).

Overview - Advantage Twins

The Twins have been playing better ball for the last month and a half and they seem to have a better collection of players.

Minnesota is 38-30, having scored 331 runs and allowed 309. Kansas City is 34-32, having scord 330 runs and allowed 338. Both teams are two games above their expected record. The Royals have a Beane Count of 30 (7th in the AL) while Minnesota's is 34 (tied for 10th). I definitely still think the Twins will win the division, but I think the Royals can finish above .500 and will win at least 75 games (that could change depending on exactly what happens with Beltran).


As I've mentioned before, I work part-time in the sports department for the newspaper here in Rochester. Well, this summer the paper is giving me more hours and more writing assignments. Hopefully, by the end of the summer, there will be room in the budget for them to give me a full-time job.

This week, a golf course in Rochester is hosting the LPGA Tournament. So yesterday I got to go out and write a couple stories leading up to the tournament. On, Thursday and Friday, I'll be out on the course again helping to cover the actual tournament. Anyway, here are links to the stories I wrote yesterday if anybody's interested.

Story about young local golfer playing in tournament.

Story about some golfers having a tough week.

If you decide to give them a read and like my writing, feel free to let me know. I always love getting compliments. And check back this afternoon for an actual post. It's taking me a bit longer to finish it than I thought it would.

Monday, June 16, 2003

Maddux getting on track

Greg Maddux lost today to fall to 5-6 on the season, but don't just look at that and think he's still struggling. Maddux pitched very well, striking out a season-high 11 hitters while allowing just two runs on five hits and no walks in seven innings.

On May 20th, Maddux stood at 3-5 with a 5.54 ERA. Since then, he's dropped his ERA by more than a run to 4.44 and he's had four quality starts in five trips to the mound. Here are his four starts between the seven-runs-in-four-innings drubbing he took on May 20th and yesterday:

On May 25th, Maddux needed just 84 pitches to throw seven scoreless innings, allowing three hits and striking out three with no walks. His game score of 74 was his season-high, but he got a no decision when Roberto Hernandez allowed a run in the eighth inning.

On May 30th, Maddux allowed two runs on seven hits and a walk with two strikeouts in five innings. Facing long-time teammate Tom Glavine, Maddux got the win as the Braves touched Glavine up for five runs in seven innings and the Atlanta bullpen pitched four scoreless innings.

On June 4th, Maddux allowed two runs on nine hits and no walks with two strikeouts in eight innings. He picked up the win to even his record at 5-5.

On June 10th, Maddux allowed three runs on seven hits and a walk with two strikeouts in seven innings. He got a no decision as the Braves rallied to tie the game in the ninth before eventually losing in 12.

Last night, he pitched probably his best game of the season, but got the loss because of Gil Meche and Ichiro Suzuki.

Meche continued to show that he should be an All-Star this season by allowing one run on four hits and two walks with six strikeouts in 7.1 innings. He's now 9-3 with a 3.13 ERA and a 1.18 WHIP with 63 strikeouts (6.80 K/9IP) and 25 walks (2.42 K/BB). The especially nice thing for a pitcher with his injury history is that he's kept his pitch cuonts low.

Meche threw 102 pitches last night and has only thrown more than 110 pitches in a game once (111 on May 22nd). He's averaged 99.2 pitches per start and he hasn't thrown more than 313 pitches in any three consecutive starts yet this season.

Ichiro contributed to Maddux's loss by beating out two infield singles, stealing three bases and scoring two runs. A lot of people assumed after his second-half slump last year and slow start this year that Ichiro was playing over his head during his rookie season. Well, it turns out that might not be true.

Ichiro is now hitting .339 with a .384 OBP and a .448 SLG (.831 OPS) with 48 runs scored and 18 steals in 21 attempts. He's on pace for 118 runs, 231 hits, 27 doubles, 12 home runs, 56 RBI, 47 walks and 44 steals in 51 attempts. In 2001, he had 127 runs, 242 hits, 34 doubles, eight homers, 69 RBI, 30 walks and 56 steals in 70 attempts while hitting .350/.381/.457 (.838).

Also, keep in mind that Ichiro had an absolutely awful April, hitting .243/.317./306 (.623) with six steals in six attempts. In May, he hit .389/.415/.558 (.973) with five steals in seven attempts. And halfway through June, he's hitting .434/.464/.509 (.974) with seven steals in eight attempts.

Ichiro's currently in line to get voted into the starting lineup in the All-Star game and some people have said they don't think he deserves it. Well, he definitely does deserve it right now, and it looks like he'll probably deserve it even more by the time the game actually rolls around.

Sunday, June 15, 2003

Super Sports Sunday

This is Tom's Open

As Bill Simmons might say, it's been getting a little dusty in here watching Tom Watson finish off his final round of this year's U.S. Open and perhaps his final U.S. Open round ever. Listening to the crowd cheer for not just Tom Terrific, but caddie Bruce Edwards (who has Lou Gehrig's disease) as well was very touching. If Watson had chipped in that final bunker shot, I may have needed a Kleenex to take care of the dust problem...

There are a lot of bad people in the sports world, and it's people like Tom Watson who make it easier to like athletes as a group instead of just saying that they're all jerks. I don't know how much all of you know about Watson and Edwards, but I'm sure you know that caddies (even for famous pros) don't make a ton of money. Lou Gehrig's disease is a horrible, incurable illness that robs your body of its strength while leaving your mind perfectly capable. Edwards, who has caddied for Watson for 30 years, does not have insurance that covers ALS (Lou Gehrig's disease is the common name for Amyotrophic Lateral Schlerosis). A perfect gentleman his entire career, Watson has paid for (and will continue to pay for) all of the costs that Edwards incurs while fighting his disease.

Watching Watson talk about how much Edwards means to him, and how much he wants to help Edwards in any way possible just restores my faith in the goodness of people. Tomorrow, Watson and the Edwards family will kick off a fundraiser to try and find a cure for ALS in time to save Bruce's life.

I didn't get a chance to watch Watson's 65 on Thursday because I had to work, but I definitely got choked up watching the review of it today along with Edwards' comments. I also got goosebumps watching the look back at Johnny Miller's "Miracle at Oakmont" through the eyes of his caddie from that marvelous performance.

These are the reasons that people who don't really care much about golf will often drift in front of the television when there's a major championship on. I'm a bigger fan of golf now that I've started playing a little bit, but I always liked watching the four Grand Slam tournaments. Just like baseball, golf has so much wonderful history and that history is inextricably linked to its present.

Watson's 65 on Thursday stirred memories of his only U.S. Open Championship in 1982. Vijay Singh's 63 on Friday brought back memories of that 63 from Miller. Almost every performance on such a big stage reminds somebody, somewhere of a similar performance on a similar stage.

People say that golf is boring, and sometimes it is. People say that baseball is boring, and sometimes it can be as well. But both provide such magical moments. Moments that you can't realistically hope for, but do anyways. Moments that can't possibly happen, but do anyways. Moments that become forever a part of the history that enriches two games to the point where they are more than just games.

"Fans, for the past two weeks you have been reading about a bad break I got. Yet today I consider myself the luckiest man on the face of the earth." Lou Gehrig, on July 4, 1939.

"I've been really lucky in my career. I'm not going to let this get me down. We'll move on." Bruce Edwards, on June 15th, 2003.

Roger's threat

Have you all seen this threat from Roger Clemens to the Hall of Fame? I've said before that I don't really care which hat Clemens wears into the Hall, but there is absolutely no question which hat he should wear into the Hall. Here are two different stat lines:

2,776 IP, 192 W, 100 CG, 38 SHO, 2,590 K
2,760.2 IP, 216 W, 32 CG, 26 SHO, 2,832 K

That first line is what Clemens did with the Red Sox. The second line is what you get if you take what Clemens did with the Blue Jays AND the Yankees and then MULTIPLY THAT BY TWO. I know he picked up two World Series rings and his 300th win and his 4,000th strikeout with the Yankees, but there is simply no justifiable way of putting him in the Hall of Fame as a member of the New York Yankees. Hopefully the Hall will have some cajones and tell him to go ahead and not show up if he feels that strongly about it.