Saturday, July 26, 2003

Thank God

That's all I have to say.


I was going to write about how great a game it was tonight.

I was going to write about how you could tell how important it was because Pedro threw 128 pitches, the most this season and his most since May 1, 2001.

I was going to write about how David Wells, who came into the game with six walks, walked five batters. He's now walked eight Red Sox hitters this season and only three hitters from all other teams.

I was going to write about how three of those walks came consecutively with two outs in the sixth and then the Yankees brought in Jesse Orosco and Grady Little for some reason did not pinch-hit for Johnny Damon.

I was going to write about all those things, but I'm too depressed by that loss. I was at work covering the Rochester Red Wings off the radio, but I don't think I sat down for more than half an hour during the game. I was just too nerve-wracked.

Anyway, since I'm not going to write about the game (well, anything more about the game anyway), there is something else I wanted to write about.

I was watching the "Mike and the Mad Dog Show," which is sans Mad Dog while Chris is on vacation, on the YES Network this afternoon. Mike Francesa was broadcasting from the Green Monster seats at Fenway Park and he was talking to Mike Barnicle for part of it. Francesa said something like the following to Barnicle:

"I always say that the worst thing for Boston fans would be for the Red Sox to win the World Series. There would be nothing left for them after that. They haven't won in so long that they almost root for losing at this point. They see being heartbroken every year as their right."

That's not exactly what he said, but it's the general idea. I don't swear on this blog often, so I hope you'll excuse my language when I say:

I absolutely hate it when the Red Sox lose. Drives me nuts. I've been known to punch walls, throw things, curse up a storm, etc. after Red Sox losses.

There is almost nothing I would like more than for the Red Sox to win the World Series. When the Patriots won the Super Bowl, I'm not ashamed to admit that I shed tears of joy for more than an hour. If the Red Sox won the World Series, I can't even imagine the level of my elation.

To say that we like losing just because some (most?) Red Sox fans are paranoid and pessimistic is just stupid. Next time somebody tells me I wouldn't know what to do with myself if the Red Sox win the World Series, I may punch him/her in the face.

Just so you know if you ever see me.

Friday, July 25, 2003

Done for the day

So, I know I promised two long posts today, but I started talking to people online and now I don't have enough time to make another post. I was going write about the Red Sox and Yankees heading into their big three-game series this weekend, but you don't need me to tell you that both of these teams are very good and that this series is hugely important (more to the red sox and their fans than the yankees).

Pedro vs. Wells tonight. Burkett vs. Mussina tomorrow. Lowe vs. Weaver on Sunday night baseball. Strap in and enjoy the ride.

A call to arms

Sorry for the lateness of posting today. I slept later than I had intended to. To make it up to you, I will make two long posts today.

First, there were, by my count, 14 excellent performances by starting pitchers yesterday. Since there were 14 games yesterday, that's exactly half of all the starting pitchers who were used. It was quite an interesting mix of pitchers, from aces down to hangers on.

Darrell May

May allowed to runs on three hits (two home runs) and three walks with two strikeouts in seven innings to lower his ERA to 3.33, seventh in the AL.

May is just 5-4 with a 1.19 WHIP, 69 strikeouts (4.89 K/9IP), 36 walks (2.55 BB/9IP) and 17 home runs allowed. I don't know exactly how May is having so much success, but the Royals certainly aren't complaining. He doesn't walk that many people, but he hardly strikes anybody out and he allows a lot of home runs.

I wrote awhile ago that May had yet to allow more than four runs in a start, which is something almost no other pitcher (with a significant number of innings pitched) could say. Well, he still has yet to allow more than four runs in a start and he hasn't allowed more than two runs in any of his last six starts. Over that stretch, he's 5-0 with a 1.67 ERA, 0.95 WHIP, 18 strikeouts, 13 walks and seven home runs allowed (which is amazing since he's only allowed eight runs).

Actually, now I can tell you how May has succeeded. With the bases empty, batters are hitting .250/.303/.480 (.783) off May. With runners on, batters are hitting just .217/.266/.332 (.598) off May. Of the 17 home runs May has allowed, 14 have been solo shots.

Many people, myself inlcuded, don't think that pitching better with men on base is a skill. Unless May actually does bear down and pitch better out of the stretch, his good luck is unlikely to continue.

Brad Radke

Radke allowed two runs on five hits and no walks with four strikeouts in seven innings to lower his ERA to 5.33, which would still be the worst of his career (he had a 5.32 ERA in 181 innings as a rookie).

Going by his career trend, this should have been one of Radke's good seasons. In 1996, 1998, 2000 and 2002, Radke had an ERA somewhere between 4.30 and 4.72. In 1997, 1999 and 2001, Radke had an ERA below 4.00 (but not below 3.75).

Actually, despite his usually unimpressive ERA's and his 108-109 record, Radke has had a very nice career. Last year was the first time since his rookie season that he had an ERA+ below 100 (or below 109 actually). His ERA+ numbers from 1996 through 2001 were 115, 121, 109, 135, 118, 115 (an ERA+ of 100 is average, below 100 is below average and above 100 is above average). His career ERA+ before this season was 113. For comparison, Nolan Ryan's career ERA+ was 112 (which says as much about how overrated Ryan has been as it does about how underrated Radke has been).

The reason Radke has struggled this season isn't a lack of strikeouts (he's struck out 5.26 batters per 9IP, which isn't significantly worse than his 5.44 career average) and it isn't too many walks (his 1.5 BB/9IP is the second best mark of his career). He's struggled because he's allowing too many home runs.

Radke has allowed 23 home runs in 131.2 innings, which is 1.57 HR/9IP. Radke was susceptible to the long ball at the beginning of his career as well, allowing 1.59 HR/9IP in 1995 and 1.55 HR/9IP in 1996. From 1997 through last year, however, Radke allowed just 1.03 HR/9IP and never more than 1.15 HR/9IP in a season.

If Radke can just start to keep the ball in the park, he could turn his season around in a hurry. And if he can turn his season around, it would go a long way toward helping the Twins turn their season around.

Sidney Ponson

Ponson allowed three runs on six hits and three walks with five strikeouts ni 8.2 innings to improve to 14-5 and lower his ERA to 3.64. He was maybe one bad bounce away from pitching a complete game at Yankee Stadium.

Everybody knows that Ponson is apple of the eye of several GM's at the trading deadline, and yesterday did nothing to hurt that. Ponson now has a 1.28 WHIP, 97 strikeouts (6.19 K/9IP), 40 walks (2.55 BB/9IP) and just 10 home runs allowed (0.64 HR/9IP) in 141 innings. With 20 starts under his belt, he's averaging more than seven innings (7.05) per trip to the mound.

Unfortunately for the Braves, Cardinals, Red Sox, Giants and others, it's looking more and more like Ponson might not be leaving Baltimore just yet. The Orioles made Ponson an offer of $15-million over three years with a lot of incentives. Ponson didn't like the offer and has yet to make a counter offer. It sounds like the Orioles may keep negotiating with Ponson for the rest of the season and then just take draft picks if they cannot reach an agreement.

I completely agree with that plan, which is not something I often say about anything the Orioles do. If Baltimore cannot get a good enough package (which will admittedly be tough with Ponson just two months away from free agency and not guaranteed to stay with the team that trades for him), then the Orioles should just offer him arbitration and take two first-round picks if he leaves (I'm pretty sure he'll be a Type A free agent).

I wouldn't even make that much of an effort to meet Ponson's demands, because I'm not sure he's worth more than $5-million a year. The Orioles have several players they should trade in the next week because those players will never be able to get Baltimore more in return than they can right now. That's not necessarily true with Ponson, however.

Russ Ortiz

Ortiz allowed two runs on seven hits and two walks with five strikeouts in six innings to improve to 14-4 and lower his ERA to 3.55.

Ortiz has a 1.29 WHIP, 89 strikeouts (5.75 K/9IP), 65 walks (4.20 BB/9IP) and nine homers allowed (0.58 HR/9IP) in 139.1 innings. It's a good thing he doesn't allow many home runs, because he doesn't strike out enough hitters and he walks way too many hitters. He's also either been very lucky or the recipient of very good defense, as batters are hitting just .268 off him when they put the ball in play.

Ortiz is not a bad pitcher, but he has benefited from his environments. Despite a 4.01 career ERA, he has just a 101 career ERA+. He did have a 122 ERA+ in 2001, when he went 17-9 with a 3.29 ERA, 1.27 WHIP, 169 strikeouts (6.96 K/9IP) and 91 walks (3.75 BB/9IP) in 218.2 innings pitched. Last year, he had a 105 ERA+ because a 3.61 ERA for San Francisco isn't really that great.

Shawn Chacon

Chacon pitched seven shutout innings, allowing three hits and striking out six, to improve his ERA to 4.17.

Chacon had a 4.27 ERA at the All-Star break, but that's somewhat deceiving. He had a 1.04 ERA in 34.2 innings in April, a 5.66 ERA in 35 innings in May and a 6.06 ERA in 35.2 innings in June, at the end of which he went on the disabled list and it looked like his amazing season might be fading away.

Chacon came off the DL and started on July 19, allowing four runs in 4.1 innings to put his ERA at a season-high 4.43. However, he came back strong yesterday and still has a chance to become the first pitcher in Rockies history to have an ERA below 4.00 while pitching enough to qualify for the ERA title (one IP per team game is the mark to qualify).

Chacon has a 1.27 WHIP, 84 strikeouts (6.48 K/9IP), 43 walks (3.32 BB/9IP) and 10 home runs allowed (0.77 HR/9IP) in 116.2 innings, and he finally has a better ERA on the road than at home (yesterday's start was on the road). Chacon is 7-1 with a 4.21 ERA in 62 innings at home and 4-4 with a 4.12 ERA in 54.2 innings on the road. The reason for the much better record at home is obviously that the Rockies have a much better offense at home.

Kevin Brown

Brown pitched eight shutout innings, allowing three hits and two walks and striking out six, to improve his ERA to 2.12, the best in the NL.

Brown has simply been phenomenal this season, with a 1.06 WHIP, 115 strikeouts (7.88 K/9IP), 29 walks (1.99 BB/9IP) and five homers allowed (0.34 HR/9IP) in 131.1 innings. In 20 trips to the mound, he has made 16 quality starts. However, all 16 of those would still be quality starts even if you changed the definition of a quality start to, "at least six innings pitched and no more than two runs allowed." He's allowed either one or zero runs in 11 of his 20 starts.

Unfortunately, LA's offense is so bad that not only is Brown just 10-5, but the Dodgers are just 12-8 when he starts. Also, Brown now had a career ERA+ of 129 before this season and five seasons with an ERA+ of at least 150. This year will probably make it six seasons and will get that career ERA+ up over 130 (and then some). So, why don't I ever here people considering Brown's qualifications for the Hall of Fame?

Brandon Webb

Webb allowed two runs on four hits (two home runs) and two walks with eight strikeouts in eight innings to improve his ERA to 2.43, third in the NL.

Webb has been better than Arizona ever could have dreamed. He has a 1.03 WHIP, 97 strikeouts (7.86 K/9IP), 31 walks (2.51 BB/9IP) and 10 home runs allowed (0.81 HR/9IP) in 111 innings.

He's had a quality start in 15 of his 16 starts this year. In his only non-quality start, he allowed four runs in six innings on six hits and two walks with eight strikeouts. That's his worst start of the year!

Since that game had a game score of 50, he has yet to have a game score below 50 in his major league career. To put that in perspective, only 30 qualified NL pitchers this season have an average game score above 50. Webb is second in the NL with an AGS of 62.4.

Jon Garland

Garland allowed two runs on four hits and three walks with two strikeouts in seven innings to improve his ERA to 4.40.

He's been touted as an ace of the future for the White Sox for so long, that it's easy to forget that Garland is still just 23 years old. Garland was good in the minor leagues, but he never struck out many batters and he always issues a lot of walks. Those problems have continued into his major league career.

This year, Garland has a 1.34 WHIP, 69 strikeouts (5.23 K/9IP), 43 walks (3.26 BB/9IP) and 19 homers allowed (1.44 HR/9IP) in 118.2 innings. Garland had a 3.69 ERA in 2001, but he struck out only 61 and walked 55. Predictably, he slumped to a 4.58 ERA last year.

Garland has actually pitched very well recently, allowing two runs in seven innings in four of his last five starts. Over that time, he has a 3.31 ERA in 32.2 innings, with a 1.19 WHIP, 22 strikeouts, 12 walks and six home runs allowed. Still not a great recipe for success, but he's made it work recently.

Actually, in his last nine starts, Garland has a 3.19 ERA and a 1.25 WHIP in 59.1 innings. The White Sox are now just four games behind the Royals and could be very dangerous if they have four starters pitching well for the rest of the season.

Kelvim Escobar

Escobar allowed two runs on five hits and five walks with seven strikeouts in seven innings to improve his ERA to 4.34.

Since moving into the rotation, Escobar has made 14 starts. Half of them have been what I would classify as good starts. In those seven starts, he has a 1.93 ERA, 1.19 WHIP, 44 strikeouts and 15 walks in 51.1 innings. In his other seven starts, Escobar has a 6.27 ERA, 1.73 WHIP, 28 strikeouts and 21 walks.

For the season, including his time as a reliever, Escobar has a 1.50 WHIP, 95 strikeouts (8.41 K/9IP) and 44 walks (3.90 BB/9IP) in 101.2 innings.

Escobar is 27 and has a right arm that people absolutely love. He has always struck out a lot of hitters and he has always walked a lot of hitters. The Blue Jays supposedly want to keep him and a lot of teams supposedly want to trade for him. It will be interesting to see what actually happens.

Livan Hernandez

Hernandez allowed one run on seven hits and a walk with five strikeouts in 7.2 innings to improve to 10-6 and lower his ERA to 3.50.

Hernandez has been around forever, so it's easy to forget that he's still just 28 years old (if his birthdate is really 2/20/75). It's also somewhat surprising that this is just his third good season.

In 1997, he was 9-3 with a 3.18 ERA in 96.3 innings as a starter in his rookie year for the Marlins. He then won four games in the playoffs with a 3.18 ERA in 28.1 innings as Florida won the World Series.

In 2000, he went 17-11 with a 3.75 ERA in 240 innings in his first full season with the Giants. He won his only start in the playoffs, allowing one run on five hits and five walks with five strikeouts in 7.2 innings, but the Giants lost in the first round.

This year, in his first season with the Expos, he has a 1.29 WHIP, 98 strikeouts (6.13 K/9IP) and 35 walks (2.19 BB/9IP) in 144 innings.

Apparently, Hernandez just has to change teams every season and he can be good for the rest of his career. Another interesting note is that (barring a trade or a tremendous resurgence by the Expos) this will be the first time since 1996 that neither Hernandez nor his half-brother Orlando have been in the World Series.

Ron Villone

Villone allowed two runs (one earned) on four hits and six walks with four strikeouts in seven innings to improve his ERA to 2.30.

I was barely even consious of the fact that the Astros had picked up Villone, but he has been amazing for them. In seven starts, he has yet to allow more than three runs in a start and he's only even allowed three runs once. His only non-quality start came when he allowed two runs in just 5.2 innings.

He has a 1.14 WHIP, 36 strikeouts (7.53 K/9IP), 18 walks (3.77 BB/9IP) and five homers allowed (1.05 HR/9IP) in 43 innings. The only other time Villone has been anywhere near this good was in 1996, when he pitched 43 innings in relief playing for Milwaukee and San Diego and had a 3.14 ERA, 1.30 WHIP, 38 strikeouts (7.95 K/9IP), 25 walks (5.23 BB/9IP) and six homers allowed (1.26 HR/9IP).

Villone's newfound ability to not allow runs has helped the Astros take a 3.5-game lead in the NL Central, but they better not rely on him too much in the playoffs (assuming they make it that far).

Ben Sheets

Sheets allowed one run on five hits and a walk with three strikeouts in seven innings to improve to 9-7 and lower his ERA to 3.87.

At 25 years old, Sheets is starting to live up to his potential. He's not striking out as many people as he did last year when he had a 4.15 ERA, but he's not walking nearly as many either. Last year, he had 170 strikeouts (7.06 K/9IP) and 70 walks (2.91 BB/9IP) in 216.2 innings. This year, he has 115 strikeouts (6.65 K/9IP) and 30 walks (1.73 BB/9IP) in 155.2 innings.

In fact, the only reason he's not having even more success this year is that he's allowing so many home runs. He allowed 21 homers (0.87 HR/9IP) last year and has already allowed 25 homers (1.45 HR/9IP) this year.

If Sheets can continue to keep his walk totals down and get his home run totals back down to a more reasonable number, he could become a legitimate staff ace for the Brewers.

Kevin Appier

Appier allowed two runs on four hits and a walk with two strikeouts in six innings to improve to 7-6 and lower his ERA to 5.28.

Appier's only 35 years old and he was pretty good the last two years, posting an ERA+ of 115 in 206.2 innings in 2001 for the Mets and an ERA+ of 111 in 188.1 innings last year for the Angels. For his career, he has a 124 ERA+ in 2,479.2 and he is one of the more underrated pitchers you could ever find.

However, he just doesn't have it this year. He has a 1.47 WHIP, 49 strikeouts (4.79 K/9IP), 35 walks (3.42 BB/9IP) and 17 homers (1.66 HR/9IP) allowed in 92 innings. That is just not going to get it done.

Maybe he'll be able to get things back together and have another good year or two, but he'll retire as one of the better pitchers in baseball hitters (maybe one of the top 100) regardless. Unless he pitches until he's 40 and is absolutely awful the whole time.

Mark Mulder

Mulder pitched seven shutout innings, allowing seven hits and a walk while striking out 11, to improve to 13-7 and lower his ERA to 3.07, fourth in the AL. That was Mulder's first double-digit strikeout game since he struck out 12 last September 17th in a complete game shutout with five hits and no walks.

Mulder has a 1.15 WHIP, 100 strikeouts (5.90 K/9IP), 33 walks (1.95 BB/9IP) and 11 homers allowed (0.65 HR/9IP) in 152.2 innings. Like the rest of the Big Three, Mulder doesn't strike out many batters. But he also doesn't allow many walks or home runs. He is probably aided by his home ballpark and his defense, but he is still a very nice pitcher.

The remarkable thing about Mulder is how deep he pitches into games. For his career, which consists of 112 starts, he averages six and two-thirds innings pitched per start. That's amazing, especially when you consider that he averaged just 5.7 innings pitched per start his rookie season, which still accounts for more than 20 percent of his career. This year, he's averaging 7.27 innings pitched per start and leads the league with seven complete games.

So those are the 14 starting pitchers who pitched very well yesterday. They combined for a 1.79 ERA, 0.97 WHIP, 70 strikeouts and 30 walks in 100.1 innings.

As an exercise to show you how overrated wins and losses are, guess how many of those 14 guys got wins. The answer is six, and one of them got a loss. If a guy was 6-1 after 14 starts (say almost halfway through the season), he might not even make the All-Star team (Pedro Martinez's 6-2 record and 2.53 ERA after 14 starts this year comes to mind). But the fact that the team's for which these pitchers pitch went 10-4 (.714 winning percentage) yesterday, shows you just how valuable it is to have a 1.79 ERA in 100.1 innings over 14 starts.

Thursday, July 24, 2003

Good game, good announcers

It's been nice not working during the day anymore, but today's the first time I realized how nice. Today, there are a lot of baseball games being played in the afternoon. Three of them (Kansas City at Minnesota, Baltimore at New York and Philadelphia at Chicago) are available on TV for me to watch, and I've been watching parts of all three.

The most interesting, in my opinion, is the game between the Royals and the Twins. As everybody knows, the Twins were one of the favorites to win the AL Central, along with the Chicago White Sox. The Royals lost 100 games last year.

But the Royals got off to a hot start while the Twins started slowly and it took awhile before the Twins worked their way into first place. After they did, they went into a magnificent slump and the Royals resumed their winning ways. Now, the Royals lead the Twins by 6.5 games and the White Sox are in second place in the division (five games behind Kansas City).

The Royals defeated the Twins last night, and I'm sure the Twins don't want to lose again tonight to fall 7.5 games out with 61 games to play. They also don't want to fall to 3-9 against the Royals this season. So, I've been watching that game more than the other two and it has been very enjoyable.

Minnesota just took a 4-2 lead in the eighth inning on a single into center field by pinch-hitter A.J. Pierzynski and a wild pitch by Jason Grimsley. Denny Hocking singled to lead off the inning and went to second on a sacrifice bunt by Shannon Stewart. Stewart avoided being tagged by Ken Harvey and went to second (with Hocking going to third) when Harvey threw the ball into right field.

Hocking scored on Pierzynski's single and Stewart scored on the wild pitch.

Kansas City took an early 1-0 lead in the first inning when Aaron Guiel singled to lead off the game and scored on a "triple" by Raul Ibanez with two outs. Ibanez hit a shallow fly ball to right field that Stewart couldn't get in quickly enough to catch. Stewart decided to half dive for it, missed it and had the ball bounce off him and roll away. Ibanez, knowing how bad Stewart's arm is, steamrolled into third and Stewart bounced his throw to the cutoff man.

Minnesota starting pitch Brad Radke really only made one mistake -- a home run to Ibanez in the seventh inning. Radke went seven innings, allowing two runs on five hits and no walks with four striekouts.

His opponent, Darrell May, made just two mistakes -- solo home runs by Jacque Jones and Torii Hunter. May also went seven innings, allowing two runs on three hits and three walks with two strikeouts.

The Twins just added two more runs on a double from Jones to take a 6-2 lead, which leaves the Royals with a lot of work to do in the ninth inning.

Not only has the game been good, the announcing has also been good. Normally, I hate baseball announcers. Almost all of them say so many things that just are not correct that it is mind-boggling. And most of them don't have much of interest to say.

This game, however, has been very enjoyable. Gary Thorn is the play-by-play guy and Jeff Brantley is the color guy and they have been having a lot of fun.

Early in the game, Brantley made a reference to Sampson and Thorn came right back with Delilah, Sampson's wife. I don't think Dennis Miller even made many references to the Old Testament when he was doing Monday Night Football.

Later on in the game, Thorn and Brantley had this exchange:

GT - It's a little nippy, but you have a few nips to keep you warm.
JB - And Radke has been nipping the corner all day long.

Sure, they've made some points that aren't correct, but it's too much to ask announcers (especially play-by-play guys) not too. If you look around at all the wonderful baseball blogs around and some of the "new" thinking being used by certain GMs, you can tell that the baseball world is changing, slowly, but surely.

However, I think the broadcast booth will be the final frontier as far as changes in the way the game is thought about. The problem is that most casual baseball fans don't want to here about too many stats other than those of the Triple Crown variaty. So, TV stations would be stupid to hire broadcasters who will talk about such stats and alienate their fan base.

Therefore, you can't blame Thorn and Brantley too much for saying things like (paraphrasing something Brantley said), "On this team (the Royals), it's okay to give up an out to move a player into scoring position, because they're so good at coming through in the clutch and driving in runners in scoring position."

All announcers say things like that, but some say that type of thing a lot more frequently. And few are as interesting as Thorn and Brantley.

So this game has been very enjoyable to watch (the Royals tried to make a comeback, with runners on first and third and one out, but couldn't score) and Thorn and Brantley have made it even more enjoyable.

Unexpected help

San Francisco's biggest problem this season is the starting rotation. The Giants have gotten a 4.07 ERA from their starters, which ranks seventh in the NL, but that doesn't even get at the whole of their problems.

The Giants have had six different pitchers make at least 10 starts this season. The best of them has obviously been Jason Schmidt, who is 10-4 with a 2.41 ERA, 0.98 WHIP, 143 strikeouts (9.33 K/9IP) and 34 walks (2.22 BB/9IP) in 138 innings (19 starts). He's obviously a candidate for the NL Cy Young Award, but he's had a couple nagging injuries this season and is expected to miss his next start (which would have been today) because of tendonitis in his right arm.

Two other starters have each made 19 starts and thrown over 100 innings, but it's not necessarily a good thing for them.

Kirk Rueter has a slightly bad 4.46 ERA, a very bad 1.55 WHIP and an inexplicably bad 2.60 K/9IP. In 105 innings, he's walked 36 batters and only struck out 28. However, he's been on the disabled list since July 9, so he's been unable to go through the implosion that his numbers suggest is surely coming.

Unfortunately for the Giants, with eight more walks than strikeouts, Rueter is not even the absolute worst on the team in that category. Damian Moss has walked 62 batters (5.17 BB/9IP) and struck out just 54 (4.5 K/9IP). He has a 4.75 ERA, he has a 1.65 WHIP and he has no business being in the starting rotation of a good team.

The other three pitchers who have started at least 10 games for the Giants this year are all rookies who have been highly touted as great prospects.

Jesse Foppert was probably the most highly regarded of the three and he has shown good stuff in the majors, striking out 81 batters in 84.2 innings (8.61 K/9IP). Unfortunately, he's also shown that he doesn't really know where that stuff is going most of the time. He has walked 54 batters (5.74 BB/9IP) and has a 5.53 ERA and 1.56 WHIP.

Kurt Ainsworth had a 3.82 ERA, 1.39 WHIP, 48 strikeouts (6.55 K/9IP) and 26 walks (3.55 BB/9IP) in 66 innings before fracturing his shoulder. He is likely out for the season.

Lastly, Jerome Williams has a very nice 2.83 ERA and a pretty good 1.24 WHIP. However, he only has 44 strikeouts (6.22 K/9IP) and he's walked 30 batters (4.24 BB/9IP) in 63.2 innings. He could continue to be successful this season, but having that kind of strikeout and walk rate combination is not usually conducive to doing so.

So, it's clear that the Giants need another good starting pitcher, even if Williams does continue to pitch as well as he has. So far, they've either been unable or unwilling to go out and get somebody.

Fortunately, somebody who is already on the team has recently stepped up and decidedly to help the situation.

Jim Brower came into this season with a 4.60 ERA in 297.1 innings over four seasons. That ERA was good for an ERA+ of 98, meaning he has been just below average over his career. He had 201 strikeouts (6.08 K/9IP) and 133 walks (4.03 BB/9IP) in 124 career games, 23 of which were starts.

At 30 years old at the beginning of this season, this was surely not somebody the Giants were relying on to be great.

He got off on the wrong foot in San Francisco, posting a 6.23 ERA in April. He was better in May, but still had a 5.40 ERA in 30 innings at the end of the month. A 1.35 ERA in June brought his ERA down to 4.15, but he had just 30 strikeouts and 22 walks in 43.1 innings.

Then, on July 1, he made his first start of the season, allowing one run on five hits and a walk with two strikeouts in six innings. He went back to the bullpen for two appearances after that (5.2 innings, 1 run, 3 hits, 2 strikeouts) before getting another start. He lasted just 1.1 innings this time, allowing six runs on four hits and three walks with one strikeout in San Francisco's last game before the All-Star break.

In two starts since the break, including last night, Brower has been outstanding. He went six scoreless innings in each game, allowing seven hits and one walk and striking out 10 in the 12 innings.

If you are looking for a sign that Brower can keep this up (maybe he has always had better success as a starter?), you are going to be disappointed. I mentioned that he had made 23 starts before this year. Well, 21 of them came from 2000-2002.

In those starts, Brower had a 6.10 ERA and 1.68 WHIP with 59 strikeouts (5.29 K/9IP) and 44 walks (3.95 BB/9IP) in 100.1 innings.

Brower has certainly helped the Giants recently, but he will probably not be able to help them when they will really need it -- the playoffs.

The Giants now lead the NL West by 10 games with just over two months to play. The can almost certainly coast into the playoffs without changing a thing. If they want to get back to the World Series, however, they need to add another starting pitcher and a good one at that. Otherwise, they better start preparing Schmidt to pitch every other game.

Wednesday, July 23, 2003

Tuesday's trades

Yesterday was the first of what should be several busy days leading up to the trading deadline. There were three trades made and I thought I'd give my thoughts on all three, from most important to least important.

Pittsburgh trades Kenny Lofton and Aramis Ramirez to the Chicago Cubs for Jose Hernandez, minor-league pitcher Matt Bruback and a player to be named later.

Since this trade was made, people have been up in arms about how bad it is for the Pirates. Well, I don't agree. I'd like to make a few points about the trade before I get into evaluating the trade.

First, neither player that the Pirates gave up is really that good. They're better than players the Cubs have at their respective positions, but they're not anything to get excited about otherwise.

Second, neither player was likely to be with the Pirates whenever they're ready to compete for a playoff spot, be that in two years or 10 years.

Third, we don't know what the market was like. One would think that the Pirates might have been able to get more than they did, but maybe the Cubs were the only team that was interested. If so, then this was a good move, because there was really no reason for Pittsburgh to keep Lofton and Ramirez.

Fourth, we don't know who the PTBNL is. If he's anybody really promising, then this deal could shift so that it's decidedly in Pittsburgh's favor. Okay, now on to the evaluation of the players.

Ramirez is the most interesting player in the deal because he's only 25 years old and he was very good two years ago, when he hit .300/.350/.536 (.886) with 34 homers and 112 RBI. However, he was awful last year (.666 OPS) and has only hit .280/.330/.448 (.780) this season.

Still, he's had an OPS above .800 in every month besides April (.687) and he's a ton better than what the Cubs have been running out to third base this season. So far this season, Chicago's third basemen have hit .212/.298/.305 (.603). In the National League, only Montreal and Los Angeles have gotten worse OBPs from their third basemen. Only Montreal has gotten a worse SLG from its third basemen and Montreal is the only team with a worse OPS from its third basemen.

So, even if Ramirez just keeps doing what he's been doing this season, he'll get on base about 10-percent more often than Chicago's other third basemen and he'll provide a ton more power (almost 50-percent more). If he can get back to what he did in 2001, he would turn Chicago's third base situation from the second-worst in the league to the third-best.

Ramirez is certainly an above average player and, at 25, he has a chance to get back to the star level he showed in 2001. However, he makes $3 million this year and is due $6 million next year. Even if the Pirates kept him for the rest of this season and all of next year, does anybody think he would have been back in 2005? I certainly don't.

To replace Ramirez at third base, the Pirates got Hernandez. Basically, they just took him because the Cubs didn't want to keep him for the rest of the year and the Pirates do need somebody to play third the rest of the season. He was pretty good last year, hitting .288/.356/.478 (.834) in 152 games for the Brewers before sitting out a lot at the end of the season so that he wouldn't set the single-season record for strikeouts.

This year, however, he's been a complete waste. He managed the difficult task of hitting .237/.308/.362 (.670) while playing for the Rockies and then got even worse in his time with the Cubs. For the season, he's hitting .227/.291/.359 (.649) and with 121 strikeouts so far, he'll have another shot at breaking the strikeout record (189).

The other player the Cubs got to improve their offense was Lofton, who is hitting .277/.333/.437 (.770) in 83 games at age 36. I don't know if I would expect a .770 OPS from him the rest of the way, however. The big reason his OPS is that high right now is that he had an amazing May, posting a 1.048 OPS (he had more walks in May than any two other months combined. same with hits and home runs).

However, as long as Lofton can provide an OPS above .700 or so, he'll be better than Tom Goodwin, who had been Chicago's primary centerfielder since Corey Patterson got hurt. Goodwin, who is now hurt himself, is hitting .291/.326/.358 (.684) in 63 games this year. For his career, he's hit .269/.334/.340 (.674) in 1,187 games.

The last player in the deal that we know about is Bruback, a 24-year-old who the Cubs drafted in the 47th round in 1998. This year, Bruback had a 3.96 ERA, 90 strikeouts (6.48 K/9IP), 33 walks (2.38 BB/9IP) and 10 homers allowed in 125 innings pitched at Class AAA Iowa (he also had hit 15 batters). The walks and homers aren't terrible, but that's not a lot of strikeouts.

Last year, he had a 3.16 ERA, 158 strikeouts (8.17 K/9IP), 48 walks (2.48 BB/9IP) and nine homers allowed in 174 innings at Class AA West Tennessee. In 2001, he had a 4.87 ERA, 130 strikeouts (9.59 K/9IP), 41 walks (3.20 BB/9IP) and six homers allowed in 122 innings pitched between Class A and AA.

So, Bruback has shown the ability to strike people out before and he's shown decent control and a decent ability to keep the ball inside the park. There's certainly a chance he'll become a useful pitcher in the major leagues. For right now, I'd say this trade helps both teams, but it will be easier to judge once we see who the PTBNL is.

Pittsburgh trades Scott Sauerbeck and minor-league pitcher Mike Gonzalez to Boston for Brandon Lyon and minor-league pitcher Anastacio Martinez.

I've been going back and forth on whether or not I like this trade for the Red Sox since I heard about it. I think Sauerbeck will be more useful for the rest of this season, but I like Lyon's long-term potential a lot more. I had thought Martinez was the better prospect, but I've now seen a lot of people who are excited about Gonzalez. I guess I'll just go through the players and give my thoughts on each one.

For a team like the Pirates, this is a good move just because Sauerbeck is 31 years old, making $1,566,667 and likely to command even more (maybe $2.5 million) next year. Meanwhile, Lyon is 23 yeard ols, majing $309,500 and able to be signed cheaply for the next two or three years I believe.

This year, Sauerbeck has a 4.05 ERA, 1.38 WHIP, 32 strikeouts (7.2 K/9IP) and 25 walks (5.63 BB/9IP) in 40 innings. That's not a great ERA and that's an awful lot of walks, but the Red Sox got him specifically because they say he's very tough on lefties. Let's take a look.

This year, lefties are hitting .211/.313/.366 (.679) off him in 71 at-bats. From 2000-2002, lefties hit .214/.286/.316 (.602) off him in 304 at-bats. That does look pretty nice, but how bad is he against righties.

This year, righties are hitting .203/.333/.311 (.644) off him in 74 at-bats. From 2000-2002, righties hit .277/.407/.392 (.799) off him in 411 at-bats. I would guess that his success against righties this year is something of a fluke (or because he's only being allowed to face bad righties this year) and that he's really not very good against them.

Lyon has a 3.93 ERA, 1.41 WHIP, 45 strikeouts (7.69 K/9IP), 17 walks (2.91 BB/9IP) and six homers allowed in 52.2 innings. I think Lyon has mostly been hurt by bad luck and/or bad defense this season. Batters are hitting .345 off him when they put the ball in play. Batters are hitting just .273 off Sauerbeck when they put the ball in play this season.

Martinez is 22 years old and was signed by the Red Sox as an undrafted free agent out of the Dominican Republic in 1998. This year, he has a 2.25 ERA, 37 strikeouts (8.33 K/9IP), 24 walks (5.4 BB/9IP) and three homers allowed in 40 innings as a reliever at Class AA Portland.

Last year, he had a 5.31 ERA, 127 strikeouts (8.22 K/9IP), 75 walks (4.86 BB/9IP) and 12 home runs allowed in136 innings as a starter at Class AA. In 2001, he had a 3.35 ERA, 123 strikeouts (7.63 K/9IP), 39 walks (2.42 BB/9IP) and 12 home runs allowed in 145 innings as a starter at Class A.

So, Martinez improved his strikeout rate but worsened his walk rate when he moved up from Class A to Class AA. Now that he's switched from a starter to a reliever, he's still striking out a lot of people and walking a lot of people. He's not a top prospect, but he could certainly become a nice reliever or maybe a back-of-the-rotation starter.

Gonzalez is 25 years old and was drafted by the Pirates in the 30th round in 1997. He's only pitched 6.1 innings this year due to injury. Last year, he had a 3.80 ERA, 82 strikeouts (8.65 K/9IP), 47 walks (4.96 BB/9IP) and four home runs allowed in 85.1 innings as a starter at Class AA. In 2001, he has a 2.93 ERA, 32 strikeouts (9.39 K/9IP), seven walks (2.05 BB/9IP) and three homers allowed in 30.2 innings primarily as a reliever at Class A and then had a 3.71 ERA, 66 strikeouts (6.80 K/9IP), 36 walks (3.71 BB/9IP) and five homers allowed in 87.1 innings as a starter at Class AA.

So, he has nice strikeout and walk rates as a reliever in Class A. When he switched to starting and went up a level, his strikeout rate dropped and his walk rate went up. When he repeated the level last year, his strikeout rate went back up and his walk rate went up even more. Basically, I'd say the same thing about him as I said about Martinez. He's not a top prospect, but he could certainly become a nice reliever or maybe a back-of-the-rotation starter.

Ultimately, I think this is the sort of trade that almost nobody remembers in a few years.

San Diego trades Jesse Orosco to the New York Yankees for a PTBNL.

Apparently, the Yankees didn't want the Dodgers to have the honor of being the team to acquire the oldest player this season. Orosco is 46 years old and making $800,000. If that PTBNL ever even plays a single inning in the majors, then this trade is a success for the Padres.

Orosco has a 7.56 ERA, 1.72 WHIP, 22 strikeouts (7.92 K/9IP), 10 walks (3.6 BB/9IP) and four homers allowed in 25 innings this year, but his reputation is as a pitcher who is death to left-handers.

This year, lefties are hitting .228/.290/.351 (.641) off him in 57 at-bats, which isn't bad. However, righties are hitting .426/.482/.660 (1.142) off him in 47 at-bats. He's turning every right-handed hitter into Albert Pujols. This is a problem, since he's often brought in specifically to face a lefty. If the other team counters with a right-handed pinch-hitter, Orosco has to stay in to face him.

However, it could just be a fluke. From 2000-2002, righties hit .211/.328/.351 (.679) off him in 57 at-bats. Strangely, lefties hit .267/.336/.450 (.786) off him in 120 at-bats from 2000-2002.

Whatever, I don't think Orosco will help the Yankees at all, but he probably won't hurt them too much either. Everybody knew the Yankees would do something to improve their mediocre bullpen. Now that they've made their moves and those moves have turned out to be Orosco and Armando Benitez, I am not worried at all.

For those of you who want to know what your team should do before the trading deadline, that's the subject of Rob Neyer's column today.

Who is this guy?

With the Mets in full-fledged rebuilding mode and trying to figure out which young players will be a part of their future, we are seeing a lot of new names putting on a Mets uniform. One of those names has started making waves with his performance at the plate. That player would be Jeff Duncan, New York's new 24-year-old centerfielder.

Duncan was originally called up when Jeromy Burnitz was injured and went 2-for-5 with no walks and two strikeouts in three games in May.

Since being recalled, Duncan has gone 11-for-27 with a triple, a double, 11 walks and six strikeouts in 10 games. No, that's not a typo, he has really drawn 11 walks in 10 games. That 10-game performance works out to a .407/.579/.593 (1.172) line.

I don't want to rain on the already drenched hopes of Mets fans, but don't get too worked up over those 10 games. If he still has an OBP over .400 (nevermind a batting average over .400) at the end of August, I'll eat any New York Mets hats I may have (I don't have any). Seriously, his performance will come way down.

I had never even heard of Duncan until a week ago, so the first question I want to ask is, "Who the hell is this guy?"

Well, Duncan was drafted by the Mets in the seventh round in 2000 at age 21 out of Arizona State University. That season, he had hit .347/.468/.453 (.921) in 58 games for the Sun Devils. The Mets then sent Duncan to Pittsfield of the short season New York-Penn league, where he hit just .242. However, he did have an OBP of around .360 or higher (I don't have HBP or sac fly numbers) thanks to 34 walks in 53 games.

In 2001, Duncan went to Class A Capital City, where he hit a paltry .217. Again, however, his OBP was 100 points or more higher than that, thanks to 46 walks in 88 games.

Last year, Duncan tore things up for two Class A teams, hitting .393/.468/.600 (1.068) for Columbia and .343/.472/.457 (.923) for St. Lucie. A couple disclaimers, however, are that he was 23 years old and in Class A and that he played just 69 games combined for the two teams.

This year, when Duncan hasn't been in the major leagues, he has been playing for Class AA Binghamton. In 76 games for Binghamton, Duncan hit .288/.376/.406 (.782).

I had training today for the new system we are switching to at the newspaper I work for and one of the guys in my training class is a big Mets fan. While we were on our break, I was checking the scores of the afternoon games and noticed that Duncan's average was up to .406 in the big leagues.

So, I asked my coworker, "Who is Jeff Duncan?"

"He's one of their new young kids," he replied.

To which I answered, "He's not that young -- 24. That's two years older than me."

"Was he playing in Triple A?" he asked.

"I would assume so," I said.

Well, I assumed wrong. Duncan was toiling in Double A at age 24 after barely playing last year and not hitting at all in the pros his first two years. Naturally, he can't be kept off base at the moment.

Don't get me wrong. I'm not saying that Duncan won't be a good player for the Mets. He showed a ton of patience in the minor leagues, drawing 158 walks in his 286 games. However, he did not show an ability to hit above .300 and he showed almost no power. He may very well become an excellent player in the major leagues, but don't expect him to be the savior of the franchise.

Then again, Mets fans are probably ready to give him a ticker-tape parade just because he's not Roger Cedeno (who has just twice as many walks in seven times as many plate appearances).

New Blogs

I've added some new blogs to my list of links on the right. Some of them I've just learned about and others I've been meaning to add for awhile. In the team-related blog section, I added The Detroit Tigers Weblog, Mariner's Musings and Replacement Level Yankees Weblog. In the more good blogs section, I added For Rich or Sporer, Julien's Baseball Blog and Rich's Weekend Baseball BEAT.

Stop by and check them all out. Let me know if any of the links don't work.

Tuesday, July 22, 2003

Another Devilishly exciting young Ray

The Tampa Bay Devil Rays have, in my opinion, five exciting young position players on their roster. Four of those players have been with the team all year, and one has just been called up fairly recently. This recent call-up has been very good, but has gotten about zero publicity.

I'm talking, of course, about Antonio Perez. In 17 games in the majors, Perez is hitting .340/.411/.460 (.871) with three doubles, a home run, six walks and two steals in two attempts. He has struck out 15 times, but that would be more of a concern if he wasn't also drawing those walks.

Perez was signed by the Cincinnati Reds in 1998 as an undrafted, 18-year-old free agent out of the Dominican Republic. He played in the Reds organization for two years before going to Seattle as part of the package that sent Ken Griffey Jr. to Cincinnati. After three years with the Mariners, Perez and Lou Piniella were basically traded to Tampa Bay for Randy Winn.

Last year, Perez struggled mightily with San Antonio of the Class AA Texas League, hitting .258/.312/.333 (.645) in 72 games. He did tear the cover off the ball for six games in the Arizona Fall League, though.

He started this season with Orlando of the Class AA Southern League, where he hit .272/.423/.432 (.855) in 24 games. He moved up to Durham of the Class AAA International League, where he hit .284/.345/.537 (.892) in 34 games.

He's obviously not going to continue to hit .340 in the majors, but he's only 23 years old and he's shown both patience and power at various times in the minor leagues. He's in a pressure-free situation in Tampa Bay (where else could a kid come up and hit .340 in his first 17 games and barely even be mentioned anywhere) and he could blossom into a very nice player.

The other four exciting young Devil Rays are more well-known.

Aubrey Huff is hitting .302/.359/.524 (.893) with 32 doubles and 18 home runs. He has been pounding the ball since the middle of last season (he hit .329/.376/.546 (.922) with 16 homers after the All-Star break last year) and should have been Tampa Bay's All-Star representative this year.

Rocco Baldelli played at Class A, AA and AAA last year and was Baseball America's minor league Player of the Year. He surprisingly won a job in Tampa Bay out of spring training and took baseball by storm with an amazing April.

He's cooled down since then, but he's still hitting a respectable .305/.333/.447 (.780) at the tender age of 21. He has power (19 doubles, seven triples and seven homers) and speed (18 steals in 24 attempts), but no strike zone judgement (14 walks and 77 strikeouts). If he's going to make full use of his amazing talents, he will need to become a more disciplined hitter.

Toby Hall was supposed to take over as Tampa Bay's catcher of the future last year after winning the International League MVP award in 2001, but he got off to a slow start (he was hitting .187/.224/.273 after May 26). He went down and pounded the ball at Durham (.335/.382/.457 in 22 games) before getting called back up. He was able to finish the season with a .258/.293/.376 (.669) line, which is pretty good considering how badly he hit before getting sent down.

Unfortunately, Hall has been unable to build on his success in the second half of last year, as he's hitting .268/.313/.379 (.692). He doesn't draw many walks (just 17), but he also doesn't strike out (just 17 K's). He only has nine doubles and seven home runs, but he did have a very nice June (.319/.368/.478). At 27, he's still fairly young and catchers sometimes take longer to develop than player's at other positions.

Finally, Carl Crawford broke into the big leagues last year and has stolen 32 bases in 42 attempts in 150 games since then. Unfortunately, speed is the only thing he has right now. For his 150-game career, he's hitting .264/.299/.357 (.656) with just 28 walks and 112 strikeouts. When you think about it, it's amazing that somebody with a sub-.300 OBP was able to steal 32 bases in 150 games.

So, Crawford has a lot of work to do (especially regarding patience at the plate), but he's only 21 and has a lot of raw talent.

When a team is bad, as the Devil Rays are, it's nice to see them trying to develop good young players rather than overpaying for over-the-hill veterans (as they've done in the past). It's possible that not all five of these players will be able to help the Devil Rays in the future, but it's fun to watch their progress and cheer for the youngsters.

Monday, July 21, 2003

The Holy Trinity is back

After the 1999 season, one of the most exciting things in baseball was the Holy Trinity of AL shortstops.

Nomar Garciaparra had just won his first batting title, hitting .357 to go along with a .418 OBP and a .603 SLG for a 1.021 OPS. He hit 42 doubles and 27 homers, scored 103 runs and drove in 104. After winning the AL Rookie of the Year Award in 1997 and posting a .946 OPS with 35 homers and 122 RBI in 1998, Garciaparra made his second All-Star Team in 1999 and finished in the top 10 in MVP voting for the third time in his three-year career.

Alex Rodriguez had just mashed 42 home runs for the second year in a row, hitting .285/.357/.586 (.943) with 111 runs scored and 110 RBI. After bursting onto the scene with a .358/.414/.631 (1.045) season with 36 homers and 123 RBI in 1996, Rodriguez slumped to .300/.350/.496 (.846) in 1997. He followed that up with a 40-40 (42 homers and 46 steals) season in which he hit .310/.360/.560 (.920) in 1998.

Derek Jeter had just hit .349/.438/.552 (.990) with 37 doubles, 24 home runs, 102 RBI and 134 runs scored. After helping the Yankees win their first World Series title in 18 years as the AL Rookie of the Year in 1996 (undeserving though that award may be), Jeter had now helped the Yankees win back-to-back World Series for the first time in 21 years.

They were the stars of baseball and they all played in the same All-Star game for the first time in 2000, but the Holy Trinity label slowly started to fade for several reasons.

One reason was the emergence of Miguel Tejada. Tejada had placed himself in the public consiousness by hitting 30 home runs with 115 RBI (.828 OPS) in 2000 and following that up with 31 home runs and 113 RBI (.802 OPS) in 2001. Then last year, Tejada hit .308/.354/.508 (.862) with 34 home runs and 131 RBI to win the AL MVP award (albeit undeservedly).

Another reason is that Garciaparra got hurt. After winning his second straight batting title in 2000 by hitting .372/.434/.599 (1.033), Garciaparra played just 21 games in 2001. Last year he returned for the whole season, but was not his old self, hitting "just" .310/.352/.528 (880).

A third reason is the decline of Jeter's offense. After that career season in 1999, Jeter slumped to .339/.416/.481 (.897) in 2000. That was still a very good season, but with his OPS below .900 and Garciaparra and Rodriguez both OPSing above 1.000, it was hard to put Jeter in their class. And he continued to slip, to .311/.377/.480 (.857) in 2001 and .297/.373/.421 (.794) last year.

And the final reason was the increased offense of Rodriguez. He hit .316/.420/.606 (1.026) with 34 doubles, 41 home runs and 132 RBI in 2000. He hit .318/.399/.622 (1.021) with 34 doubles, 52 home runs and 135 RBI in 2001. And he hit .300/.392/.623 (1.015) with 27 doubles, 57 home runs and 142 RBI last year.

So, coming into this season, there was no such thing as a Holy Trinity of AL shortstops. Rodriguez was clearly the best and then there was a second tier of Garciaparra, Tejada and Jeter (in that order, in my opinion).

Well, the Holy Trinity is back this year. Rodriguez is not blowing away the field, Garciaparra is getting closer to his pre-injury levels, Jeter is reversing his downward trend and Tejada is falling off the map.

Garciaparra is currently the best offensive shortstop in the AL, in my opinion. He is hitting .324/.361/.599 (.910) with 26 doubles, 12 triples, 14 home runs, 64 RBI and 13 steals in 16 attempts (81.3-percent success rate). According to Baseball Prospectus, his EqA is .316 and he has 78.1 EqR and 44.7 RARP.

Rodriguez is hitting .279/.371/.531 (.902) with 21 doubles, 22 home runs, 61 RBI and seven steals in nine attempts. He has a .305 EqA, 68.9 EqR and 36.6 RARP>

Jeter has not let his shoulder affect him recently, as he's hitting .319/.388/.468 (.855). In his last 16 games, he's hitting .492/.565/.644 (1.209). He has a .307 EqA, but only 44.7 EqR and 24.1 RARP because he missed so much time.

Tejada is hitting just .246/.302/.421 (.723). His EqA is just .255 and he has only 48.2 EqR and 13.1 RARP.

So go out and argue for your favorite of the Holy Trinity. For the first time in awhile, an argument can be made for all three.

Birthday buddies

As all of you probably know already, Jeff Bagwell hit two home runs yesterday to give him 400 for his career. As most of you probably know already, Frank Thomas also hit two home runs yesterday. As some of you probably know already, this is just another strange coincidence that links these two players together.

You see, Bagwell and Thomas were both born on May 27, 1968. As somebody on Baseball Primer pointed out, this is not the only thing they have in common, especially this year.

As I said, those home runs gave Bagwell 400 for his career. Eerily, Thomas' two longballs put him at 398 for his career. Bagwell now has 1,375 RBI for his career. Thomas has 1,337. Bagwell has 3,319 walks plus hits (2,071 hits and 1,248 walks) and Thomas has 3,339 walks plus hits (1,989 hits and 1,350 walks).

Bagwell and Thomas have both been MVPs (Thomas twice) and have both been to the All-Star game at least four times (Thomas five times). Both would have been Rookies of the Year in 1991, but Thomas played 60 games in 1990 and didn't qualify as a rookie in 1991. Both are first basemen (or have played the majority of their games at first base) despite throwing right-handed. Both have lost every playoff series they've played in (two for Thomas and four for Bagwell).

This year, Bagwell is hitting .277 with 20 home runs and 54 RBI and Thomas is hitting .273 with 22 home runs and 52 RBI.

Of course, there are differences as well.

Thomas has a career line of .312/.430/.567 (.998), has walked 330 more times than he's struck out, has now basestealing ability (32 steals in 53 career attempts) and is a poor defensive first baseman who now plays DH almost exclusively. Bagwell has a career line of .301/.412/.548 (.960), has struck out 109 more times than he's walked, has stolen 190 bases in 261 career attempts (72.8-percent success rate) and is generally regarded as a good defensive first baseman.

This year, Bagwell has a .369 OBP and a .492 SLG for an .861 OPS and Thomas has a .404 OBP and a .555 SLG for a .958 OPS. In four more games, Bagwell has seven fewer doubles, two fewer home runs and 15 fewer walks. However, Bagwell looks like he may have a chance to end his streak of playoff series losses, while Thomas probably will not.

Another difference is that Thomas was drafted by the White Sox (in the first round in 1989) while Bagwell was acquired by the Astros in one of the biggest swindles of all-time. And yes, I'm still bitter about it.

Look what we didn't know we had

Just about everybody knows that the best starting pitcher who may be available at the trading deadline is Sidney Ponson of the Baltimore Orioles. Ponson is only 26 years old and is 13-5 with a 3.67 ERA, 1.29 WHIP, 92 strikeouts (6.26 K/9IP) and 37 walks (2.52 BB/9IP) in 132.1 innings. The big question is whether or not the Orioles will really trade him.

Ponson will be a free agent at the end of the season and the Orioles just offered him a contract extension. He would apparently like to stay with the Orioles, but he apparently did not like the contract offer. So, the Orioles will decide within the next 10 days whether they think they have a good enough shot at resigning him to not trade him (they could also decide to just take whatever draft picks they get as compensation when another team signs him).

So, Ponson is the best the Orioles have to offer, but they might not want to offer him. Fortunately, they have another starting pitcher who they are much more willing to trade. Even more fortunately for them, this pitcher has recently decided to pitch his best baseball of the season in order to improve his trade stock considerably.

Jason Johnson is a 29-year-old pitcher who isn't really anything special. His career ERA is around 5.00, his career WHIP is around 1.50 and his career winning percentage is worse than the Brewers' winning percentage this year.

Yesterday, however, Johnson allowed just one run on six hits and two walks with five strikeouts in 7.1 innings. And in his previous start, on July 13, Johnson allowed no runs on five hits and one walk with seven strikeouts in 7.2 innings.

A lot of teams think they are still in contention for a playoff spot. Most of those teams could use some help in their starting rotation. Some of those teams will like Johnson's 8-4 record and 3.65 ERA. They'll like the fact that he's allowed just one run in his last 15 innings even more.

If Johnson can make one more start of at least seven innings pitched and no more than two runs allowed, I guaranty there will be a team that is willing to ignore the fact that Johnson has a 1.43 WHIP and just 70 strikeouts (5.68 K/9IP) to go along with 41 walks (3.32 BB/9IP) in 111 innings.

The Orioles better thank their lucky stars that Johnson's best pitching has come at a time that should allow them to trade him for more than he's worth. Orioles fans should wait and see if the Baltimore brass actually gets it right before thanking their lucky stars.

Sunday, July 20, 2003

C'mon Joe, don't make it this easy

I was going to take today off from blogging, but I was half-listening to ESPN while I'm at work and Jon Miller and Joe Morgan were talking about the St. Louis/Los Angeles game they're about to announce. Specifically, they were talking about the Dodgers' recent offensive acquisitions. Joe Morgan has been saying some stupid things recently, and criticizing him has become sort of a favorite activity of baseball bloggers.

Some people think it's unfair of us to pick through the things he says and point out everything that's stupid, but I think we're obligated to. Morgan is a Hall-of-Famer and he has a certain amount of respect in the baseball community that makes many people listen to (and agree with) his opinions. Almost every time he has a chat, writes a column or announces a baseball game, he says or writes something that should make you take everything he says with a grain of salt (or several grains of salt).

Today, he said the following (I'm paraphrasing because I don't have his exact quote), "Jeromy Burnitz gives them (the Dodgers) a power threat they have not had since Garyr Sheffield."

Sheffield left the Dodgers after the 2001 season, in which he hit 36 home runs and had a .583 SLG. I know Shawn Green is slumping, but that doesn't mean his stats from last year have been wiped out of the books.

For those of you whose memories are as bad as Mr. Morgan's, Green hit 42 home runs and had a .558 SLG last year. I know Los Angeles' offense has been bad and Burnitz will help them get better, but that doesn't mean you can just make things up to prove a point.

Update - The comment Joe made that I was pointing out came during the little preview of the game during Baseball Tonight. Between then and just before game time, somebody must have reminded him about Green because he amended his statement when they talked about LA's offense. This time, he said (paraphrasing again), "Burnitz gives the Dodgers something they haven't had since they got rid of Gary Sheffield -- a power threat to compliment Shawn Green."