Friday, March 07, 2003
The Ladies ManI'm one of those people (usually referred to as "writers") who is infinitely more comfortable expressing his thoughts via written word, as opposed to actual speech or human contact. Truth be told, when I'm around people I don't know very well I get nervous and self conscious, so I tend to be very careful with my words, which leads to an inability to express myself in the same manner I do here.
Yesterday was a perfect example of such difficulties...
I was in my non-fiction writing class. We were talking about books we've read recently and I said that I had read "Sandy Koufax: A Lefty's Legacy," by Jane Leavy. So, as I'm leaving class I walk by this girl and she reaches out and grabs me by the shoulder.
Girl: Hey, Aaron right?
Girl: Guess what?
Girl: One of my nicknames is "Koufax!"
Me (having completely forgotten that I had talked about reading the Sandy Koufax book 15 minutes earlier): Koufax?
Me (amazingly remembering the girl's name is Sandee): Oh, yeah...cause you're Sandee, right?
Girl: Yep, people call me that all the time!
Me: [awkward pause] Well, that's cool...um...see ya.
Girl: Oh...ok...bye...have a good day...
Damn, I am soooooo smooth. I don't mind making a fool of myself by saying dumb things as much as I do not being able to think of even a single thing that could possibly keep a conversation alive!
So I leave class with my confidence quite shaken and I hop on the bus that will take me back to my dorm. I sit down next to this cute little blonde and, amazingly, start up a decent conversation. I shocked the hell out of myself, but I figured I'd try to keep chatting as long as possible.
So we are talking, about the campus bus system (she doesn't like it), about her classes (she's an English major) and some other stuff. She's laughing (and not at me!) and I'm "on top of my game." We're approaching 10 minutes of conversation when we finally get to my stop. Feeling confident, I manage to come up with a non-embarrassing goodbye and get up to leave...
BOOM, I smack my head on the metal bar hanging over the seat near the ceiling of the bus! I doubt she even noticed, but I did. Now, the first thing that says about me is that I am tall - which is good, I guess. In addition to that, it was almost like the bus felt the need to remind me that I'm just not that smooth with the ladies. Sort of like saying: "Hey Gleeman, where do you get the nerve successfully talking to an attractive female on me?!"
I would like to appologize to the bus and say that I am pretty sure it won't happen again.
If I could conduct all my conversations with members of the opposite sex via email, I think I would be the most wanted bachelor in the world. As it stands now, I am a guy that bangs his head when he stands up on buses and has absolutely nothing to say to a girl that is obviously trying to be friendly and start a conversation with me!
But hey, I write good blog entries, right?
There is one baseball topic that I wanted to discuss before the weekend hits and I completely forget about it...
According to the The Baltimore Sun, the Orioles are pursuing a trade for Ken Griffey Jr.
Interestingly enough, I actually discussed this exact situation in some depth back in December when there were rumors of him being traded to San Diego flying around.
Here are some quotes from my December 14th entry:
So, the question is, can Ken Griffey Jr. possibly be all washed up at age 32? And, if not, would he be worth trading for?Then a little later on in that entry I said:
Ken Griffey Jr. is no longer the 20-something year old kid with the backwards hat hitting .300 and making leaping catches against outfield walls. He is now just an aging slugger who is probably best suited for right field and might never see a .320 batting average ever again.I still feel the exact same way about Griffey now as I did when I said that in December, which means I think the Orioles going after him is a decent move. They've got the money and the team stinks anyway, so why not try to acquire a guy that has a chance to become a great player once again. That said, their reasons for trying to get Griffey seem to be quite misguided, to say the least:
Behind the scenes for the Orioles, Angelos is said to be pining for a player with Griffey's star power to not only help the lineup but also help stir interest at Camden Yards, where attendance has fallen for five consecutive years.Camden Yards appears to be an absolutely beautiful place to sit and watch a baseball game and I would love to do so at some point. However, the reason their attendance is falling has absolutely nothing to do with them not having someone with "star power."
The reason their attendance is lacking is that they are, when spending is taken into account, the worst run franchise is Major League Baseball. They have absolutely no farm system and zero decent prospects. Their front office for the past several seasons has been signing 35 year old players to big contracts and then watching them decline and/or get injured. And the franchise shows a complete lack of any kind of viable plan, long or short term, and seems to have a goal of winning 78 games a year for the rest of eternity.
The only reason their attendance doesn't resemble Tampa Bay's attendance is that their ballpark is awesome and the history of the franchise is so good that the city is pretty much in love with the team no matter what. But, a shiny ballpark and lots of winning 30 years ago can only get people to part with their money for so long.
The Orioles won the AL East in 1997, which is the last time the Yankees haven't won it. Then they had 3 straight years hovering slightly below .500, finishing with 79, 78 and 74 wins from 1998-2000. For the past 2 seasons they have been among the worst teams in baseball, going a combined 130-193.
You put everything together and you come up with a clueless franchise with absolutely no hope on the horizon and 5 straight years of finishing in 4th place, with only the Devil Rays to thank for avoiding the cellar in all 5 seasons.
Short of Barry Bonds, they could acquire just about any other hitter in baseball and I don't think the fans would change their mind about the franchise. No, the key to getting asses in the seats is very simple: Winning.
From 1994-2000 the Minnesota Twins drew between 1.0 and 1.4 million fans per season, playing in one of the worst stadiums in baseball. Then they started winning in 2001 and in the last 2 seasons they have drawn 1.8 and 1.9 million fans, in a stadium that is just as bad as it always was - just older and a little crappier.
The Cleveland Indians opened up their brand new baseball stadium, Jacobs Field, in 1994 (a couple years after the Camden Yards opened). From the time Jacobs Field opened they usually ranked either 1st or 2nd in the AL in overall attendance and topped 3 million fans 6 seasons in a row. This was all taking place while the Indians were winning 6 AL Central division championships in 7 years. The Indians had their first poor season since 1993 last year and the resulting attendance drop was immediate - the Indians finished 5th in the AL with "only" 2.6 million visitors, their lowest total in almost a decade.
The Oakland A's have been playing in the same stadium for about 35 years. It has been remodeled, but that just made it worse. They had a great run of winning in the late 80s and early 90s, which included 3 straight World Series appearances and a championship in 1989. During that time, their attendance was near the top of AL. Then the A's fell on some hard times and started losing, year after year. Their attendance dropped almost in half and they routinely drew only 1.1 or 1.2 million fans a season, which was often good for 13th or 14th (out of 14) in the AL.
All of sudden the A's started winning again in 2000 and they have continued it through last season. In 2001 and 2002 they had 2.13 and 2.16 million fans, which is about a million more than they averaged from 1994-1999.
I could go on and on and provide a few more examples, but I think my point is pretty clear. There are a lot of things that can increase attendance, including a new ballpark and maybe even acquiring a player with "star power." However, there is absolutely nothing in the world that will boost attendance quite like winning.
Until the Orioles not only realize that, but figure out a viable plan for accomplishing it, the attendance at Camden Yards is just going to continue falling, Griffey or no Griffey. So, if they think that acquiring Ken Griffey Jr. can make them a better baseball team, I am all for it. If they are only interested in him because he used to be a really popular player, well, that's a big mistake and one that would seem to fit the Baltimore Orioles.
There was one other quote that interested me:
Baseball sources said [the Orioles] are willing to package starting pitcher Sidney Ponson with one or two prospects to make the deal happen.I'll save what I think about Sidney Ponson for another time, because it is fairly irrevelant in this situation. No, the interesting part is the thing about the Orioles being willing to send "one or two prospects" along with the Ponson "to make the deal happen." The problem with that is that the Orioles don't have one or two prospects in their entire farm system.
There is not a single Baltimore player on Baseball America's "Top 100 Prospects" list.
There is not a single Baltimore player on The Prospect Report's "Top 100 Prospects" list.
There is not a single Baltimore player on John Sickels' "Top 100 Prospects" list.
I feel fairly confident that I could search this entire world for every "Top Prospect" list in existence and I wouldn't find one with a single player in the entire Baltimore organization listed.
John Sickels, whom I trust more regarding minor league prospects than anyone else, grades each prospect he analyzes. He gives them all grades, from "A" to "C-minus" (the guys he grades below "C-minus" are the ones he doesn't even talk about).
Anyway, the Baltimore Orioles have exactly 3 players in their entire organization that do not receive a grade of "C" or worse. Rommie Lewis gets a "B" and Tripper Johnson and Luis Jimenez get "B-minuses." That's it, for the entire organization - 3 guys that he get borderline decent grades.
On the other side of the organizational spectrum, the Cleveland Indians have 17 different players that receive at least a "B-minus" from Sickels.
As I said before, the Orioles organization is a complete mess and is showing no signs of improving. What makes that even worse is the fact that they appear to not recognize their messiness and they also appear to have convinced the local Baltimore media too, because any reporter that could write that the Orioles are willing to package Sidney Ponson "with one or two prospects to make the deal happen" is buying the Orioles company line and is probably a good candidate to purchase some swamp land in Florida or a large bridge in Brooklyn.
If you haven't yet entered the 1st Annual Aaron's Baseball Blog Pre-Season Predictions Contest and you want to, now's the perfect time! So far I've got about 60 entries, but I am hoping to get to 100 by the March 24th deadline for entering.
Click on the link below to learn more:
Enter the 1st Annual Aaron's Baseball Blog Pre-Season Predictions Contest!
*****Comments? Questions? Email me!*****
Thursday, March 06, 2003
Fantasy MailbagRemember a little while ago when I asked people to send me fantasy baseball questions? Apparently you guys listen to me, because I got a ton of them. Way too many to possibly answer on this site.
So, what I decided to do was pick a few to answer here and then just answer the rest via email, which I've already done. I had a lot of fun answering all of these and, if there is enough interest, I could possibly make "Fantasy Mailbag" into a bi-weekly column or something. If you've got more questions about anything fantasy baseball related (or anything baseball related), send them along. The number I get will determine if I do this again or not.
Okay, here way go...
Fantasy Baseball Mailbag:
(Where I answer your emails, even if you weren't in black lingerie when you sent them)
Our first question comes to us from Kumiko, who asks:
I'm in a standard Yahoo 5x5 roto non-keeper league (12 teams, 20 rounds) - and according to their pre-rankings, they have Kris Benson at #387, Karim Garcia at #471, and Miguel Olivio at #809. As far as I know, both Benson and Garcia are much better than where Yahoo places them. How early would you draft them, or am I forgetting something that lessens their value? As for Olivio, a catcher that steals!? Is he too risky to take as my #1 catcher?I took this question for 3 reasons:
1) Kumiko is one of my rare female readers. I asked them all to email me last week and they did; according to my calculations we have 9 total, which is pretty cool.
2) This is the type of question I was thinking of when I asked for questions. Is player X better than player Z, and that sort of thing.
3) Miguel Olivo interests me personally because he is a member of the hated (by me) Chicago White Sox.
First of all, for those of you unfamilar, a "standard 5x5 roto" league means that the league uses the following stats:
Runs Batted In
WHIP (Walks + Hits, divided by Innings Pitched)
Okay, now that we have that out of the way...
The 3 players in question are Kris Benson, Karim Garcia and Miguel Olivo.
Kris Benson is the most well-known player of the 3. He is a former #1 overall pick, back in 1996.
Here are his career stats:
Year IP ERA W L SO/9The first thing you probably noticed is that there is no "2001" line. That's because Benson missed the entire 2001 season after having "reconstructive elbow surgery," which is better known as "Tommy John surgery." He missed much of the first half of the 2002 season as well, while he rehabbed the injury in the minors. Missing that much time is not uncommon for someone that underwent that surgery and, in fact, Benson's recovery time was very fast compared to many other "Tommy John" guys.
After missing over a year of action, Benson came back to make his first start on May 13th, where he got absolutely lit up by Arizona (9 runs - 7 earned - in 3 2/3 innings). He bounced back a week later in his second start and pitched 7 innings while allowing only 1 run. Then he struggled in his next 6 starts and, after 8 starts, Benson had a 7.79 ERA and things were looking pretty bad.
The #1 thing that most seriously injured pitchers need is time. Time to heal, time to work themselves back into shape, time to regain their control - just time. It took Benson about 3 months into the 2002 season, but he finally started coming around at the end of June.
He posted a 4.55 ERA in 28 July innings, then a 3.72 ERA in August and ended the season very strong, going 3-0 with a 3.15 ERA in September. Obviously, a 4.55 - 3.72 - 3.15 progression in ERA for the last 3 months is a great thing to see from a pitcher coming back from a major injury.
So what is the outlook for Kris Benson is 2003?
Well, I wouldn't bet on him being completely back to the pitcher he was in 1999/2000, but I would guess he'd be pretty close. At the end of the 2000 season he had the look of a guy developing into a true "ace." He was 25 years old and was coming off of a season in which he pitched 218 innings, struck out 184 batters and had a 119 ERA+, which is very good.
He is definitely, without a doubt, better than the 387th best player in a fantasy league draft, which is where Yahoo apparently ranks him. I would peg him for about 170-180 innings and an ERA around 3.75-4.00 this season, and that is probably fairly conservative He'll get quite a few strikeouts, but his win total might not be very good because of the Pittsburgh offense.
Definitely worth grabbing as your #4 or #5 starter in a 12 team league. That would make him around the 45th-60th best SP, which sounds about right. If you're looking for a good late round sleeper or "breakout" candidate, he's your guy. I just looked at ESPN.com's starting pitcher rankings for their fantasy baseball game and they don't have him in the top 100, so I bet he's available late in an awful lot of leagues.
Karim Garcia is a guy I'm not so sure about. He got into 53 games at the end of the year with Cleveland last season and hit very well, smacking 16 homers and posting a .574 slugging %. The year before, he got 45 ABs with the Indians and slugged .711!
That said, as good as his last 250 Major League at bats have been, they're still only 250 at bats. He has a total of 961 career ABs in the Majors and is a .238/.277/.434 hitter, which is pretty bad - and that is taking into account the good 250 ABs with Clevelend recently.
However, Garcia's lack of walks (he's a hacking machine) isn't going to matter in fantasy baseball, so what we are really looking at is his homers and batting average. Karim Garcia definitely has power, but I would say that his 21 HRs in his last 250 MLB at bats is quite a bit over his head.
In 379 Triple-A at bats last season (before he joined the Indians) Garcia hit only 15 homers. He did post a .301 batting average though.
In 2001, also in AAA, Garcia hit only .264, but smacked 31 homers in 462 at bats.
From what I've read, the Indians are planning on playing him a lot in 2003 and he should be able to get 400+ at bats with a rebuilding club. I'd say he's a good bet for a .275 batting average and 20-25 homers in 2003, which isn't bad for a 4th or 5th outfielder on a fantasy team. I wouldn't count on him to be a one of the stars for your team though.
Miguel Olivo is the most intriguing of the 3 players Kumiko asked about, in my mind, because he will likely play a big role in the Twins/White Sox battle this year. I really like Olivo. He was on my final list of candidates when I wrote my "Top 50 Prospects" article for Baseball Primer a little while ago, but didn't make the final cut.
Here are his stats for the last 2 seasons:
Year LVL AB AVG OBP SLG HR 2B 3B SBI imagine a lot of fantasy players see those 29 steals last year and start drooling, just like Kumiko. As she said, "A catcher that steals!?"
While Olivo does have very good speed "for a catcher," I really wouldn't count on him being a major force on the bases in the big leagues. If you look at his numbers, he only stole 6 bags in 2001 and even his 29 steals last year came at the expense of 13 times being caught stealing.
Another thing I noticed looking at his stats from 2001 and 2002 is that most of his homers from 2001 seemed to turn into triples last year. I suppose that's not so uncommon. A lot of times a player's doubles and homers will fluctuate back and forth, simply because hitting a ball 10 feet further or 10 feet shorter isn't a huge difference, but can change a homer into a double and vice versa. With Olivo, he smacked a lot of those balls that just barely missed being homers, but he didn't settle for doubles and used his speed to rack up 10 triples, a very impressive total for anyone, let alone a catcher.
If Miguel Olivo gets the job as Chicago's #1 catcher I would expect him to hit .265-.275 with 5-10 homers and 8-10 steals. For people in a keeper league, he'd be a good guy to grab up because he's young, Chicago seems to think highly of him and he's got some pretty good offensive skills.
To answer Kumiko's question: Olivo would be a risky guy to count on as your #1 catcher this year, but I think it's more likely than not that he'll get significant playing time for the White Sox this year and I don't think he'll embarass himself.
Kris Benson - Grab him up late in the draft; he's a good sleeper and potential breakout candidate.
Karim Garcia - Not a bad late round pick, but I wouldn't count on him to be more than a 4th or 5th OF on your fantasy team.
Miguel Olivo - Risky as a #1 catcher, but has a chance to play a lot of and will hit a little. The risk is probably worth it.
Our next question comes to us from Graham, who asks:
I'm in a AL only Scoresheet (http://www.scoresheet.com) fantasy baseball league. Our upcoming spring draft is approaching, and I have a pitching query.This is a fun question, because I always like to have a group of players to "pick" from. My favorite thing to do in a trade negotiation for one of my teams is to say, "Can you gimme a list of the guys you'd be willing to give up and I'll just pick the one I like?"
Graham is right that his front 4 of Lowe, Colon, Washburn and Wakefield is very solid, especially for an AL-only league.
However, I just read that Washburn fell during a spring training drill, separated his shoulder and is expected to miss 7-10 days. The injured shoulder is his left one, so this is definitely an injury worth being worried about. Also, Lowe pitched a lot of innings last year, so he's a slight injury/decline risk too.
Plus, I have a Bartolo Colon voodoo doll that I've been beating the crap out of since he got traded to Chicago, so he's definitely in line for a serious injury, possibly some sort of incident where he gets a large needle stabbed into his arm.
Of the guys Graham listed, here are the ones I like the most (in no particular order) as #5/#6 starters for the 2003 season:
Most of the other guys he listed don't strike me as good bets to get a lot of innings in the rotation this year and the ones that will see a lot of time (Hernandez, Van Hekken, Cornejo and possibly Doug Davis) aren't guys I would count on to be in my fantasy rotation this year.
Moyer is really old, like Graham said, but he's been pretty damn good and very durable for the last 5 years or so. He had a very bad 2000 season (154 IP with a 5.49 ERA), but he surrounded that with 2 good years prior and 2 good years after.
Over the last 2 seasons he has pitched 210 and 231 innings with ERAs of 3.43 and 3.32. He turned 40 in November, so he's obviously a big risk to just flat out stop pitching well, but he's been very good, so I'd be willing to take a chance on him this year and hope he doesn't fall off a cliff until a 2004.
Andy Pettitte is younger (30), but he's had more injury problems than Moyer and he pitched only 135 innings last year. However, prior to 2002 he had pitched 190+ innings every year since 1996. I think he'll bounce back in 2003 and pitch 180-200 innings with an ERA right around 4.00.
Jose Contreras is a pretty big risk, particularly with the way he's been smacked around in spring training so far. He is also not a sure thing (by any stretch) to even be in the rotation for the Yankees this year. Plus, Graham said he'd probably be gone by the time he got to pick anyway.
So, my rankings of those guys would be this:
1) Andy Pettitte
2) Jamie Moyer
If you want to use the early picks on hitting and try for a pitcher a little later in the draft, I think John Halama would be a great pick. I think he'll be in the Oakland rotation this year and he could definitely pitch 160+ innings with an ERA around 4.00.
And David Wells, despite being "old and fat" like Graham said, would be a good guy to pick up a little later in the draft too.
Our last question comes to us from Michael, who asks:
On my Scoresheet team I have Kevin Millar, Erubiel Durazo, and Rafael Palmeiro. It'll probably be a couple weeks into the season before Millar will qualify at first again, but basically, I've got 3 first basemen who are more than servicable. Considering playing time with Millar, injury with Durazo, and age with Palmeiro, does it seem like a good idea to trade Palmeiro (he's the one I can get the most value for) and plattoon Millar and Durazo at first?If you play in a league that doesn't use the DH, then I would absolutely trade Rafael Palmeiro if you can get equal value for him. Kevin Millar and Erubiel Durazo is certainly enough "first base" to have on one roster.
Durazo will get 500+ ABs this year with the A's and I think Millar will play semi-everyday too. Palmeiro is a great player, but he's getting up there in age and Durazo and Millar can certainly put up similar (and possibly superior) numbers, particularly as a platoon.
If you need a DH in your league, that changes everything. Although, I still might deal Palmeiro, but then you'd need to pick up another decent 1B/DH type, just in case Millar or Durazo went down with an injury.
So yes, deal Palmeiro if it's a non-DH league or if it is a DH league and you can get something you really like for him.
Okay, that's it for this week's "Fantasy Mailbag." If you have any questions you'd like me to try to answer, fantasy-related or otherwise, feel free to send me an email.
Cristian Ruzich (aka "The Cub Reporter") recently got back from the vacation I am supposed to be on! He was in Arizona (Maryvale to be exact) to see the Cubs play. My uncle and I went to Arizona 4 times (I think). 3 spring trainings and once for the Arizona Fall League. All the trips were the best times of my life. Good weather, good food, good company and OUTDOOR BASEBALL!
So check check out Cristian's report on his trip. He took a bunch of pictures and even got Andy MacPhail (The Cubs GM) to pose with a piece of paper that had his blog address on it!
*****Comments? Questions? Email me!*****
Wednesday, March 05, 2003
That shoe fits pretty well on the other foot (Hells Bells Part 2)As you know, one of my favorite things to do on this blog is to take an article written by someone else and dissect it, adding my own comments along the way.
Well, now that I have a somewhat sizable audience and an archive with months and months worth of columns, it was bound to happen sooner or later: Someone has dissected one of my columns and added their own comments!
Don't worry, it isn't a Phil Rogers-style bashing or anything like that. In fact, the person that did it is Vinay Kumar, who is a good friend of mine and an owner in both of my Diamond-Mind leagues.
Nevertheless, I wrote an entry about Trevor Hoffman last week and Vinay, who is a San Diego resident and Padres fan, had some interesting things to add to what I said about Hoffman.
If you haven't read my entry about Hoffman or if you want to re-read it, click on the link below:
February 26, 2003: "Hells Bells"
It is a little tricky quoting someone that is actually quoting me, so what I will do in this instance is make Vinay's words italicized and make my words from the original entry italicized, indented AND in a different font (Courier).
Hello, my name is Vinay.
Hello, my name is Aaron.See how that works? The stuff he said in his email is in italics and the stuff I originally said in my entry is indented and looks like it was printed with a typewriter.
Here we go...
I just read your blog entry on Trevor Hoffman, and had some thoughts:
"By the way, if you've never seen/heard Hoffman make his entrance in San Diego, you're missing out."Oh, yeah. It's awesome. As much as I love baseball, I'd always said the atmosphere at a baseball game couldn't match college football. Until '98. The crowd at Padre games that October was amazing, and it was louder and just as raucous (without getting as dirty) as the crowds at Cal-Stanfurd football games (which makes sense -- there were ~65K of us piled into the Q, and we were all rooting for the same team). And it was never louder than when Trevor Hoffman entered the games. I don't know if I'll ever be a part of something like that in sports again.
In 1999, the Padres ran a commercial for tickets. It just played Trevor Hoffman's entrance into game 3 of the '98 WS (never mind that he blew that save). The crowd was going wild, everybody was shaking their pennants in unison (like the Homer Hankies that you probably remember so fondly), the scoreboard showed its signature "IT'S TREVOR TIME!" sign. They had to dub Hells Bells into the commercial, because the crowd noise drowned out the song live. No speaking, no montage of highlights, not even any game action. Just Trevor jogging in, the crowd going wild, Trevor throwing warmup pitches, the crowd going wilder, and then a phone number at the end. I wish I taped that commercial, I got chills every time I saw it.
I was thinking this weekend about what it'll be like at Trevor's first save appearance this season, and I got chills.
Anyway, back to more important topics:
"When you take into account the fact that 1994 and 1995 were strike-shortened seasons, you can see a definite pattern with Hoffman's workload. As with many modern closers, the more success Hoffman has had, the fewer innings he has pitched."In fact, it seems that Trevor needs a steady workload. He tends to get rusty and lose a little command of his changeup when he's not pitching as much. It's probably not fair of me to compare the 33-year-old Hoffman to himself at 27, but he used to be a versatile closer. I remember him coming into a tie game against Houston in the ninth in '96; he was dominant, but the Padres couldn't score. It took him 3 innings and 7 Ks to get the W. But since '96, Bochy has slowly cut down his workload.
"It is really his home run rate that determines the overall quality of his season. When he keeps the ball in the ballpark he is great, when he doesn't he is simply good."I think that may be too strong a statement. Well, not really, but I think people may read too much into it. Here's what I mean:
Trevor's a dominant pitcher, with a great K rate and control. He gives up the gopher ball now and then. And with the way small numbers work, the difference between an average season (like '97 or '00, where he gives up 6-7 HR) and a great season (like '98, here he gave 2 HR) or a "bad" season (like '95 or '01, where he gave up 10 HR) is just a few pitches.
Even if his performance level did not change at all, we would expect to see his HR rate bounce around like it has. And his ERA with it. I'm not saying that it's just random fluctuation, because he does tend to give up his HR in bunches, and I can visually see when his changeup is not at 100%. Basically, I'm saying that the final quality of his season, as judged by ERA or save percentage, is entirely dependent on whether he has a bad stretch during the season; usually he has a bad week or two. In '98, he was "on" the entire season (save for one bad pitch to Alou in July and one to Brosius in October). In 2001, he actually hit a couple ruts. That's the entire difference.
"I think that the reason why he occasionally has struggles giving up too many homers is that he relies on fooling batters and not simply overpowering them. So, occasionally, when a batter isn't completely fooled - which is very rare - or Hoffman isn't quite perfect with his change, the ball gets hit very hard and travels a long way."Bingo. Sometimes he leaves the change up in the zone, and if there's a good hitter up, Padre fans know when the pitch is halfway to the plate that it's going to leave the park. This is entirely anecdotal, but it seems that truly good hitters hit those homers (Piazza owns him); it's rarely a scrub (even Brosius was pretty good in '98).
I also want to add that there's a long-standing theory in San Diego that Trevor is markedly worse in non-save situations (either in blowouts, when he's in just to get some work, or in tie games). For years, I didn't give any credence to that theory. Part of it is perception: giving up 1 run is no big deal with a 2- or 3-run lead, but it's costly in a tie game. And I never want to rule out random fluctuation. But the numbers over the last five years are really starting to add up, and he has been a lot worse in non-save situations. I don't know if there's anything to it, but I'm finally starting to think there may be something there.
"My intitial thought would be that, even if he has some loss in velocity, it won't affect him as much as other pitchers because he isn't blowing people away anyway. That said, perhaps a loss of a 1 or 2 MPH off his fastball would make his awesome changeup a little less awesome, which would obviously have a huge affect on his overall ability to get outs."Trevor doesn't throw his fastball as hard as he can. He uses a calmer throwing motion, so that he can use the same arm motion and speed on the changeup. For this reason, most people aren't too worried to see him top out around 90 when he used to consistently hit 93-94mph around 1995 or so. Supposedly, he can still crank back and get there when he needs to (and to be honest, he doesn't seem to pitch any better on those days when the fastball is hitting 90-92 rather than his usual 87-90).
So my first reaction was that losing a couple mph isn't a big deal, since he's not using everything he's got anyway. But after thinking about it more, I'm a little bit worried; it seems he'll still have to hold back from using his best heater for the same reason (to disguise the changeup), and so if his "game fastball" drops down to 86-87, that's kinda scary. Like you said, who knows?
I compiled a list of all the active players who have homered off Hoffman, to see if I was right that very good hitters fare better against him. This is certainly an impressive list of players with very few scrubs, but then again, any list like this will be pretty good (especially for a closer). So this isn't necessarily support for my guess (though it seems my memory was right about Piazza), but it's an interesting list, which you can print if you want:
4 HRs - Mike Piazza
3 HRs - Sammy Sosa
2 HRs - Barry Bonds, Scott Rolen, Moises Alou, Todd Hundley
1 HR - Steve Finley, Chipper Jones, Andruw Jones, Todd Walker, Barry Larkin, Ellis Burks, Todd Helton, Larry Walker, Jeff Bagwell, Fred McGriff, Paul Lo Duca, Wil Cordero, Jose Macias, Mo Vaughn, Raul Mondesi, Erubiel Durazo, Mike Lieberthal, Pat Burrell, Jason Kendall, Pedro Feliz, Bret Boone, Edgar Martinez, Joe Girardi, Rafael Palmeiro, Matt Williams
***This is Aaron again***
While we are on the subject of San Diego closers...
I read an article the other day that said the Padres were considering using Jaret Wright as their closer in place of the injured Hoffman.
In case you're wondering, here are Jaret Wright's career stats:
Year IP ERA SO9 BB9Jaret Wright came up with the Indians in 1997, as a 21 year old. He pitched well in the 2nd half of the year, going 8-3 in 16 starts for a Cleveland club that ended up winning the AL Central division. Wright also went 3-0 for Cleveland in the post-season.
Things looked very bright for him and he got a ton of hype, as most 21 year old pitchers that have success in the post-season tend to get. But it's been all down hill from there.
Wright had a moderately successful first full-season, going 12-10 with a 4.72 ERA. The next year he pitched 134 innings with a 6.06 ERA and he has not pitched more than 52 innings in a season ever since. He has had tons of injury problems over the years and the Indians finally released him after last season. San Diego picked him up and they are now considering him a potential replacement for Hoffman.
From what I've read, Wright is injury-free and throwing well so far in spring training, but I am a little hesitant to think that a guy that has pitched a grand total of 47 innings with an ERA of 10.14 over the past 2 years will have much success as a closer, particularly when he wasn't that great to begin with.
While I had Vinay's attention, I figured I would ask him about the whole Jaret Wright situation, since he's following the Pads a lot closer than I am:
Me: Is Jaret Wright really being seriously considered for the closer job?
Vinay: Yup, there was talk about that even before they signed him. Then with Trevor going back under the knife, and with Wright lighting up the radar gun in Peoria, that talk has increased. Kevin Towers can't go 20 minutes without comparing Wright to Gagne.
I think the combination of the Orosco signing and the Hoffman injury could be huge for Kevin Walker's career. With Orosco in the pen, Walker will not be pigeonholed into the LOOGY role. And with Hoffman out, everybody's roles will be more fluid. I don't think Walker will turn into a stud closer, but I'd much rather he turn into Stanton or Rhodes than Mike Myers. Heck, if the Padres didn't have so many SP candidates, I'd be agitating for him to get a shot at the rotation.
There was an article in the SD Union-Tribune last week discussing Oliver Perez as a potential closer. Bochy said he'd love to have another Perez as a closer. Towers says this Perez is staying in the rotation. I don't think cloning technology is far enough along to have both. I shudder at the thought of wasting Perez's talent in a 70-inning role, but I do wonder if it might help him survive the injury nexus.
I want to thank Vinay Kumar for all the info. I guess now we have a San Diego Padres correspondent here at Aaron's Baseball Blog!
*****Comments? Questions? Email me!*****
Tuesday, March 04, 2003
The Stories of SpringSpring training is unique, in that it has all the components of baseball newsmaking - players, teams, games, journalists - but without the actual news.
I mean, does it really matter if the Twins lose to Pittsburgh or if they Yankees drop a split-squad game to the the Phillies? The players participated, the game was played and the same newspaper reporters that normally see games all saw it, but it isn't really news because no one will even remember what happened or care what happened this time next week.
It is because of this lack of real news that I enjoy the various "stories" that come from spring training so much. Newspapers still have space to fill and readers to entertain and baseball writers still have stories to write but, as I said, there just isn't much actual newsworthy stuff going on.
Every year there are some basic topics that are covered in newspapers and websites throughout the country. Basically, you could take the stories from last year (or any year) at this time and change some names and you wouldn't know the difference.
My favorites examples of the typical stories of spring?
1) Changes in the batting order.
2) Injured players looking good.
3) Players adjusting to new roles.
Lucky for me, I found examples of all 3 of those types of stories yesterday!
1) Changes in the batting order.
Last month, Ron Gardenhire expressed a desire to shift Jacque Jones out of the leadoff spot and into an "RBI spot," most likely 5th or 6th in the lineup.
At the time, I agreed with such a move because I think Jacque Jones' offensive abilities are more suited for hitting in the middle of a lineup. So, of course, what happens? Well, Gardenhire announced the other day that he has changed his mind and that Jones will most likely continue to be the leadoff man this season.
In the grand scheme of things, batting order doesn't matter all that much. The key to an offense isn't so much how the lineup is arranged, as much as it is who is actually in the lineup. In other words, as long as you have Barry Bonds or Jim Thome in the lineup, it doesn't make a huge difference whether they bat 1st or 3rd or 4th or 6th. That said, I do think there is a difference between hitting leadoff and 5th or 6th and that the difference can mean a few extra runs to a team, which is important.
Jacque Jones' offensive skills are simply not particularly fit for batting leadoff.
His main strengths as a hitter are his batting average and power, things that are best used in the middle of a lineup. His main weaknesses are his low on-base % and inability to hit left handed pitching, which are 2 things you don't particularly want in a leadoff hitter.
Against right-handed pitching last year Jones hit .333/.372/.580, which is excellent. However, do you really want someone with a slugging percentage of .580 to leadoff a ballgame? That means at least once a game he has absolutely no chance of batting with anyone on base. Obviously, a team wants as many guys on base in front of a .580 SLG% as humanly possible.
Against left-handed pitching last year Jones hit .213/.259/.331, which is horrible. First of all, Jones should never be in the lineup when a lefty starts the game, but that is a completely different issue and something Gardenhire seems unwilling to deal with. So, assuming he has to be in the lineup, you definitely don't want him and his .590 OPS batting first, because he'll make an out about 74% of the time and that is not something you want batting in front of the big boppers.
Given the choice between Gardenhire choosing to move Jones to #6 in the lineup and Gardenhire platooning Jones against lefties, I would choose the latter in a heartbeat. But that doesn't appear to be an option, in which case the Twins would be better off with Jacque and his .580 SLG against righties batting in a place where he can drive in some serious runs.
In addition to announcing that Jones would continue to leadoff, Gardenhire also indicated that this would likely be his lineup:
1) Jacque Jones - LThat group of 9 players is problematic for creating a somewhat ideal lineup because the few players that actually have high OBPs (Koskie, Mientkiewicz and possibly Cuddyer) are pretty slow on the bases, making them bad candidates for leading off.
There is, of course, one very simple solution to both Jacque Jones-related problems. The Twins could solve the problem of who bats leadoff and at the same time solve the problem of Jones stinking against lefties. Wanna know how? Bobby Kielty.
Here's my proposal:
Against left-handed pitching, put Jones and his .590 OPS on the bench and play Bobby Kielty in left field and lead him off. You get Jones out of the lineup and you not only improve the overall offense with Kielty, you provide a great option for a leadoff hitter because Kielty is phenomenal at getting on base and he has good speed.
Against right-handed pitching, keep Jones in LF, but stick Matthew LeCroy on the bench and stick Kielty at DH. LeCroy is a good hitter, but his main strength appears to be crushing lefties. So, you put him on the bench against righties and let Kielty play DH and leadoff, where, once again, he provides a perfect option for a leadoff hitter.
Basically I am suggesting a 3 person platoon for 2 spots: LF and DH. Jones and Kielty play against righties and LeCroy and Kielty play against lefties. If you are worried about not getting LeCroy enough playing time, you can give him a few starts in place of Mientkiewicz or Cuddyer.
At the very least, Kielty should always be playing against lefties and Jones should never be playing against them. That change would be far more important to the quality of the Minnesota offense than anything Gardenhire could ever do with the batting order.
2) Injured players looking good.
You know the story: Every year, there is a guy who missed significant time with a serious injury and now he's in camp, looking healthy and playing well.
According to ESPN.com, Dodger pitchers Kevin Brown and Darren Dreifort are looking good after both being injured last year:
Brown and Dreifort made their first appearances of the spring in a 10-5 loss to the Houston Astros and both were very impressive.Darren Dreifort didn't throw a single pitch for the Dodgers last year. In fact, he hasn't thrown a pitch for them in about a year and a half. In the middle of the 2001 season he injured his right elbow and needed surgery on it and missed the rest of the season. Then he missed the entire 2002 season with another injury (and surgery) to the same elbow.
Kevin Brown is a slightly different story, in that he didn't suffer injuries as severe as Dreifort's. However, he still missed quite a bit of time last year and in 2001, with a variety of injuries.
What can be realistically expected from Brown and Dreifort in 2003?
With Dreifort, I wouldn't be extremely optimistic, simply because of how difficult it is coming back from an entire season off and a major surgery, let alone a year and a half off and 2 surgeries.
Plus, he was never a great pitcher even before he was injuried.
From 1998-2000 he pitched 180, 179 and 193 innings and had ERAs of 4.00, 4.79 and 4.16, which are not very good, particularly for someone pitching in Dodger Stadium.
In Baseball Prospectus 2003 (which I have been reading non-stop since I got it last week) it is suggested that Dreifort's days as a starter are probably through, but that he would make a good reliever:
"With Eric Gagne around, Dreifort won't get the closer's job once rumored to be his. But he could fare well as a two-pitch setup man if his elbow holds up."I agree completely. Dreifort was never that great as a starter to begin with and his "numbers" never really matched his "stuff." A move to the bullpen may have been the best situation even before the injuries. After the injuries, it is almost a must. I wouldn't bet on him being able to handle a starter's workload in 2003, so the Dodgers would be best served to see if they can turn him into a dominant setup man, which would give them a great 1-2 punch with Gagne.
Dreifort has always had good stuff and has a career K rate of 7.94/9 IP. His main problems (besides staying healthy) have been with control and giving up too many homers, both things that a move to the bullpen and a focus on 1-inning appearances could help.
As for Brown...
I am hesitant to say this about a 37 year old pitcher that only pitched 63 innings last year, but I think Kevin Brown can still be a dominant starting pitcher. His 4.81 ERA last season is pretty ugly, but his K rate remained very good (8.20/9).
Looking at his numbers from last year, there seems to be 2 major differences from prior seasons:
1) He gave up a lot of homers.
2) He stopped being an extreme groundball pitcher.
One of the main reasons for Brown's tremendous success from 1996-2000 was his ability to give up very few homers:
1996 = 8 HRs in 233 IP
1997 = 10 HRs in 237 IP
1998 = 8 HRs in 257 IP
1999 = 19 HRs in 252 IP
2000 = 21 HRs in 230 IP
As you can see, his HR rate just about doubled in 1999 and 2000, but even those rates were pretty good. His 26 HRs allowed in 700+ innings from 1996-1998 is absolutely amazing.
In 2001 Brown was once again very good in the HR allowed department, giving up only 8 in 116 innings. Then last year he served up 9 long balls in only 63 innings pitched, which is horrible. Giving up a homer every 7 innings is the #1 reason why his ERA jumped way up in 2002.
Another possible factor for his jump in ERA was the fact that he stopped being an extreme groundballer. His groundball/flyball ratio of 1.53 last season was the "lowest" of his entire career and the first time it had gone below 2 since 1988, his rookie year.
It stands to reason that a guy who has relied on getting batters to beat the ball into the ground for years will struggle a little bit when he starts becoming more of a flyball pitcher and that also probably has a lot to do with him giving up all those homers (the more balls in the air, the more homers?).
Kevin Brown has truly been a great pitcher for the past 7-8 years or so and 2002 was his first season with an ERA over 3.00 since 1995. In looking at his numbers from last season, I honestly think that he can still be a very good starting pitcher in 2003 and perhaps beyond. His stuff is still good and the K rate and walk rate are still solid. He just needs to go back to getting more balls on the ground and limit those homers, both things I think he will do in 2003.
If you are in a fantasy league and you haven't drafted yet, take a flier on Kevin Brown. He's at his lowest point right now and can probably be had pretty cheaply. It could pay off huge for you, just like it might be for the Dodgers in 2003.
3) Players adjusting to new roles.
The most intriguing example of this type of story comes from the Arizona camp, where they are considering using Byung-Hyun Kim in the starting rotation.
I think it is an excellent idea.
The basic idea with a pitching staff is (or at least should be) to have your best pitchers pitch the most innings.
That's why it is a good idea to have Randy Johnson and Curt Schilling start 35 games a year and it's also why it is a bad idea to force a great pitcher like Kim or various other closers into a role that only allows them to pitch 60-80 innings a year, most of them coming 1 at a time and in the 9th inning of games when the team has a lead.
Byung-Hyun Kim was actually was one of the best used closers in baseball last year, although that is faint praise. He pitched 84 innings and Bob Brenly was actually willing to let him pitch 2 and even 3 innings at a time in some games. Still, he only pitched 84 innings and he was used an awful lot to get the final 3 outs of 5-2 wins.
Anytime you think you can potentially get 180-200 innings out of a pitcher like Kim, instead of 85, you try it. Byung-Hyun Kim has been a dominant reliever for the past couple of seasons and if he can continue to pitch at anywhere close to the same level as a starter it would give Arizona the best 1-2-3 punch in the league, by far (although that isn't saying a whole lot, since Johnson, Schilling and Aaron "The Human Home Run Allowing Machine" Gleeman would be one of the best 1-2-3 punches too).
Here are Kim's combined numbers from the last 2 years:
Those are simply awesome numbers. He averages about 10 strikeouts per 9 innings and although his walk rate is bad, it isn't completely awful. After struggling a little bit giving up home runs in 2001 (in the regular season and post-season, obviously) he cut way down on that in 2002 and gave up only 5 homers in 84 innings.
The one major concern being talked about in regard to moving Byung-Hyun Kim to the rotation is that he tends to use an awful lot of pitches.
Here's a quote from Ken Rosenthal's article about Kim in The Sporting News:
The question now is whether Kim can adjust to starting. He doesn't like when hitters make contact, and he averaged 16.1 pitches per inning last season, which translates to a 145-pitch pace as a starter. His high pitch counts are not necessarily a physical concern -- Kim is slight at 5-11, 177 pounds, but he is blessed with a rubber arm. But if he repeatedly threw 120 pitches over five innings, he would irk his defense and tax his bullpen.Despite its relative shortness, there are a lot of things wrong with that quote.
First of all, to say that Kim's pitches per inning numbers translate "to a 145-pitch pace a starter" may make the reader say, "Wow, that's a lot of pitches," but it just isn't very logical. Rosenthal comes to that 145 pitch figure by multiplying the 16 pitches per inning by 9 innings. In other words, the 145-pitch pace is correct, but the "pace" is for a complete game. That is still a lot of pitches for a complete game, but a) starters don't pitch 9 innings in a game very often anyway and b) if a starter was going for a complete game, his pitch count would likely be lower simply because of how well he was pitching (less hits allowed, less batters faced, less pitches thrown).
Rosenthal also says that, "if he repeatedly threw 120 pitches over five innings, he would irk his defense and tax his bullpen." Well, duh!
120 pitches over 5 innings comes out to 24 pitches an inning! Any pitcher that routinely throws 24 pitches an inning is going to have some serious problems. But why would that be an issue with Kim? Rosenthal just pointed out that he averaged 16 pitches per inning in the very same paragraph.
This just strikes me as sloppy writing and manipulating stats to help support your opinion. I get the feeling that Ken Rosenthal feels as though putting Kim in the rotation is a mistake and he wanted to write something to help support that.
So what does he do?
Well, first he points out that Kim throws about 16 pitches an inning, which is fine. But then he starts talking about how bad it would be if Kim started throwing 24 pitches an inning. I just don't see the logic in that jump.
The bigger issue here (despite how fun it is to pick apart what a writer says) is whether or not the number of pitches Kim throws would really be a problem for him as a starter. Over the last 2 seasons he has averaged about 16.2 pitches per inning.
To put that into some context:
16.2 pitches per inning would have tied him for 20th among the 85 pitchers that qualified for the ERA title last year.
Brandon Duckworth (17.7 P/IP), Danys Baez (17.5) and Glendon Rusch (17.2) threw the most pitches per inning and Greg Maddux (13.3), Odalis Perez (13.6) and Derek Lowe (14.0) threw the fewest.
It is not uncommon for a power pitcher that racks up huge strikeout numbers, like Kim does, to throw a lot of pitches. Among the top 20 pitchers in strikeouts per 9 innings pitched last year, 6 of them threw at least 16 pitches an inning and only 2 of them (Schilling and Oswalt) threw fewer than 15 per inning.
Some pitchers that threw about the same amount of pitchers per inning (16.2) as Kim last year:
Roger Clemens (16.6)
Kyle Lohse (16.5)
Jarrod Washburn (16.3)
Jason Schmidt (16.3)
Jason Jennings (16.3)
Freddy Garcia (16.1)
Ben Sheets (16.1)
Barry Zito (16.1)
In other words, Kim's pitch totals are fairly high, but they are certainly not the highest or at a level that isn't the same as tons of other starting pitchers.
If the Kim-to-the-rotation plan works out for Arizona, they will likely have a rotation of Johnson, Schilling, Kim, Elmer Dessens and John Patterson, which is excellent. The 3 non-Johnson/Schilling spots in the rotation have been a problem for the Diamondbacks over the last couple years, but with Kim, Dessens and Patterson they have 3 very capable starters, all of whom are #3 quality, with Kim having the potential to be very special.
*****Comments? Questions? Email me!*****
Monday, March 03, 2003
Wrapping up the Weekend (I saw actual baseball!)Before I get to today's entry, I want to make sure that everyone that is interested in entering the 1st Annual Aaron's Baseball Blog Pre-Season Predictions Contest gets a chance to do so. I posted it on Friday and it was up through the weekend, but if you haven't entered it yet (and you want to), please make sure you do so. So far I've gotten about 50 entries, but I am hoping to get 100 before the March 24th deadline. If you wanna learn more, just click on the link below:
Enter the 1st Annual Aaron's Baseball Blog Pre-Season Predictions Contest!
I actually watched the Twins play yesterday!
Sometime around noon I got an email from "Ryan," a reader of this site, and he told me that he was in Rhode Island and was watching the Twins/Red Sox game on local TV there.
I was at home for the weekend and we have DirecTV, so I immediately checked to see if the channel he was talking about was "NESN," which is the one the Sox games are on during the year. Sure enough, I switched the channel just in time to catch Manny Ramirez hitting his 3-run homer in the 3rd inning!
Right after that, former Twin David Ortiz hit a double into the left-centerfield gap that Torii Hunter eventually chased down. One thing I noticed immediately was how big Torii has gotten. Not fat, but way more muscular, particularly in his chest and arms. I'm a little worried about this development, as tons of muscles and bulk aren't something I want my gold-glove centerfielder adding in the off-season.
Then, an inning later, Jeremy Giambi took Tony Fiore deep. The Red Sox have got to hold some sort of record for most barrel-chested potential DHs on a single roster, with Ortiz, Millar, Mirabelli, Giambi, Ramirez and probably 50 guys that I didn't mention.
Brad Radke started the game and pitched 2 scoreless innings and then Fiore came in and gave up the 4 runs off 2 homers. More than any other pitcher on the team, Fiore strikes me as the best candidate for a complete implosion, so seeing him give up 2 homers right away wasn't very comforting.
Dustan Mohr went yard off Ramiro Mendoza to start the bottom of the 4th inning. Mohr looks like he also got quite a bit stronger during the off-season and he's got a slightly more upright batting stance this year, which might be an attempt to hit for a little more power.
Jacque Jones hit a 3-run homer early in the game and, later in the game, had simultaneously one of the worst and best bunts in baseball history. He tried to drag it down the first base line and instead he popped it straight up in the air. Amazingly, the ball landed right in between the first baseman (Ortiz) and the pitcher (Willie Banks) and Jacque got himself a single. The Red Sox announcers immediately started talking about how the team's first base defense looks horrible so far this year.
On the very next pitch, Chris Gomez hit a grounder to shortstop and Nomar misplayed it. Not only didn't they make mention of shortstop defense, but the official scorer actually gave Gomez a hit on the play! Crazy. At this point, baseball should just get rid of "errors" as they become completely worthless when official scorers give them out (or don't give them out) willy-nilly.
The Twinkies ended up winning 6-5.
I know it was just a meaningless spring training game in the beginning of March, but it sure did remind me how much I miss baseball!
My mom came into my room in the 4th inning and saw me staring, mesmorized at the screen.
She said, "What are the staring at?"
I said, "BASEBALL!"
Besides playing the Red Sox, the Twins got hit with some bad news over the weekend...
Eric Milton had been having some problems recently with the knee that he originally had surgery on last season and it was announced over the weekend that he would need to have a second surgery on it. According to what I've read, he'll likely miss about 2 months, which would mean he'll miss the first month or so of the regular season.
The bad news is obviously that Milton is going to need a second surgery and will not be able to start the season on time. He's certainly not Randy Johnson, but he's one of the best pitchers the Twins have and, at this point, he's the guy I would want on the mound in an important playoff game. To me, the worst news isn't that he'll miss the first month of the year, because that's really not a huge deal. The worst news is that we don't really know how he'll respond to the surgery and we have no clue as to whether or not he'll be able to truly come back in the 2 months and pitch like he has in the past. Last year he really struggled after coming back from the 1st surgery, so who knows what will happen this time around.
I really can't help but feel like the Twins training staff deserves some blame in regard to Milton. He's been having swelling problems with the knee for at least the last few weeks (and possibly longer) and yet nothing has been done about it. All I kept reading was that it was "no big deal" and that Milton would "tough it out." Well, now he needs surgery and, instead of dealing with this 2 months ago, they are dealing with it now and he's going to miss significant time within the actual season.
The good news here is that Johan Santana, whom I have been yapping about for some time now, will likely get a chance to begin the year in the starting rotation. I've said it before and I am sure I will say it a thousand more times: Johan Santana has the most long-term potential of any player - pitcher or hitter - in the entire Minnesota organization. He's a special player and I think he will take a huge step up this year, in no small part because he'll get a chance to start every 5th day.
I posted the Milton story as a "Clutch Hit" on BaseballPrimer.com and I also made this bold prediction: Johan Santana will lead the American League in strikeouts in 2003.
Obviously that isn't very likely, but it is definitely bold! At the very least, I think he'll finish in the top 5 in Ks, but that doesn't sound as exciting as saying he'll lead the whole league.
With Milton's injury and Johan stepping into the rotation it really is amazing how quickly a team can go from having a great deal of depth in an area, like the Twins had with starters, to almost no depth. Now Santana is in the rotation and someone, possibly Grant Balfour (whom I also really like a lot), will need to join the bullpen. And if another starter goes down? Who knows who'll replace him in the rotation.
The Twins got some more bad injury news in the form of Bobby Kielty, whom I have been yapping about even more than Santana, going down with a "strained oblique muscle." He is likely going to miss "2-3 weeks" which won't affect his availability to start the year, but may put him behind schedule as far as simply getting ready to play. Kielty probably needed to catch a few breaks to get a starting job this year (either at DH or RF) and this certainly isn't going to help.
In non-Twins news...
For all you fellow Barry Bonds-worshippers out there, this fact will interest you: Barry hit a homer on the first pitch he saw this spring...and he hit it off of Mark Prior! From what I've read about it, it may have traveled about 10,000 feet if it hadn't smacked into a flag pole.
Just to prove it wasn't a fluke, Barry hit his 2nd homer of the spring off of John Halama yesterday. I'd say that I think Barry is in for a big year, but, well, that seems fairly obvious at this point.
Check out Superman's last 3 seasons and try not to drool all over your keyboard:
Year PA AVG OBP SLG HR 2B BB SOI'm not sure what the most impressive stat in that 3-year period is. The .333 batting average? The .512 OBP? The .782 SLG? The 168 homers in only 1,359 at bats (1 every 8 ABs)? The 492 walks in only 439 games? The 492/217 walk/strike out ratio? I guess I'd cop out and say "all of the above."
Oh, and the kicker in all of this?
He's done it in the most severe pitcher's park in baseball!
By the way, have I mentioned I saw baseball this weekend?!
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