Friday, July 18, 2003
Reader Mail (Operation: Clean Out Mailbox)
I hope that someone gets my
--- The Police, "Message In A Bottle"I have come to the realization that I have a very bad habit involving emails.
You see, when I have just a few emails in my "mailbox," I generally read them and then respond to them immediately. On the other hand, when I have many emails in my mailbox, I generally read them, save them in my "AOL personal filing cabinet" and then completely forget about them. I didn't used to think I had this problem, but members of my own family have recently found that I am less than timely responding to their emails.
I bring this up because, as this blog has grown in popularity, the amount of emails I get everyday have grown as well. 8 or 9 months ago, when this website was in its infancy, I would get extremely excited if I got 5 emails in a single day and I would make sure to read each one carefully and respond with the best possible email I could compose. At this point though, I get upwards of 100 emails per day and sometimes a lot more, depending on the topic I wrote about. While I am still thrilled to be receiving emails from people who enjoy my writing, I am less able to give each one the attention it deserves and I simply have less time to devote to answering each one.
Which brings me back to my newly-discovered problem. Some days, I wake up, check my mailbox and respond to all 50 emails I have in there. Other days, I wake up, check my mailbox and neglect to answer even a single one. On those days, I save all the unanswered ones in my AOL personal filing cabinet, so that I can make sure to answer them when I am in a more answering mood. The trouble with that now, and the reason I am just realizing I have a problem, is that the amount of emails in my personal filing cabinet that I plan on answering grows on a daily basis and, quite frankly, it's getting out of control.
So, while I contemplate ways in which I can solve my email answering problems (like perhaps making a personal resolution to simply answer every single one, no matter what mood I am in), I want to take this opportuntity to do a "reader mail" entry and clean out my mailbox, at least a little bit.
Before I start, I want to thank everyone who has sent me an email and I want to tell those of you who have not yet received a proper response that, without a doubt, I have read what you sent me. For whatever reason though, I have not responded to it yet and, sadly, may never. I hope that doesn't stop you from sending me future emails, because I can guarantee I will read those too and, hopefully, I will be better about answering them.
I love my readers and you guys send me great emails on a daily basis, so I feel really awful that I am being bad about answering them lately. It's partly due to the sheer volume of emails I now receive, but the main issue still lies with me and my email answering problems, which I am working to correct.
So, without further ado, here is a sampling of some emails I have sitting in my personal filing cabinet, and my responses to them...
Our first email comes to us from the one and only "Twins Geek" - aka John Bonnes. John, who runs one of my favorite websites - TwinsGeek.com - writes:
"Is your opinion changing on Rivas? He has looked awfully good over the last couple months at the plate, and I think he D is improving too."Ah, an Aaron's Baseball Blog entry wouldn't be complete with at least one mention of Luis Rivas.
To answer's John's question: No, my opinion on Luis Rivas is not changing at all. He has certainly been improved at the plate recently, but I don't really think his defense is getting any better and the Twins seem to agree with me, at least according to the local newspapers.
Rivas has had a good 150 at bat stretch, which is definitely nice to see, but is not something I would trust over his previous 1,000+ major league at bats or 2,000+ minor league at bats. Plus, even with his improved play recently, his season totals are still .270/.327/.361, which goes right along with what he did last season (.256/.305/.392), in 2001 (.266/.319/.362) and during his entire minor league career (.260/.315/.369).
I actually devoted an entire entry to Rivas' improved play back on July 1st (which you can read by clicking here). Basically, I looked back through his career and found that, during various months, he played similarly to how he has played during the last 100-150 at bats, yet those months of improved play in the past did not lead to any overall improvements in his game.
Here's a little bit of what I wrote:
"Rivas has had several months during his career when he has been a decent hitter. The fact is, every major league hitter who gets everday playing time for several years in a row is going to have good months, that's just the reality of small sample sizes, luck and random distribution.If you're interested, I suggest you check out the actual entry. It's got all the actual stats and a detailed discussion of them. Just click on the following...
Louie, Louie (July 1, 2003)
Our next email comes to us from Will Young, another Twins fan who can often be found discussing the Twins with me on the DTFC Twins Forum. Will writes:
"I really enjoy your occassional updates about your Diamond Mind teams and I am wondering if another one will be written in the near future."I am always hesitant to discuss my Diamond-Mind teams on this blog, mostly because I think a lot of people find it extremely boring. However, I do get quite a few emails from people like Will asking about my two teams. Plus, the last time I gave an update on the two teams was way back on May 26th, so I might as well do another one.
My first team is the Minnesota Gophers of the Three Run Homer League. The Gophers are currently 52-26 (.667) and are leading the American League Central division by 20 games. The rest of my division is struggling to play .400 ball, so the 20 game lead isn't as impressive as sounds. Still, the Gophers have been very good this year. The offense, led by Jim Thome, Andruw Jones and a whole bunch of platoons, is leading the AL in runs scored with 511 (6.55/game) and the pitching staff, led by Randy Johnson and a whole bunch of no-name relievers, has allowed the 2nd-fewest runs in the AL with 294 (3.76/game).
Because of my huge divisional lead, I have been looking ahead to the playoffs and also to next season, and I have recently completed several trades with an eye towards next year (it is a keeper league, with escalating player salaries and team salary caps).
A.J. Burnett ($17) for Vincente Padilla ($7)
Ellis Burks ($23) and Aaron Taylor ($1) for Tim Salmon ($26)
Johnny Damon ($27) for Alex "The Florida Version" Gonzalez ($3) and Jeremy Affeldt ($8)
The Burnett/Padilla and Burks/Salmon swaps are slight downgrades for "this" season (since we are currently replaying the 2002 season), but I think I will be better off next year and in the future. The Damon deal is a significant downgrade this year, since he was my leadoff man and one of my best hitters, but I also have Andruw Jones to man centerfield for the forseeable future and Alex Gonzalez is having a big year this season in real life and will be my starting shortstop for Diamond-Mind next year. Plus, I really like Affeldt's potential.
My other team is the Minnesota Fatboys of the Long Ball Baseball League. The Fatboys are currently 66-29 (.695) and 8.5 games ahead in the American League Kaline Division. The team is 2nd in the entire LBBL in offense with 623 runs (6.56/game) and has also given up the 2nd-fewest runs in the LBBL, with 363 runs allowed (3.83/game).
Unlike with the Gophers, I have not made any significant changes to the roster since the season started and I don't really think I will be doing so anytime soon.
So that's the update. Both teams are playing well, in first-place and appear to be post-season bound. Who says being the General Manager of a baseball team is hard?
Our next email is from "Jeremy" and is in regard to my entry from earlier this month, in which I declared Mike Cameron "The Most Underrated Player in Baseball":
"I enjoyed the article a lot and after reading it would agree with you that Mike Cameron is the most underrated player in the game, but I wanted to know what you thought about the most underrated hitter in the game?I would absolutely agree with you Jeremy. I think that, while Mike Cameron is the most underrated player in the game, Brian Giles is the most underrated hitter in baseball. In fact, while I was thinking about writing the Mike Cameron/Most Underrated Player entry, I debated whether or not I truly believed Cameron was a more underrated player than Giles. In the end, I decided that Cameron's sensational defense put him over the top, but Giles is the only other guy I truly considered a threat to Cameron's title as The Most Underrated Player in Baseball.
I searched through my archives for stuff I have said about Brian Giles and I found quite a few mentions of him, most of them expressing pretty much the same thoughts:
From October 31, 2002:
"Brian Giles is the best player that the casual fan has never heard of.From January 14, 2003:
"Giles has been one of the best and most consistent hitters in all of baseball for the past 4 seasons, not to mention one of the most underrated."From March 29, 2003:
"Brian Giles, one of truly underappreciated superstars in the history of baseball, had another fantastic season."Those are just a few examples, but I found several others too. Almost everytime I talk about the Pirates (which is pretty rare, admittedly), I make it a point to talk about how great Giles is and how underappreciated he is. I think it's a close call between he and Cameron for Most Underrated Player, but I gave Cameron the edge based on defense and, to a much lesser extent, base stealing.
Our next email is from my good buddy Vinay, who, besides being a frequent contributor to various "reader mail" entries on this blog, is also in both of my Diamond-Mind leagues. Vinay wanted to comment on my entry from last week when I expressed disappointment that Rob Neyer didn't mention me and/or this blog when talking about Johan Santana in his ESPN.com column about the Twins. Here's what Vinay had to say:
"You plug Neyer *all* the time, it'd be nice if he returned the favor. I know you're the small fish and he's the big fish, but as long as he mentioned Primer and Prospectus, he really ought to have mentioned your blog. *Especially* in that context; it wasn't a "Check out Primer and Prospectus, they're good sites" type of plug -- he specifically said that readers of those sites know about Johan's plight. Well, no site chronicled the Johan situation more than yours."I don't want to get too worked up about it because it's not such a huge deal and also because I really do like Rob Neyer a ton. That said, I agree with Vinay and it would have been a nice thing. Maybe some other time.
Our last email comes to us from "Tim" in regard to my "Questions and Answers" entry from last week, in which I answered a ton of different questions, including some of the personal variety. One specific question asked me about my favorite TV shows and I listed several, including "NYPD Blue, Seinfeld reruns and The Simpsons." To which, Tim adds:
"You really need to make sure to pay attention to "Curb Your Enthusiasm" on HBO, as well as "Mr. Show, with Bob & Dave", if they ever bring it back. Another excellent show is a Brit-Com, that Comedy Central will be resurrecting in August called "Black Books". Oh, yeah, of course there is the consistent & ever popular Sopranos."Thanks for the email Tim, because you brought up 2 of my favorite shows that I just completely forgot about when naming my favorites last week. My #1 favorite show on television is, without a doubt, Curb Your Enthusiasm. I don't know how the heck that fact escaped me last week, but I suspect it has something to do with new episodes not having been on the air for a little while. The same goes for the Sopranos too, which is another show I love. And yes, Mr. Show with Bob and David is awesome too, although I really should say was awesome, since it's long been canceled. Oh, and while I'm talking about HBO shows that I forgot to mention, I have to add in The Wire, which I have really grown fond of this season.
But, bar none, Curb Your Enthusiam is my favorite show on television right now. I laugh from start to finish every single episode and then I find myself "singing" the theme song for the rest of the night.
Well, that's it for today's edition of "reader mail." I'm still staring at a jam-packed mailbox, so it appears as though I didn't even make a dent! Oh well, it was fun anyway.
Seeing as though I devoted yesterday's entire entry to the big Twins/Blue Jays trade and I was quite vocal with my opinion, I figure I should probably comment on Bobby Kielty's debut for the Blue Jays and Shannon Stewart's debut for the Twins, both of which came last night.
Kielty played left field, batted 6th in the lineup and got a hit in each of his first 3 at bats as a Blue Jay, including a home run in his 3rd at bat. Overall, he went 3-4 with 2 singles, a homer and 3 runs scored.
Meanwhile, Stewart was the DH and batted leadoff for the Twins. He made 2 outs in the first inning (yes, you read that right, they batted around) and ended the night 0-5.
Obviously I was/am quite unhappy with this trade and last night certainly didn't change my opinion any and, frankly, it was depressing to watch (thanks to DirecTV) Kielty start 3-3 with a homer for the Blue Jays and then tune to the Twins game to see Stewart make two of the three outs in the first inning. But it's just one game obviously and, really, Stewart's play in the second-half of this season has nothing to do with whether or not I think it is a good trade. Anyway, I said plenty on this subject yesterday, so if you didn't read my entry on the Kielty/Stewart deal or want to read it again...
So long Bobby... (July 17, 2003)
Just for fun, I am going to track the performances of Kielty and Stewart for the rest of this season. The information can be found on the left side of this page, right under the "The Johan Santana Freedom Watch" and "The Luis Oh-For-ThRivas Imprisonment Watch." I'm currently calling it "Minnesota's Big Deal?" because I don't have any brilliant ideas for a catchy title, although I am willing to listen to suggestions.
That's it for today. Thanks for stopping by this week and, if you missed any of the other entries from earlier this week, here they are:
Monday: My self-imposed ban
Tuesday: The First-Half (Part One: The American League)
Wednesday: The First-Half (Part Two: The National League)
Thursday: So Long Bobby...
And, if you're thirsty for more baseball writing than even I can provide, allow me to suggest a couple of new blogs that I think you'll enjoy:
The Outside World Baseball Blog
Boy and Dog: In the Dogout
Jeremy Heit's Blog
Baseball Ranting and Rambling
Arizona (Batista) -125 over San Diego (Lawrence)
Minnesota (Santana) +140 over Oakland (Zito)
Total to date: + $825
W/L record: 172-172 (2-3 yesterday for -190, with one game a "no-action" because the scheduled starter didn't pitch.)
*****Comments? Questions? Email me!*****
Thursday, July 17, 2003
So long Bobby...A few days ago, I was so discouraged with the play of my team, the Minnesota Twins, that I said the following:
"I am so completely frustrated/annoyed/confused with the Twins right now that I have decided I will stop writing about them until they get back to .500. I may throw in an occasional Johan update or a note about a trade or something, but if they don't get to .500, they won't have the honor of having thousands of words devoted to them on this blog. I'm sure that'll motivate them!"After keeping my word for all of two days, I am breaking my vow of silence to write about the Twins once again, because, unfortunately, they made a trade yesterday.
The Twins traded Bobby Kielty to the Toronto Blue Jays for Shannon Stewart and a player to be named later (PTBNL).
Since joining the Twins in 2001, Bobby Kielty has been one of my favorite players and he is a frequent subject of my entries here on this blog. Yesterday's news that he was leaving the team saddened me quite a bit, but that feeling was quickly replaced by confusion and disappointment.
For now, I am going to assume the PTBNL that the Twins are to receive will not be anyone significant. I could be wrong about this obviously, and that would sweeten the Twins' end of the deal, but the fact that the Blue Jays will be paying the remainder of Stewart's contract this season says to me that the PTBNL isn't going to be an upper-level prospect.
So, essentially, the Twins have traded one outfielder for another outfielder. Let's first look at this from the most basic level - their actual, on-field performance.
2002 + 2003 CareerWhether you want to look at this season, last season, 2002 and 2003 combined, or their overall career numbers, Bobby Kielty has been a better offensive player than Shannon Stewart. He has a higher on-base percentage during all four of those periods of time and his "Equivalent Average" - a Baseball Prospectus stat that takes into account home ballparks - has been higher than Stewart's during all four periods of time.
The other main on-field factor is obviously defense. Now, a player's defensive value is much harder to pin down than his offensive contributions. On the other hand, the defensive comparison between Kielty and Stewart is not close enough to need any sort of exact calculations.
Shannon Stewart has not played anything but left field and designated hitter during the last 3 seasons. As a left fielder, he is generally considered to be below-average overall and his throwing arm is almost universally proclaimed to be the worst in the American League.
ESPN.com put it kindly in their scouting report on Stewart:
"He has only average range in left field, and a weak throwing arm does little to intimidate opposing runners."Another way of phrasing it would be to say what Kent Williams of the "Batter's Box" - the best source for Blue Jays writing, information and conversation on the internet - said, just last week:
"Stewart Must GoThat is coming from someone who has watched Shannon Stewart play hundreds of times over the last 9 seasons and, while there is some exaggeration and frustration in that statement, there is also a great deal of truth.
Meanwhile, over the last 3 seasons, Bobby Kielty has played left field, right field, designated hitter, first base and center field for the Twins.
Here is what ESPN.com has to say about his defense in their scouting report:
"Defensively he gets a good jump on the ball and has an accurate throwing arm."I have now watched Bobby Kielty play approximately 200 major league games, the majority of which have been as an outfielder. Kielty is far from a Gold Glove outfielder in any of the 3 outfield positions, but he is more than capable of playing either of the corner spots and is definitely passable as a center fielder, a position he has played 47 times in the major leagues.
So, at the most basic, on-field level, the Minnesota Twins have traded away an outfielder, Bobby Kielty, for another outfielder, Shannon Stewart. And, during any significant period of time you choose to look at, Kielty has been a better offensive player and a far superior and more versatile defensive player than Stewart.
But wait, it gets even worse than the basic, on-field downgrade the Twins just made.
First of all, Bobby Kielty is 26 years old and Shannon Stewart is 29. So, not only is Bobby Kielty a better player, he is also a considerably younger player.
In addition to being younger, Bobby Kielty is also significantly cheaper than Stewart. The Blue Jays are said to be "picking up" the remainder of Stewart's $6.2 million-dollar contract this season, so the Twins are not out any money this season. In the future though, their salaries and contractual situations will vary tremendously.
Bobby Kielty is making $325,000 this season. Because of his lack of major league experience (2+ seasons), Kielty will not be "arbitration-eligible" until after the 2004 season, which means he will likely cost Toronto somewhere around $500,000 next year. And, once he becomes arbitration-eligble, the Blue Jays will be able to sign him (if they so choose) to gradually escalating contracts for the 2005, 2006 and 2007 seasons - all before he is eligible for free agency.
In other words, they have Kielty for the rest of this year and then each of the next 4 seasons, all for very reasonable prices. In fact, there is no need for "other words" because Toronto GM J.P. Ricciardi put Kielty's situation in his own words:
"Once again, we got a player we've liked for a long time. He fits everything we're trying to do offensively. We've got this guy for the next four years before he can become a free agent. This is basically getting Shannon Stewart from the start all over again."Well said, J.P.
Meanwhile, Shannon Stewart is making $6.2 million this season and is a free agent at the end of the year. So, either the Twins let him go, at which point they just traded the next 4+ years of Bobby Kielty for about 65 games of Shannon Stewart, or they re-sign him, which will allow them to keep Stewart, but likely with a very expensive price-tag.
--- Bobby Kielty has been a better offensive player than Shannon Stewart during the 2002 season, the 2003 season, the 2002 and 2003 seasons combined, and during their respective careers overall.
--- Bobby Kielty has been and will continue to be a better and more versatile defensive player than Shannon Stewart.
--- Bobby Kielty is 3 years younger than Shannon Stewart.
--- Bobby Kielty is locked up for 4 more seasons at very reasonable prices, while Shannon Stewart is a free agent after this season.
Why, again, is this a deal the Twins wanted to make?
Well, there are two possible things saving this from being a complete disaster on every level for the Twins.
1) The PTBNL.
As I said, I suspect this will end up not being an upper-level prospect, but I could be wrong. If it is one of Toronto's top prospects, the deal becomes a little easier to swallow.
2) Possible draft picks.
Stewart is a free agent after this season. If the Twins offer him arbitration and he declines and then signs a free agent contract with another team, the Twins would be in a position to receive draft picks from that team. Of course, if the Twins are willing to offer Stewart arbitration (the only way they can receive draft pick compensation), Stewart may simply accept it, at which point they are on the hook for paying him somewhere between $6-$10 million for next season.
Call me a pessimist, but I think the more likely scenario is that the PTBNL turns out to be a 19 year old kid in Single-A that the Twins like and that Stewart walks free and clear following the final game of this season.
At which point, the Twins, in the middle of a pennant race this season and in a time during which they are in a position to challenge for multiple division titles in the coming years, have traded away the rest of Bobby Kielty's career for a free agent outfielder who is 3 years older than Kielty and worse, both offensively and defensively.
And that, my friends, is a horrendously awful trade.
This is a sad day for me as a Minnesota Twins fan. Not only because they have downgraded their current team. Not only because they have downgraded future teams. Not only because Bobby Kielty was one of my favorite players and was one of the most underrated players in baseball. But also because I now have serious doubts about the decision-making process of the people running the Minnesota Twins and, as a fan of a baseball team, that is about the worst feeling in the world to have.
Houston (Robertson) -120 over Cincinnati (Wilson)
Colorado (Jennings) +130 over San Francisco (Moss)
Cleveland (Sabathia) +185 over New York (Pettitte)
Toronto (Halladay) -110 over Boston (Lowe)
Oakland (Hudson) -150 over Minnesota (Reed)
Seattle (Garcia) -140 over Kansas City (Lima)
Total to date: + $1,015
W/L record: 170-169
*****Comments? Questions? Email me!*****
Wednesday, July 16, 2003
The First-Half (Part Two: The National League)Well, that was fun, wasn't it? Just like that, exactly 1,400 Major League Baseball games are in the books and the first-half of the 2003 season is finished.
With 57.6% of the season completed, I thought it might be fun to take a look at what happened in the first-half, with an eye towards what might happen in the second.
Yesterday, I looked at the American League, and today I look at:
The National League...
EAST CENTRAL WESTBack when I did my pre-season preview, I said the following about the National League East division:
"The Phillies have a much improved offense that looks like one of the best in the NL and a very solid rotation that should be able eat innings and rack up wins courtesy of Thome, Burrell, Abreu and company. The bullpen scares me a little bit, but not enough to make me think they won't win the NL East pretty easily in 2003. Picking against Atlanta hasn't been the smart thing to do since I was 8 years old, but all good things must come to an end at some point, right? Barring a serious injury to one of the big three hitters, the Phils are headed to the playoffs and I don't think it'll be particularly close."Sometimes you are wrong, and sometimes you are really wrong. It appears as though "picking against Atlanta" will continue to not have been "the smart thing to do" for at least another season. To my "credit," the Phillies are playing about as well as I expected them to play. They are currently 52-40, which puts them on pace to go 92-70. Of course, the Braves are on pace to go 106-56, which wipes away any credit I may have gained, and then some.
Actually, in looking at the things I said about Atlanta before the season, I have been almost exactly 50% correct thus far.
Here's the good 50%:
"The biggest problem I see for the Braves in 2003 is that they allowed only 565 runs last season, which was by far the fewest in the NL. Quite frankly, that aint gonna happen again."So far, I have been right about the pitching staff declining. After leading the NL in ERA by a wide margin last season, the Braves are currently 8th in the NL in ERA this season, with a team ERA of 4.18 - 33.5% higher than last year's mark.
Then there is this, which would be the bad 50%:
"The Braves pitching staff will be considerably worse in 2003 and, with their offense, that is not something they can afford."And then there was this too:
"The Atlanta offense will almost certainly be at least slightly better than they were last year, just because Castilla and a couple other guys can't possibly be worse. That said, their pitching is likely to decline quite a bit, which means the offensive shortcomings will become a huge deal pretty quickly."Again, I was right on the mark with the pitching staff.
On the other hand, their offense has been incredible this year and so far from my prediction of sub par that I should probably have my predicting privileges suspended for at least a few days.
After finishing 10th in the NL in runs scored last season, the Braves are currently 3rd in the NL this season. They have scored 23.7% more runs per game than last season, which is amazing for a team that added Robert Fick as their big off-season acquisition offensively.
How has their offense improved so much that it is able to nearly off-set a pitching staff that is 33% worse than last season? Quite simply, they have made improvements at nearly every single position offensively, with several of the improvements being huge ones.
Here's a look at the combined OPS (on-base % + slugging %) of each position for the Braves offensively, from last season and this season.
2002 2003 +/-Now, OPS is a crude metric and one of the problems with using it is that it weighs on-base percentage and slugging percentage equally (which should not be the case, on-base % is more valuable), but it does a nice enough job for this little "study."
Of Atlanta's 8 offensive positions, the have had improvements from last season at 6 of them. And, of those 6 improvements, 4 are by more than 10% and 2 of them, second base and catcher, are by 30% and 41%. They have had two positions perform worse than last season, left and center field, but by just 10% and 3%.
That is basically a recipe for drastically improving a once mediocre offense.
The two biggest difference makers have been Javy Lopez at catcher and Marcus Giles at second base. I talked about Lopez's amazing season a little while back when I looked at the biggest surprises of the 2003 season. Basically, Lopez was consistently one of the better offensive catchers in baseball throughout much of the 90s, but he had been in a serious decline ever since the 1999 season. Here's a little of what I wrote about him in that entry:
"At this moment, Lopez's OPS figures since 1999 read as follows:Since then, Lopez's OPS has dropped from 1.016 to .988, which, quite frankly, is not much of a drop at all, considering he appeared to be on another planet when I wrote that back on June 17th. Because of Lopez's massive improvement from last season to this season, Atlanta catchers as a whole have gone from having the worst OPS in the NL to the best OPS in the NL. That's pretty damn amazing, especially considering the same two catchers that got the bulk of the playing time last year - Lopez and Henry Blanco - are getting the bulk of the playing time this year.
While Atlanta's catching turn-around this season is second-to-none, their offensive improvement at second base is similarly impressive. Atlanta second basemen combined to hit .227/.293/.349 last season and that .643 OPS was the worst at the position in the NL. After years of holding onto him for some unknown reason, the Braves finally let the man primarily responsible for that .643 OPS (and many horrible OPS totals from years past), Keith Lockart, go and replaced him with Giles.
Giles, who hit just .230/.315/.399 last year, got off to a very hot start this year and was named to the all-star team. He cooled down eventually, but is still hitting .291/.367/.466, while playing almost everyday as Atlanta's second baseman. The combination of Giles having a breakout year and Keith Lockart playing for the Padres has resulted in Atlanta's second base OPS going from dead-last in the league last season to 3rd in the league this season. That's not quite as remarkable as their catchers' jump from last to first, but it's pretty close.
Will Atlanta's offense continue to be one of the top 2-3 in the NL in the second-half? I don't see why not. Of their everyday players, the only guy that seems very unlikely to have a second-half as good as his first-half is Lopez and perhaps, to a much lesser extent, Rafael Furcal. Those (potential) dropoffs could be offset by the fact that Chipper Jones is very unlikely to slug below .500 in the second-half like he did in the first. Otherwise, they've got Gary Sheffield, Robert Fick, Vinny Castilla and Andruw Jones - all guys who had first-halves that go right along with past performances. Even Marcus Giles seems like a good bet to repeat his .291/.367/.466 first-half, on the basis of his excellent minor league numbers.
There is no question in my mind that I underestimated the Atlanta offense and, while their pitching staff is about as mediocre as I expected, their offensive improvement should be more than enough to carry them into the post-season once again.
At the same time, I am still definitely on the Philadelphia bandwagon. Their offense has drastically underperformed my expectations and yet they are still on pace to win 90+ games. Their pitching has been better than I thought it would be and I am confident that guys like Bobby Abreu, Pat Burell and even Jim Thome (whose first-half was pretty damn good) will have much improved second-halves. The Phillies may not win the division like I predicted and they certainly are not going to win it by a large margin like I thought they would, but I think they will win the Wild Card and may end up in the divisional race before the season is over.
In the NL Central, the logjam at the top of the division will probably make for a pretty good race down the stretch, but it also means there are several teams - St. Louis and Houston primarily - underperforming their expectations. I liked Houston in the pre-season and I still like them now. They are in first-place, despite having been hit with quite a few injuries (Oswalt, Kent, etc), and St. Louis' offense is incredible, but unless they pick up some pitching for the second-half, they are going to continue to have problems.
The Cubs, Reds and even the Pirates are still definitely in the race, but I expect the Astros and Cardinals to separate themselves from the rest of the division in the next few weeks and battle each other for the division, yet again.
I think it will all come down to the health of Houston's top players versus whether or not St. Louis can find some upper-level pitching to compliment the best offense in the National League. Matt Morris pitching like Matt Morris again at some point would help too.
In the NL West, the hard-charging Diamondbacks (winners of 21 of their last 28) have closed the gap on the Giants to 5 games. Curt Schilling is now back and they appear to be getting close to a return of Randy Johnson as well.
With many of their veteran players out this year, the Diamondbacks turned to their minor league system for replacements and have to be extraordinarily happy with the results. Brandon Webb came up to help fill in for Johnson/Schilling in the rotation and has been one of the best pitchers in all of baseball (7-2, 2.41 ERA). Jose Valverde came up when Matt Mantei went on the DL (big shock, I know) and has 9 saves and a 1.00 ERA in 19 games.
On the offensive side of things, the D-Backs have relied upon relatively unknown players like Alex Cintron, Matt Kata and Robby Hammock, and have gotten excellent production from all of them. Assuming the veterans, most notably Johnson and Schilling, but also Junior Spivey, get healthy in the second-half, the D-Backs are going to have a very deep roster to work with down the stretch.
Will it be enough to beat the Giants, who have been in the driver's seat all season? Well, if Randy Johnson and Curt Schilling pitch like they have during the past few years, anything is possible. But, considering their age and the fact that Johnson's injury is a pretty serious one, doesn't it seem more likely that, even if they pitch well, Randy and Curt will be simply good and not unbelievable like they have been in the past? If that is the case, it is going to be a struggle, because the Giants are simply a very good ballclub.
First of all, they have Barry Bonds, who is on-fire this month (.412/.543/1.176) and - surprise, surprise - has been the best hitter in baseball again this season. Jeff Kent is gone, which left a big hole in the lineup, but his replacement at second base, Ray Durham, has provided a great spark at the top of the lineup and is hitting .300/.386/.440. That's good for a .296 EqA, which is exactly 1 point below Kent's .297 EqA for the Astros this year.
The Giants' other major free agent signing was Edgardo Alfonzo, who has been pretty bad offensively this season. Not completely horrible in a Paul Konerko/Jermaine Dye sort of way, but bad enough that he is costing the team lots of runs. On the other hand, Jose Cruz Jr. and Marquis Grissom, 2 other off-season signings, are doing very well with the Giants. Cruz has a .294 EqA and Grissom, despite just 14 walks in 90 games, is EqA'ing at .286. They are also getting good offense from J.T. Snow, Benito Santiago and Andres Galarraga, which is pretty amazing, to say the least. Heck, Neifi Perez has 208 at bats and hasn't been a complete disaster (.284/.306/.375), which is when you know luck is on your side.
While the San Francisco offense has been very good again this year, beyond all-star starter Jason Schmidt, the starting pitching has not been great. Kirk Rueter struggled and then got injured, Damian Moss has been very bad, and Jesse Foppert disappointed in his first taste of the majors, sparked concerns about his decreased fastball velocity and was recently sent back to Triple-A. On the plus side of things, rookie Jerome Williams has been great and the bullpen, even without Robb Nen, has been pretty good.
This is a very strong Giants team, just like last season, and I expect them to win the NL West division. It'll be interesting to see what moves, if any, they make for the second-half, as they are no doubt feeling the pressure from the Diamondbacks and their new reinforcements.
As for the Dodgers, even with Jeromy Burnitz and Rickey Henderson added to the mix, their offense is still going to be sub par in the second-half, although it won't be nearly as awful as it was in the first. But, with injury concerns regarding Kevin Brown, I think their pitching will drop-off in the second-half and they will gradually slip out of the division race.
If you missed yesterday's first-half review of the American League, you can check it out by clicking here.
And, if my entry today doesn't quench your thirst for baseball writing, I have two new blogs to recommend to you...
The first is "Rich's Weekend Baseball Beat," which was recently started by Rich Lederer, a frequent visitor (and emailer) of Aaron's Baseball Blog. While guys like Yours Truly write blog entries during the week and generally take weekends off, Rich does the opposite on his blog, publishing great, new stuff on weekends. Go check it out, he has a very interesting multi-part series up right now that is definitely worth a read.
The second new blog is "For Rich or Sporer," which is currently featuring a very in-depth and, dare I say, "Gleeman-length" entry about the second-half performances of players in past seasons.
So go welcome Rich's Weekend Baseball Beat and For Rich or Sporer to the baseball blogging world and tell them I told you to stop on by...
No Games Scheduled
Total to date: + $1,015
W/L record: 170-169
*****Comments? Questions? Email me!*****
Tuesday, July 15, 2003
The First-Half (Part One: The American League)Well, that was fun, wasn't it? Just like that, exactly 1,400 Major League Baseball games are in the books and the first-half of the 2003 season is finished.
With 57.6% of the season completed, I thought it might be fun to take a look at what happened in the first-half, with an eye towards what might happen in the second.
The American League...
EAST CENTRAL WESTWell whaddya know, after all those games we've got the Yankees and Red Sox in the East, the Mariners and A's in the West and...the Royals in Central?!
Yes, that's right, the Kansas City Royals are 10 games above .500 and leading the American League Central division by 7 games. I would ask if you expected this to happen, but if you said yes, I'd just call you a liar anyway.
The Royals lost 100 games last season and 97 games in 2001 and, heading into this season, there weren't many people (or any people) who thought they had a chance of finishing higher than third in the division. Yours truly predicted they would finish fourth.
So how the heck did this happen? Well, first and foremost, they got off to a blazing start. The Royals won their first 9 games of the season and 16 of their first 19. On April 24th, less than a month into the season, they sat at 16-3, 5.5 games ahead of the White Sox and 8 games ahead of the Twins.
Like most people, I expected them to falter after their hot start and go back to playing the way they played in 2001 and 2002. While they have certainly cooled down since starting 16-3, they are continuing to play better than they have in past years. Since the hot start, they are 35-38, which doesn't look all that great, but is actually a slightly higher winning percentage (.479) than Chicago (.478) and Minnesota (.473) have over the course of the entire season.
At this point, it is silly to think of anyone but Kansas City as the favorites in the division. A 7 game lead is significant and the Royals could go 30-40 in the second-half and still finish at .500, which, with the rest of this division, looks like a decent bet to get a team the championship.
That said, I still think the White Sox and the Twins will be the ones fighting for the division come September. Maybe it's just me being stubborn and remembering last year's Royals team, but the Twins and the White Sox, to me, have better baseball teams and I still think that, over the course of the entire season, that will propel them ahead of the Royals. Of course, Chicago has lost 7 of their last 10 and the Twins have dropped 22 of their last 28, so both teams are going to have to turn it around in a hurry if they want to even think about the division title.
At last year's all-star break, the Twins were 50-39 and leading the White Sox by 7.5 games. They had an even better second-half, going 44-28, while Chicago went 39-35. The Royals were 33-52 before the break and 29-48 after.
And, as long as I am giving the Twins and White Sox a good chance of winning the division, the Cleveland Indians deserve a mention too. They are 41-53, which is the 11th-best record in the 14-team American League, but they are also just 4 games behind Chicago and 4.5 behind the Twins. Plus, unlike Chicago and Minnesota, the Indians are playing well going into the break, having won 11 of their last 18 games. I wouldn't be surprised at all if Cleveland had a better second-half record than Kansas City.
Over in the East, the New York Yankees, despite numerous injury problems and a couple of rough patches, find themselves in a familiar position - first-place. Already this season, the Yankees have lost Derek Jeter, Bernie Williams and Nick Johnson for significant stretches of time and, at one point, from the beginning of May until the middle of June, they lost 22 of 35 games. Yet, despite all of that, they are 57-36, 21 games above .500, and 2 games ahead of the Red Sox in the AL East.
The fact that the Yankees have been able to win even with the injuries and even with a sub par bullpen is a credit to their top-line offensive players. After a very slow start that saw him hitting just .227/.356/.438 at the end of May, Jason Giambi caught fire in June, hitting .373/.554/.819 with 11 homers, 27 runs and 29 RBIs - in 27 games. His season totals (.267/.419/.547) are still low for his standards, but they make him one of the top 10 hitters in the league.
Of course, Giambi hasn't been alone. Alfonso Soriano is hitting .292/.345/.511 and is on pace for 38 homers and 44 stolen bases. Jorge Posada is hitting .255/.405/.489 and is 10th in the AL in on-base percentage and 2nd in walks. Hideki Matsui got off to a slow start, but hit .394/.484/.673 in June and has his season-totals up to a very solid .299/.356/.449, while filling in for Williams in centerfield for several weeks. Raul Mondesi carried the team throughout much of the first month when Jeter was out and Giambi was struggling, hitting .354/.420/.697 in April. Mondesi has, of course, cooled considerably and is back to his "normal" level of hitting - .258/.314/.468.
Before he went down with the injury, Nick Johnson was having a huge year. Johnson was hitting .308/.455/.517 and was beginning to be the offensive-machine he was throughout much of his minor league career. After coming back from the shoulder injury, Jeter had a nice May (.307/.342/.493) and then struggled in June (.254/.333/.364). He is red-hot this month though and is hitting .529/.600/.618, with 18 hits in 34 at bats.
All of it adds up to the 3rd most productive offense in the American League with 505 runs in 93 games, putting them on an 880-run pace, which is right around last year's total of 897 - which was the most runs in all of baseball.
Of course, the Boston Red Sox and Toronto Blue Jays laugh at the notion of 897 runs leading the AL East division this year, let alone all of baseball. While the Yankees rank third in the AL in runs scored, the top 2 teams also play in the East. The Red Sox have scored an MLB-leading 573 runs (6.16/game), while the Blue Jays rank second in baseball with 556 runs (5.85/game).
So why aren't Boston and Toronto leading the Yankees? Quite simply: Pitching. The Red Sox are 8th in the AL in ERA, while the Blue Jays rank 12th, ahead of only the Devil Rays and Rangers. Even with all of their bullpen struggles, the Yankees rank 4th in the AL in ERA.
Toronto's pitching has been particularly bad recently, posting a 5.10 team-ERA in June and a 5.33 ERA so far in July. While the offense bashed the hell out of the opposition to the tune of 6+ runs per game in June and carried the sagging pitching-staff, the bats have gone silent in July and, along with the horrible pitching, has caused the Jays to go 3-9 and drop 9 games behind the division-leading Yankees.
No one really expected Toronto to seriously challenge for the division title this season, but their offense was so incredible in May and June that they forced themselves into the picture. In the end though, I think the pitching will prove to be too weak for the team to continue fighting Boston and New York and the Blue Jays will have to settle for 85-90 wins and the knowledge that they probably could have won the AL Central division by about a dozen games this year.
What the Red Sox offense is doing is really quite amazing. They are currently on pace to score 998 runs this season, which would get them pretty close to becoming just the third team since 1950 to score 1,000 runs in a season. Strangely enough, I actually discussed the possibility of an AL East team scoring 1,000 runs this season when I did my season preview back in March. Of course, I thought the Yankees would be the team to do it, not the Red Sox.
Interestingly enough, at this time last year, the Yankees were in first-place and led the Red Sox by...2 games. The Red Sox went 41-36 in the second-half and New York won the division easily. I don't think anything will be easy this time around and I will stick to my pre-season prediction that the Red Sox will win the division and the Yankees will get the Wild Card. It should be a fun "race" to watch, although it would be a whole lot more fun if they were actually fighting over just one playoff spot (thanks Bud!).
Over in the West, the Angels took 3 straight from the Twins last weekend and got themselves back into the division race. The defending champs are now just 8.5 games behind the Mariners and 4.5 behind the A's.
One interesting thing about the AL West is that the best three pitching staffs in the AL reside there. The Mariners are 1st in the AL in ERA, the A's are 2nd and the Angels are 3rd. And then you have the Rangers and their 5.94 in dead-last (both in the division standings and the AL ERA rankings).
Last year at the break, Seattle was in first and led the Angels by 3 games and the A's by 5. The A's went 53-21 in the second-half, the best record in all of baseball. And I assume we are all familiar with what the Angels did in the post-season, which means the Mariners didn't make the playoffs, despite their lead at the break. That's because they went just 38-36 in the second-half, good for the 8th-best record in the AL.
The A's amazing second-half last year wasn't even as good as their second-half in 2001, when they went 58-17. For those of you without a calculator handy, that means they won 77.3% of their second-half games in 2001, which is just ridiculous, especially considering they were 44-43 at the break that year. Will the A's be able to mount yet another amazing second-half run this year?
It is certainly possible. They still have those 3 great starting pitchers, which always gives them the ability to snap off amazing stretches at any time. If they work the days off to their advantage, it's probably possible to get Zito, Mulder and Hudson (a combined 26-10 this year and 187-83 in their careers) about 65-70% of the second-half starts and the rumors out of Oakland are that they will be calling up their top prospect, right-handed starter Rich Harden from Triple-A for the second-half.
I ranked Harden as my #13 prospect in baseball prior to this season and what he's done so far this year (11-4 with a 2.74 ERA between AA and AAA) has boosted his stock even more. He is arguably the top pitching prospect in the minor leagues right now and could provide a massive boost to Oakland in the second-half, similar to what Zito and Hudson did in 1999 and 2000. Hudson came up from the minors and made 21 starts for the A's in 1999, going 11-2 with a 3.23 ERA. The next year, Zito was called up and made 14 starts for the A's, going 7-4 with a 2.72 ERA. Is Harden going to go 10-2 down the stretch for Oakland? Probably not, but it is certainly possible and, if he simply pitches like many people think he is capable of, that gives them 4 unbelievable starters, which equals a whole lot of extended winning streaks.
Of course, Oakland's main concern in the second-half has nothing to do with their pitching. Their offense is currently 10th in the AL in runs scored, averaging just 4.6 runs per game. Aside from Eric Byrnes and Ramon Hernandez, I don't think there is a single Oakland hitter who is performing as well or better than could reasonably have been expected of them coming into this season.
Miguel "I'm not the real MVP, but I play one on TV" Tejada is at .245/.298/.427 after a .161/.230/.286 April. Eric Chavez, who slugged .540 in 2001 and .513 last year, is slugging .474 and is .174/.226/.357 against lefties. Their first baseman, Scott Hatteberg, who was such a nice low-cost pickup last year, is hitting like a low-cost pickup this year (.259/.341/.380). Their big off-season acquisition, Erubiel Durazo, is doing a great job getting on base (.400 OBP), but isn't hitting for nearly as much power (.447 SLG) as most people expected. Then there is the corner outfield duo of Jermaine Dye, who was perhaps the worst offensive player in baseball during the first-half and is now on the DL, and Terrence Long, who simply stinks.
Does the fact that the majority of their offensive players had sub par first halves mean they are likely to perform better as a team in the second-half or does it just mean they are all having bad seasons and the A's offense will continue to struggle? I'm inclined to believe a little of both, but I would expect at least a few of the A's hitters, most notably Chavez and Durazo, to play better in the second-half. And, if the offense continues to struggle (and even if it doesn't), I wouldn't be surprised if Oakland GM Billy Beane had something big up his sleeve. Maybe something like Brian Giles, perhaps? Whatever it is, Beane and the A's are always fun to keep track of in the second-half - both on and off the field - and this season won't be any different.
Every division in the AL is up for grabs right now. The East features the two biggest rivals in baseball within a couple games of one another. The Central features a team that came out of nowhere to lead the division by 7 games. And the West features the Mariners on top, the A's and their amazing second-half record over the past couple years in 2nd, and the World Series champs lurking in third.
It should be a pretty interesting second-half in the American League, don't you think? Make sure to check back tomorrow for a first-half review of the National League.
Late last night, I got word that Rickey Henderson had finally found a home in the major leagues for the 2003 season. The Los Angeles Dodgers, desperate for offense, signed Rickey just hours after they traded for Jeromy Burnitz from the Mets.
Henderson, 44, had been playing for the Newark Bears of the independent Atlantic League. He hit .339/.493/.591 in 56 games and was named the MVP of the recently completed league all-star game. The man is one of the greatest handful of players in the history of the sport and it is quite obvious, both from his major league numbers over the past few years and his performance for Newark this season, that he can still be a valuable member of a major league baseball team. It is also obvious that he still has a passion for baseball and still loves to play the game. I am glad he is finally getting a chance to do what he loves again, because he has definitely earned it.
For more on Rickey, check out two entries I devoted to him way back in February, entitled, interestingly enough...
Rickey (February 12, 2003)
More on Rickey (February 18, 2003)
"Why you talk about when a player wanna quit? What is that player's ability? How much does he enjoy the game? Can he still compete? My grandmother didn't stop working when she was 40, and my mom sure didn't, either. There is nothing in life that says you have to quit at a certain age."
--- Rickey HendersonToday's picks:
No Games Scheduled
Total to date: + $1,015
W/L record: 170-169
*****Comments? Questions? Email me!*****
Monday, July 14, 2003
My self-imposed banSadly, the Minnesota Twins continued to suck this weekend.
Johan Santana made his first start of the season as an official member of the rotation on Friday night against the Angels and he pitched okay, but not great. Santana gave up 3 runs in 6 innings, while striking out 4 and walking none. One of those "earned" runs came when Luis Rivas lost a routine pop-up in the lights, which would have been the 3rd out of the inning. Instead, it fell for a "double" and the Angels scored their first run of the ballgame. For those of you who know how much I love Santana and how much I dislike Rivas, you can probably imagine my reaction to that particularly play (it sounded something like "@#$%&*^!RIVAS@#^&%$&$@!"). Nevertheless, it was a nice start for Santana and Ron Gardenhire and the rest of the team was very complimentary of his performance.
After losing Santana's start on Friday night, the Twins then dropped games to Anaheim on Saturday and Sunday too. They are now 44-49, 5 games below .500 and are now in third-place, behind both Kansas City and Chicago. The Twins, who won 94 games and the division last year and, at one point this season, were 38-27, are now closer to fourth-place than they are first-place. They have lost 8 games in a row and 22 of their last 28 since the middle of June.
The All-Star Game is coming at a good time for the Twins, because they could use a break from losing games and, at this point, the only way that's going to happen is if they don't have to actually play any games.
I am so completely frustrated/annoyed/confused with the Twins right now that I have decided I will stop writing about them until they get back to .500. I may throw in an occasional Johan update or a note about a trade or something, but if they don't get to .500, they won't have the honor of having thousands of words devoted to them on this blog. I'm sure that'll motivate them!
I've banned myself from discussing the Twins, so let's see what else I can find to talk about...
I have given Joe Morgan a ton of heat on this blog (and deservedly so, in my opinion), but Joe's most recent column on ESPN.com, entitled "Clemens, Sosa snubs prove All-Star criteria is wrong," is a very good one. Since I have no problem tearing into Morgan when I think he says dumb things, I should be equally willing to give him credit when he says things I think are intelligent.
Here's one particularly good point that Morgan makes, when discussing why Roger Clemens and Sammy Sosa should be all-stars:
"To me, if you choose your roster based only on the first half of the season, that isn't a true All-Star team. Half of a season gets you media attention, but it doesn't make you an All-Star. An All-Star is a player who performs well for full seasons over the course of a career, not just one-half of a particular season. The main exception I would make is for rookies and other younger players who haven't had the opportunity to establish themselves as proven performers. For them, the first half should count more."I agree 100% with Joe on this issue and could not have said it better myself (although I have tried, both here and other places).
Also, regarding the All-Star Game selections, I have wavered back and forth on my thoughts about the mandatory one-player-per-team rule and whether or not it is a good thing. In the end though, I don't like the rule and it comes down to the fact that all-time greats like Roger Clemens, Sammy Sosa and Frank Thomas are being squeezed off of the teams because there is a rule requiring space be reserved for the Lance Carters and Rondell Whites of the world.
While the actual All-Star Game isn't until Tuesday, the "Futures Game" was played yesterday afternoon. Given the choice between watching either the All-Star Game or the Futures Game, I would take the Futures Game every single time. For those of you who are unfamilar with the Futures Game, it is essentially an all-star game for minor league prospects.
As anyone who has read my stuff over at Baseball Primer knows, I am a big-time minor league baseball nut, so being able to watch 50 of the best prospects in baseball all play on the same field, in the same game is a real treat for me.
There are many things about the way Major League Baseball markets the sport that confuse me, and the all-star break is a very good example. While FOX and Major League Baseball have been cramming commercials for the All-Star Game down our throats for months now ("THIS TIME IT COUNTS!"), I did not hear a single mention of the Futures Game. The NBA has their version of the Futures Game, the "Rookie Challenge," and they make it a featured part of their all-star festivities. Meanwhile, the MLB Futures Game was played on a Sunday afternoon, before the all-star break had even started. It was actually on at the same time as several regular season games, including the Twins/Angels contest.
It seems to me that a league seemingly desperate to find new attractions for their fans to be interested in, even at the expense of changing the long-held traditions of the sport, would be interested in promoting a game that features the young stars of the minor leagues, the men who eventually will be the stars in the major leagues, and the players whom Bud Selig and company will eventually be wanting fans to have an interest in.
I love watching the Futures Game every single year and I suspect there are tons of fans across the country who would love it too, if only it received a fraction of the promotion and hype that the All-Star Game gets.
Going back just one year, to last season's Futures Game, the roster is filled with guys currently playing big roles at the major league level. Angel Berroa, Jose Reyes, Miguel Cabrera, Justin Morneau, Hee Seop Choi, Victor Martinez, Francisco Rodriguez, Carl Crawford, Marlon Byrd, Brandon Phillips, Orlando Hudson, Lyle Overbay, Brett Myers - the list goes on and on.
Going back just a few years, you find some pretty big-time names and several players who will be playing in the All-Star Game tomorrow. Lance Berkman, Hank Blalock, Mark Buehrle, Pat Burrell, Adam Dunn, Rafael Furcal, Marcus Giles, Mark Mulder, Corey Patterson, Joel Pineiro, C.C. Sabathia, Ben Sheets, Alfonso Soriano, Vernon Wells and Barry Zito - just to name a few.
The fact that the game is a complete afterthought and is essentially ignored and lost in the endless All-Star Game promotion is a real shame and a big mistake. Of course, "real shames" and "big mistakes" are nothing new for Major League Baseball.
In other news...
The Texas Rangers and Florida Marlins completed a somewhat large transaction over the weekend, with the Rangers sending "proven closer" Ugueth Urbina to Florida in exchange for 3 minor league prospects.
Just a few weeks ago, I discussed all the Urbina trade rumors that were flying around:
"Baseball teams are very strange sometimes. This off-season, Ugueth Urbina was available to any team interested in signing him. After being let go by the Red Sox, Urbina ended up signing a 1-year deal with the Rangers for $4,500,000.Not only did the Rangers receive "actual valuable players" in exchange for Urbina, they got one of the top prospects in all of baseball. The headline name among the 3 prospects they received is Adrian Gonzalez, the former #1 overall pick in 2000 draft. Before the season, I rated Gonzalez as the #22 overall prospect in baseball. He has struggled at times this season and there are some injury concerns surrounding him, but he's still one of the better hitting prospects in baseball and the fact that the Rangers were able to get him and two other prospects for half a season of Ugueth Urbina is remarkable and a huge credit to Rangers' GM John Hart.
Of course, the Rangers aren't exactly hurting for more hitting, so adding Gonzalez, a first baseman, to the mix doesn't address their massive need for pitching, but adding good players to the organization is always a good idea and they can sort out the details later.
In exchange for Gonzalez, Ryan Snare and Will Smith, the Marlins receive the remainder of Urbina's 2003 season, which is likely about 30-35 innings, maybe 40 at the most. Considering his ERAs over the last 5 seasons are 3.69, 4.05, 3.65, 3.00 and 4.19 (so far this season), I just can't see any reason for the Marlins to make this deal. Florida is currently in 4th place in the NL East, 13 games behind the Braves. On the other hand, they are only 4.5 games out in the Wild Card standings, so they are actually in contention for a post-season spot still. But how much is 40 innings from a guy with a 4.19 ERA going to help a 49-46 team making a run for the playoffs? And, is whatever help he can give going to be worth the next 15 years of Adrian Gonzalez's career, let alone the careers of Ryan Snare and Will Smith? Of course not.
If a half-season of Urbina is worth 3 prospects, including a former #1 overall pick from just a few years ago, how much is legit superstar like Brian Giles worth to a team? Or even someone like Shannon Stewart? Hell, if I were the Twins (and yes, I realize I said I would stop talking about them), I'd be on the phone, seeing how many top prospects I could get for Eddie Guardado. He's just as much of a "proven closer" as Urbina.
Pardon the pun, but there seems to be something fishy going on here. Remember last year when the Expos traded for Bartolo Colon from Cleveland and sent the Indians 3 top prospects? And then remember, just a few months later, when the Expos sent Colon to the White Sox and all they got in return was a damaged Orlando Hernandez, Rocky Biddle and Jeff Liefer (whom they later released)? This Urbina deal feels the same way to me, but maybe I'm wrong. I get nervous when Jeffrey Loria is involved.
No Games Scheduled
Total to date: + $1,015
W/L record: 170-169 (1-3 on Friday for -260 and just barely hanging on above 1,000 and above .500)
*****Comments? Questions? Email me!*****