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May 7, 2001

The Daily Prospectus

Around the AL

by Joe Sheehan

I've been writing "D"P for a little over a year now, and in that time I've run into occasional writer's blocks of various sizes. Missing a day or turning out a column with which I'm not happy irks me terribly, while enhancing my admiration of someone like Rob Neyer, who has cranked out daily, high-quality baseball content for years.

Anyway, without a focus, I figured this would be a good day to take a tour of the leagues to date and see what we can see. Just to be different, we'll start the tour from the bottom of each league, alphabetically. AL today, NL tomorrow, and a trip around the minors on Wednesday.

  • This year's Jeff Zimmerman is the Blue Jays' Paul Quantrill. Q hasn't given up a run or walked a batter in 22 innings. He's lapping the field in Michael Wolverton's Adjusted Runs Prevented, with nearly 50% more ARP than his closest competition. Quantrill won't keep this pace, but the Jays have another setup man, Kelvim Escobar putting up similar numbers but with even better peripherals (22 strikeouts, six hits in 15 1/3 innings).

    You can win with a middle-of-the-pack rotation simply by owning the sixth through ninth innings. That's what the Jays have done so far, and that's what makes them and the Mariners the teams that look like they can be dangerous in the postseason.

  • A typical Jays lineup contains six players with OBPs of .336 or below, despite which they're second in the league in runs scored. Leading the league in home runs helps, as does a good hitters' park, but a lineup with four OBP sinks always runs the risk of extended slumps.

  • The Rangers have no starting pitchers performing above replacement level. Despite this, they're one of 12 teams that has yet to use a sixth starter.

  • Tossing out Randy Winn's 21 at-bats, the Devil Rays have exactly one player, Russ Johnson, with an OPS above 730. If you simply took the Devil Rays for your HACKING MASS team--say, John Flaherty, Fred McGriff, Vinny Castilla, Felix Martinez, and Gerald Williams--you'd easily be among the contest leaders.

  • Call me crazy, but I'm still not off the Paul Wilson bandwagon. Yes, his ERA is twice that of teammate Albie Lopez, but here are their defense-independent rate stats:

                 K/9    BB/9    HR/9
    Wilson       6.2     3.8    1.34
    Lopez        5.6     4.3    0.54
    

    Wilson's strikeout and walk data is better than that of Lopez, while he has had a bigger problem with the long ball. Wilson is still a pitcher with talent and upside, and I expect him to improve going forward.

  • Instead of Johnny Damon, how about Tony Gwynn as a comp for Ichiro Suzuki? Especially early Gwynn, when the Padre was a pretty good (if not as good as Suzuki is) right fielder. Suzuki's batting style is more reminiscent of the slap-hitting Gwynn's as well.

  • Barry Zito's ERA has risen compared to his rookie season, but you have to look a bit deeper to see how well he's pitching. His strikeout-to-walk ratio is better than 3-to-1, a far cry from last year's 2-to-1, and he's allowed just four home runs in 41 1/3 innings. He's allowing more hits this season (45, as opposed to just 88 in 101 2/3 innings last year), but as Voros McCracken has pointed out, that may have less to do with how well Zito is pitching and more to do with luck and defense.

  • The Twins are a great story, and I'd love to see them stay in the AL Central race, or even the wild-card chase, for a while. But with David Ortiz out for two months, their lineup is left with three hitters who have OBPs above the league average. Five Twins starters--assuming Denny Hocking gets most of the playing time in Ortiz's absence--have below-.300 OBPs. There's just no amount of great outfield defense or fantastic control that can cover that for very long.

  • You know, there is simply nothing interesting about the Kansas City Royals. Or the Detroit Tigers, for that matter.

  • Russ Branyan's Three True Outcomes percentage has slipped to 50%, after hovering around 60% earlier this season. He's fun to watch, but unless he walks more or hits .250, it's going to be real hard for him to be a contributor. An OBP around the Guillen Line needs a lot of other positives around it.

  • Here's a race: Shea Hillenbrand's walks drawn versus Pedro Martinez's home runs allowed. Hillenbrand has an early 1-0 lead, but I'll make Pedro the favorite, say open him up at -130.

Joe Sheehan is an author of Baseball Prospectus. Contact him by clicking here.

Joe Sheehan is an author of Baseball Prospectus. 
Click here to see Joe's other articles. You can contact Joe by clicking here

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