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June 4, 2001

The Daily Prospectus

It's Monday

by Joe Sheehan

One of the those short-attention-span days...

  • The Orioles are just 6 1/2 games out of first place in the AL East. They were actually playing .500 ball until becoming the latest victims of the Seattle Freaking Demigods a week ago. Now, a good chunk of their season has come at the expense of the Devil Rays--the O's are 8-5 against Tampa Bay, 18-24 against everyone else--but I think it's fair to say that their third-place standing and just-under-.500 record are a surprise.

    How are they doing it? I really have no idea, and I don't expect it to continue. Just one player, Jeff Conine, is having a good season with the bat, and three starters, Cal Ripken, Delino DeShields, and Brady Anderson, have been horrible. Of their ten regulars, seven have OPSs of 700 or below. Even after a decent month of May, the Orioles are 12th in the AL in EqA. What has helped is that, by Clay Davenport's calculations, they have scored 21 more runs than you would expect from their offensive statistics. That's second in the majors to the Seattle Space Aliens, and isn't likely to be maintained.

    The pitching looks a bit better: Jason Johnson and Pat Hentgen have good ERAs with poor peripherals, while Willis Roberts and Sidney Ponson have the reverse. The combination gives the Os the ninth-best rotation in the AL, by SNVA. The bullpen has been comparable, led by the return of the good Mike Trombley, who is currently riding atop Michael Wolverton's Adjusted Runs Prevented ranking.

    Basically the Orioles aren't playing all that well, and their proximity to first place has more to do with some good fortune and the problems the Red Sox and Yankees have faced than anything the Os are doing. With a brutal offense and merely adequate pitching, they should find themselves sliding back behind the Blue Jays, and closer to .400 than .500, in short order.

  • The Twins and the Indians open a four-game series at the Metrodome tonight. Without digging out my Total Baseball, I'm going to say that this is the first time since the 1960s that these two teams have played games that had this much importance, and may be the first time they've done so since the Twins were in Washington.

    As well as they've played, the Twins still don't inspire confidence, because they start so many players with lousy OBPs. They keep runs off the board with an excellent starting rotation and defense, which has compensated for a below-average offense (eighth in the AL with a .256 EqA). The Indians are the opposite of the Twins, with a .283 EqA but a below-average rotation and a defense that can best be described as "aging."

    What I most want to see is how many people go to the Metrodome over the next few nights. These are the biggest baseball games in Minneapolis since Gene Larkin's sacrifice fly in 1991. If they attract large crowds, it will be a significant data point in the argument that attendance is not about a new stadium or a high payroll: it's about winning.

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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