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May 2, 2003

Prospectus Triple Play

Cleveland Indians, Los Angeles Dodgers, Seattle Mariners

by Baseball Prospectus

Cleveland Indians

  • Streak and Schedule: Losing streaks can be simultaneously repulsive and compelling, not unlike the family of gangly, screeching, hideous insects that devour their mates after coitus. The Indians have lost eight straight since leaving the comfortable surroundings of the AL Central and facing the shredding machine that is the AL West. The rain bought them a reprieve from a potential ninth consecutive loss, but since the trek through Oakland, Anaheim, Texas, and Seattle is a set of home-and-homes, things look bleak until the pitching rejuvenation centre that is the Detroit Tiger Offense (DTO, since all blights these days have a nickname) arrives in Jacobs Field on May 19th.

  • Star Performer: Only a hamstring problem has been able to stop Milton Bradley so far this year. It's amazing how short of an attention span we've all developed for prospects. One season without growth and we tend to move on to the next flavor of the month. In the case of Bradley, and for that matter, a heck of a lot of other prospects, we tend to forget how good they once were. Going all the way back...the Thamesmen, with "Cups and Cakes..."
    
    Year    Age         Team    Level     AVG   OBP   SLG   SB   CS
    ---------------------------------------------------------------
    1999     21   Harrisburg       AA    .329  .391  .526   14   10
    2000     22       Ottawa      AAA    .304  .385  .421   10   15
    
    
    So, by the age of 22, Bradley had shown the abilities to hit for average and power, as well as control the strike zone. In the high minors. Amazing what short memories we all have. Bradley will be back from the DL soon, and if he's healthy, he'll continue his breakout season. All the better for his end-of-year numbers that he misses the AL West meat grinder part of the schedule, and comes back against Detroit's Four Horseman rotation. Or is it Horsman?

  • Help on the Farm: Josh Bard knows stress at this point. Victor Martinez isn't completely lighting up the International League, but he's putting up good numbers despite "not being in his rhythm" according to one scout. Martinez is hitting .278/.407/.389, with more walks than strikeouts, and "improving" footwork, according to the same scout. The Indians are one of the better-run franchises in baseball, and their plan is moving forward nicely, particularly on the offensive side of the ball. Bradley, Martinez, and Brandon Phillips will all be productive members of the next Indians team to be the best in the division, possibly as early as late next season. Bard might be, but it'll be as Martinez's backup. He's not exactly Luis Sojo in 1995, but it's still a similar feeling, one would bet.

Los Angeles Dodgers

  • Pen-tastic: Did you hear that? That was the sound of the Dodger bullpen slamming the door and bolting it shut. I know this because it's a sound that's been heard quite often this past month--more often, even, than the sounds of a disappointed crowd begging the offense to manufacture some runs.

    Exactly how good has the Dodgers bullpen been over the past month? Scary good. So good, in fact, that they've prevented more than TWICE the runs--according to Michael Wolverton's kick-ass Reliever Evaluation Tools--that Arizona's bullpen has, the second-best relief squadron in the National League. That's just ungodly, as Crash Davis might say.

    And yet, the difference gets even larger when you eliminate relievers who've appeared in fewer than five innings. Check it out:

    
              Dodgers                       Diamondbacks
    
    Pitcher       G    IP   ARP     Pitcher       G   IP    ARP
    ---------------------------     ---------------------------
    Brohawn,T    10  10.0   1.3     Batista,M     6   9.3  -1.9
    Gagne,E      13  14.1   7.7     Koplove,M    13  18.0   6.9
    Martin,T     14   9.2   3.8     Mantei,M     11  12.3   3.8
    Mota,G       13  14.0   3.9     Myers,M      13   8.3  -2.4
    Quantrill,P  16  11.2   5.3     Randolph,S   12  14.7  -2.7
    Shuey,P      10  13.1   4.2     Villarreal,O 15  17.3   6.3
    ---------------------------     ---------------------------
    TOTAL        77  75.2  26.2     TOTAL        75  84.3  10.0
    
    
    On an individual scale, 16 Adjusted Runs Prevented is roughly the difference between the best reliever in the majors right now, Brendan Donnelly (10.9 ARP, 17 IP, 0.00 ERA), and one of the worst relievers in the majors right now, Armando Benitez (-7.0 ARP, 13.2 IP, 7.24 ERA).

    What's more, the Dodger bullpen has been doing its best work away from the pitcher-friendly confines of Chavez Ravine. Take a look at their unadjusted numbers on the road so far:

    
    Pitcher          IP   K  BB  RA
    -------------------------------
    Brohawn,T       4.1   5   0   0
    Gagne,E         8.0  14   3   0
    Martin,T        4.2   5   3   0
    Shuey,P         8.1   7   5   1
    Quantrill,P     8.0   6   0   1
    Mota,G          7.1   7   3   1
    -------------------------------
    TOTAL          40.2  43  14   3!
    
    
    Three runs allowed in more than 40 high-leverage innings on the road?! Look "dominance" up in the dictionary, and the above chart, I believe, is what appears as the definition.

    What does this project for the future, though? Very little, unfortunately. Despite series against the Giants and Phillies, L.A. spent a good portion of the past month battling against the Diamondbacks and Padres--teams that are in the bottom half of the majors in team Equivalent Average (EqA). With an upcoming schedule that features series against the Braves (fourth in the league in EqA) and in Colorado, chances are that career mediocrities such as Troy Brohawn and Guillermo Mota will hit earth's surface around the same time The Matrix Reloaded begins to hit theaters.

    But then again, who knows? Perhaps in a month we'll be here again talking about this bullpen in the same sentence as the 1990 Oakland Athletics. Stranger things have happened.

  • Wretched Performance:

    This is the way the world ends
    This is the way the world ends
    This is the way the world ends
    Not with a bang but a whimper.

    OK, so maybe Fred McGriff hasn't been that bad. After all, what can you really expect from a 39-year-old first baseman who began his career during the Lloyd Moseby era of Toronto baseball? Nevertheless, the Crime Dog appears to have lost a good portion of his bite this season--hitting neither for power (.388 SLG) nor for average (.235 BA), while upping his strikeout rate ever-so-slightly, a sign that often indicates declining bat speed.

    Hell, at least we can say he's been better than Cesar Izturis--a compliment that falls in the same category as telling someone that they're less annoying than Chris Berman, or more talented than the members of Creed.

Seattle Mariners

  • Finance/Economics: Mariner fans haven't come out for weeknight games so far this year. Many cite the cold: When the first pitch is thrown, the temperature has regularly been in the low 50s, and during games has gone as low as 45 with the wind. Three mid-week home games against the Indians were among Safeco Field's Top 10 lowest attended games since Opening Day. Attendance at the Oakland homestand also ran under 30,000 a game, with one on the Top 10 and others just missing the cutoff. The Mariners will have to consider scheduling more day games early, or recognize that they're trading attendance for prime-time local media dollars.

    The Mariners have already been carping about being over budget, and combined with low attendance, they may look (again) to trade Mike Cameron, who will be paid $7.4 million this season and continues to struggle at Safeco Field (which is bad, since he plays half his games there). Replacing Cameron is tempting for the owners, as both Randy Winn and Ichiro play center field well.

  • Wretched Performance: Jeff Cirillo came off a terrible 2002 campaign vowing to return better and stronger and teach us all a lesson. Instead, he's the worst-hitting regular player on the roster. Since being acquired from Colorado, Cirillo has shown none of the Milwaukee-years form that the Mariners had hoped he'd demonstrate, and carries a monster contract--$6.85 million for this year, and running through 2005--that will make him difficult to move or bench.

  • Star Performer: Last year, Gil Meche was booed in Double-A San Antonio for his inability to get outs as he returned from his second labrum surgery. He came out of spring training a surprise fifth starter, and after a Texas drubbing in his second appearance, he's shut out every team he's faced in his three starts and 21 innings of work and now ranks No. 26 on the Top 30 starters by SNWL at press time. Meche provides hope that baseball may finally see a pitcher return from labrum surgery to his former effectiveness, and the minor-league excellence of the White Sox's Jon Rauch may mean there could be two by the end of the season.

  • Managers and Coaches: Greg Colbrunn was brought on during this off-season to provide a bat off the bench that Piniella's teams had almost all lacked. Colbrunn posted EQAs of .299, .284, and .316 over the last three years in Arizona. The signing cost the Mariners a first-round draft pick and several million bucks. But Melvin has not used Colbrunn at all. Colbrunn hasn't been used to rest Olerud against tough lefties, or even lefties in general. He hasn't been used as a pinch-hitter. He's started only four times, and appeared in only six games totaling a scant 18 plate appearances this season. Bob Melvin has pinch-hit for Colbrunn with Willy Bloomquist, who hit little in his pro career, Edgar Martinez, taking a marginal upgrade at that at-bat instead of using Edgar to pinch-hit for one of the offensive zeros who followed, and twice now with John Mabry, who is a career awful hitter.

    In the Mariners' 8-5 loss to the Yankees, right-hander Juan Acevedo faced Colbrunn after throwing wildly to three batters, his only strike a home run by Bret Boone. Warming up in the Yankee bullpen was lefty Chris Hammond. The solution here is obvious: Colbrunn hits righties, the pitcher isn't throwing well...let Colbrunn hit, right? Instead, Melvin sent lefty John Mabry up, the Yankees brought in Hammonds, who predictably got Mabry out.

    No one has yet offered an adequate explanation of why Melvin, who as the Diamondbacks bench coach has seen Colbrunn hit pitchers from both sides, has forsaken Colbrunn.

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