May 7, 2003
From The Mailbag
Caught Stealing Numbers, Hitting it on the Screws, and Tony Gwynn
Where can you find current stats that indicate CS by base caught at 2nd, 3rd, home? I know these stats exist, but where can someone find them online? If a hitter has a lot of doubles, is he less likely to steal a base (3rd or home) then a hitter that is primarily a singles hitter?
Here's what I have for 1998-2002. As you can see, steal attempts of second outnumber steal attempts of third by more than 7-to-1.
Base SB CS SBPct 2nd 13423 6026 69% 3rd 1940 760 72% home 85 220 28%
(Most caught stealings at home are probably botched squeeze plays.)
I don't know of a place to find breakdowns like this online.
HITTING IT ON THE SCREWS
Went to the Giants game the other night. Barry Bonds hit two home runs. The second one was a line drive that ended up in the bay. We said that "he hit it on the screws." Does anybody have any idea where that term came from? Our only two thoughts were that when we were kids we would sometimes screw or nail a broken bat back together again. If this is the origin, then just the opposite of what is perceived would be the result. I'm sure if you hit a broken bat on the screws, you would never hit a line drive to the bay. Our only other thought was it may have a Naval origin as the prop on a ship is called a screw. Hitting it on the screws wouldn't make much sense either. Just wondering.
Golf phrase, meaning you hit it dead center, on the sweet spot.
From this golf guide:
On the screws: Description for a well-executed shot. In the good ol' days, when woods were made of wood, club makers fitted a plastic insert into the club face as a safeguard against premature wear. These inserts were fastened to the club with screws. When a golfer would hit a good shot, he would say, "I hit it on the screws."
Do not try to skate away from the Gwynn comment by saying you need to write a long piece about it. You can get away with discarding comments by lowlifes like Caminiti, Canseco and Wells, but Gwynn has some credibility. So if you want to have credibility in your profession you better not wait until 2k4 to explain why you think Gwynn is full of it. Players in other sports take uppers, specifically in hockey. Why is it so hard to think baseball players do the same? And I don't even care if they do, it's not like they're high out there. They just prefer amphetamines to coffee so they don't have to (urinate) during the game.
I understand your feelings, but disagree that Gwynn's comments deserve any more time at all. The issue itself does, not Gwynn's comments. I think his own teammates addressed it pretty clearly.
I do NOT deny that players use uppers, downers, and everything in between. It's a problem, one that deserves the same thought and analysis I try to put into all my work, but the issue is so complex that it needs to be done right. Doing it halfway isn't near enough to the target to satisfy me, or what I feel my readers expect and deserve.
If Gwynn had given baseball fans the same respect-providing information, trying to educate people about the issue, finding solutions, and not just tossing out round numbers designed to shock--this wouldn't be an issue...but drugs still would be.
"Traitor state location, overdrawn redneck posterboy for America at its caricatured close-minded worst." How many years ago did Rocker make those comments? And you self-righteous ones continue to pile on this guy. I don't know Rocker and have no idea what kind of person he is. But I think it is really petty the way so many keep rehashing it over and over again. Would you like to be treated this way? Does it assuage your own guilt in relation to the comments he made (and I guarantee you have said as much many times in your life) and make you feel like a man to continue to beat on him?
Apparently my use of terms like 'overdrawn', 'caricatured' or 'posterboy' escaped you, because in using them, I would have thought it was clear that I have little sympathy with those who overreacted to Rocker (from Czar Bud on down), any more than I have any for people who would rally to his defense. If you're trolling for political correctness to whine about, I suggest you look elsewhere and do it on your own time. Sort of like the spectacularly dull program of the same name (or anything associated with Bill Maher), I have little to no interest in what athletes or celebrities think of the world we live in, because it has nothing to do with how we, as an audience, interact with them or know about them in the first place. Getting excited about their opinions, one way or another, is disappointingly superficial.
On stating why the A's will win the AL West this year, you stated, "...because the Angels won't all have career years this season and will have their holes at catcher and first base exposed..." Who had career years for them last season? David Eckstein hit almost identically to his rookie year...Garret Anderson duplicated his RBI totals from the previous season...Troy Glaus' homers took a nosedive...Tim Salmon hit below his average numbers (if you exclude his awful 2001 campaign)...Kevin Appier pitched almost identically, possibly worse, than his 2001 numbers. Jarrod Washburn MAY have had a career year or he might have broken out. Troy Percival pitched a little bit over his head, but that wasn't reflected much in his saves.
Perhaps saying "...because the Angels won't all have career years" is simplifying what I was trying to say, which can happen from time to time in a Roundtable, off-the-cuff format.
I'll highlight a few players to better illustrate my point:
Garret Anderson: Ignoring a counting stat that's also team-dependent like RBI, we see that Anderson posted a career high slugging percentage of .539 and his highest OBP since 1999. At age 30, that looks a lot like a career year.
David Eckstein: Obviously it's early in his career, but Eckstein's OBP and SLG both beat his 2001 effort, and he was 27 years old last year, often a peak level for hitters. While it's still early, he's not looking like a great bet to top his 2002 numbers this year.
Tim Salmon: Though his numbers don't measure up to the ones he posted in his prime, Salmon was coming off a terrible 2001, then managed to rebound to post a line of 286/380/503. He turns 35 this year, and I'd expect him to decline and never match his 2002 level again.
Adam Kennedy: Career highs in batting average (312), OBP (345) and SLG (449), all by a significant margin. A classic career year, given how far out of character his numbers were from previous trends.
Scott Spiezio: Career highs in batting average (285) and OBP (370). I'm at least a little more hopeful for him, as a lot of his gains came via a higher walk total (though he's off to a lousy start this year).
Brad Fullmer: Career high in OBP, just missed career high in SLG, at age 27. (He's tearing up the league so far this season, with a nice bump in his walk rate, though he obviously won't hit .373 all year.)
On the pitching side, you've got Ramon Ortiz, whose ERA dropped dramatically in 2002, largely the result of him giving up an extremely low batting average on balls in play, something he'd never to this extent before.
Ben Weber, Brendan Donnelly: ERAs of 2.54 and 2.17, far exceeding anything either pitcher had ever accomplished before. While ERA is a simplified way to measure a reliever's performance, it's pretty telling in this case. (Donnelly has been absolutely incredible so far this year, yielding an outrageously low five hits in 17 innings--Michael Wolverton has him ranked as the top reliever in baseball based on Adjusted Runs Prevented.
There are probably a few other examples, but hopefully these suffice for this conversation. It's not like any one Angel suddenly hit 57 homers when the previous career high was six, but a huge number of them took significant steps up all at once. The team was also extraordinarily healthy all year long. While it's possible those two events could repeat themselves, it's highly unlikely that the breadth of improvements and health match or even approach what we saw in 2002.