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July 1, 2003

Prospectus Triple Play

Boston Red Sox, Cincinnati Reds, San Diego Padres

by Baseball Prospectus

Boston Red Sox

  • Amazing Game: June 27th's 25-8 massacre of the Marlins was one of the most remarkable games of the year. Much has been already written about the records set--most runs before an out was recorded, ties for most first-inning runs (and probably pitcher/manager ejected with the greatest lead)--and the scary line drive off of Todd Walker's bat that took down Marlins pitcher Kevin Olsen. Eleven batters reached base safely before an out was recorded. If we assume that their current OBPs are reflective of their ability to avoid making an out, we can estimate how rare such an event is.

    Player OBP (as of 6/29)

    1. Johnny Damon .330
    2. Todd Walker .363
    3. Nomar Garciaparra .374
    4. Manny Ramirez .416
    5. David Ortiz .380
    6. Kevin Millar .384
    7. Trot Nixon .401
    8. Bill Mueller .385
    9. Jason Varitek .357

    The probability of each of them reaching base is the product of their OBPs, with Damon and Walker counted twice as they batted around. The probability of these 11 batters reaching base to lead off a given game is 1.8*E-05, or 0.001796%. You'd expect about 344 seasons to go by to see one such game.

  • Star Performer: Nomar Garciaparra has moved up to 3rd in the AL in VORP for position players, behind only Bret Boone and Carlos Delgado, despite a modest April when he hit .273/.319/.482. He's been on fire in June, batting .398/.444/.646, and has hit 12 triples at the season's halfway point, already a career high, and as many as he had from 1999-2002.

  • Microstudy:

    .382/.441/.625 Bill Mueller in 2003, before Shea Hillenbrand was traded
    .259/.314/.426 Bill Mueller in 2003, since Shea Hillenbrand was traded

    .286/.370/.399 Bill Mueller, career 1996-2002

  • Wretched, Disastrous Performer: The bullpen. Other than a four-week stretch of adequacy from the middle of April to the middle of May (4.48 RA, 2.7 K/BB ratio, 0.85 HR/9 IP), the bullpen has been downright awful. Since May 15th, the pen has an RA of 6.24, and is allowing over 1.5 HR/9 innings. The Bosox pen ranks 29th in the majors over that span in avoiding blown saves (only the White Sox were worse). The only effective relievers in that span have been Alan Embree (2.01 RA, 4.4 H/9, 2.4 K:BB) and Mike Timlin (3.13 RA, 7.8 H/9, 7.0 K:BB), and even Timlin has managed to blow two saves in that span.

  • Streaks and Projections: The Red Sox lead the majors in runs per game, having scored 512 runs in 80 games through 6/29. At this rate, they are on pace to score 1036 runs, and would become just the second team since 1950 to score 1000 runs (besides the 1999 Indians). That would be the most runs scored since the 1936 Yankees, and the eighth-highest scoring team since 1900. Of course, the Bosox have the three-fold advantages of the designated hitter, the 162-game season, and a historically high run scoring environment to assist them. But it would still be an impressive accomplishment.

Cincinnati Reds

  • Lineup Change: We've been arguing for it for a while, we've been teased with the possibility earlier this year, and now it's finally here. Well, sort of.

    Spurred on be a spectacularly bad outing by Jimmy Anderson, one of a long string of awful outings by their fifth starters, the Reds have announced that they will go with a four-man rotation, but they are committing to it only until the All-Star Break. If the Reds promptly return to the five-man rotation in the second half of July, then this will have proved to be nothing more than a stopgap measure created by a combination of injuries and ineffectiveness. If they stay with only four starters through the summer, then it will be a somewhat more valid test of how well a four-man rotation will work.

    Regardless of what happens, this move will most likely be wrongly evaluated by most of the media. The important question is whether or not the switch to the four-man rotation makes those four pitchers less effective than they were in a five-man rotation, not whether or not they pitch well. This is an important distinction to make given the woeful state of the Reds' rotation, which has the rather dubious status of being one of four teams with no starter above .500 in SNWL figures. (The others being the Brewers, the Padres, and the Tigers, not exactly inspiring company.) The four-man rotation is not going to suddenly turn Danny Graves, Ryan Dempster, and Paul Wilson into Barry Zito, Tim Hudson, and Mark Mulder. However if it does work it reduces the number of holes the Reds have to fill in their rotation.

  • More Lineup Changes: Austin Kearns' discovery that most outfield walls are in fact immovable objects has opened the way for Steve Smitherman to make it to the big leagues. Many organizations would have regarded Smitherman as an organizational soldier given his low draft status (23rd round) and the fact that he doesn't light up scouting reports based on tools. What he does do is hit. And hit. And hit some more.

    Smitherman picked right up after a solid California League season last year and was destroying Southern League pitching this year to the point where he was the second -best hitter in the league. The Reds deserve credit for giving him the shot he's receiving. How large an opportunity he'll actually get remains to be seen. The Reds are currently only carrying 10 pitchers, so when Gabe White is ready to come off the DL, it's a good bet that a position player will be sent out, and unless someone else gets hurt, Smitherman is the likely candidate.

    In the longer term, being an outfielder in the Reds' system is a tough place to be. While it's always quite possible that Ken Griffey, Jr. will get hurt yet again, or that the Reds' will give up on Sean Casey and move Adam Dunn to first, Smitherman's best chance to play regularly may be to get traded to a team that recognizes his value.

    The move the Reds almost made but didn't is one they should make soon. Smitherman was not the first choice to be called up over the weekend, Brandon Larson was. However Larson had a minor shoulder injury, and so was unlikely to be able to play in the next few days. After a disappointing start to the season in the majors, Larson has shown he has nothing left to prove at Triple-A, putting up .337/.392/.604 numbers during his time in Louisville. With the Reds carrying the lead weight of Juan Castro at second base, it's more than time for the Reds to bring Larson back up and go back to the season-opening combination of Larson at third and Aaron Boone at second.

San Diego Padres

  • Outstanding Performer: Rondell White hit his second ninth-inning grand slam in eight days against the Mariners on Sunday, so he's the obvious pick, but let's throw some recognition third baseman Sean Burroughs' way.

    
    Month   AB    H   2B   3B   HR   BB   SO   AVG   OBP   SLG
    May     87   29    4    1    2    4   10  .333  .366  .471
    June    86   31    7    1    1   10   11  .360  .434  .500
    Total  173   60   11    2    3   14   21  .347  .401  .486
    
    

    Burroughs has been all over the basepaths over the last couple of months, his batting average is now above .300 for the season, and at 22, he's well on his way to establishing himself as a guy who belongs in the major leagues.

    Phil Nevin's rehab is apparently ahead of schedule, and he's expected back in a Padre uniform in late July or early August. He's got the right idea; he's not going to be playing much third base in a Padre uniform when he returns.

  • Revisiting the Trade: When the Padres traded Bubba Trammell and Mark Phillips to the Yankees for White, it was all about salary; Trammell was making signed through 2004 for a total of $7.25 million, while the Padres owed White $5 million over 2003 and were free and clear afterwards.

    After three months, the trade looks pretty one-sided:

    
               AB    H   2B   3B   HR   BB   AVG   OBP   SLG
    White     268   78    9    1   15   20  .291  .344  .500
    Trammell   55   11    5    0    0    6  .200  .279  .291
    
                        IP   H    R   ER   BB   SO  HR   ERA
    Phillips (A)      60.2  56   40   38   40   41   1  5.64
    
    

    So what we've got here is White's clutch godliness against Trammell, who the Yanks think so much of that they traded for waiver-bait Karim Garcia last week, a power lefty getting lit up in the FSL, and $2.25 million in addition salary commitments.

    Now it turns out that if the Padres wanted to save money, maybe they just had to staple Trammell to the end of the bench--after he left the team for "unspecified personal reasons" on Sunday, the Yankees put Trammell on the restricted list on Monday, which means they may be able to escape the rest of his contract. Weird.

    If the Padres end up trading White in the next month--something he's pretty sure is going to happen--it'll be interesting to see what they're able to get for him after his impressive first half.

  • Smooth Move: Darren Oliver had held the Padres hitless through 5.1 innings on June 24 when San Diego pitcher Brian Lawrence's spot in the lineup came up. Showing an appropriate amount of respect for the combustible Oliver, skipper Bruce Bochy went to his secret weapon off the bench, giving Adam Eaton the signal.

    Eaton promptly broke up the no-no with a single, taking his season line to .333/.407/.708 over 24 at bats. He's also 2-for-4 as a pinch hitter. The Padres have been held hitless for four innings or more to start a game three times over the last week--by nemesis Ryan Franklin and Joel Pineiro in addition to Oliver--so they need all the help they can get in the pinch-hitting department.

  • Back to .333: the Padres ended June with a 12-15 record, and their exciting six-run ninth against the Mariners put them above .333 for the first time since they were 12-23 on Friday, May 9.

    Onward and upward...

Related Content:  San Diego Padres,  Cincinnati Reds,  Padres,  Reds

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