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September 19, 2003

Prospectus Triple Play

Cleveland Indians, Los Angeles Dodgers, Seattle Mariners

by Baseball Prospectus

Cleveland Indians

  • Stand Up and Be Counted: The trade deadline's passed, the new World Champion won't be crowned for about another five weeks, and yet, the trade rumors are buzzing, based on role changes, competition for limited space, and up and coming prospects. Who might be moving?

    Milton Bradley: Word is that Indians' management isn't overly pleased with Bradley's comportment. Add to that the promising play of Jody Gerut, Alex Escobar, and Grady Sizemore, and a series of slow baseball news days in Cleveland, and the rumors fly. Of course, Bradley's had a few minor health injuries, such as a strained wrist, a bruised back with potential disk trouble, appendicitis, a broken orbital, and oblique problems. If Mark Shapiro does move Bradley in the offseason, it will be an acid test for his skill as a dealer--Bradley's got a tremendous upside, combined with tremendous risk. Getting proper value for that type of player is no mean trick.

    Danys Baez: Baez can start or relieve, and has better stuff than his numbers would indicate. Bob Wickman should return at full strength in 2004, and adding his salary to Baez's could make for a very expensive and risky bullpen, something that's out of vogue everywhere except Arlington.

  • Landshark: Ben Broussard had his chance. When Travis Hafner was relegated to Triple-A to find his batting stroke, Broussard had a couple of months to shine and step decisively ahead of Hafner on the depth chart, and, more importantly, in the eyes of the front office. He didn't fall on his face or anything, but he hit .240/.296/.410 since the All-Star break, cementing his future as a John Mabry type ballplayer. Hafner's since come back from Triple-A, and he apparently found his batting stroke--to the tune of .301/.379/.562 since the All-Star Break, or about what Paul Konerko was once aiming for.

  • For What You Are About To Receive: Check out this little scattergraph. One axis of the graph is Player Age, the other is VORP. The Cleveland Indians are represented on the graph by Red Circles, and, just for comparison's sake, the Seattle Mariners are represented by Blue-Green Diamonds. Each data point represents one player's 2003 season.

    Some interesting notes: The Indians have only three players above the age of 33, and none are major contributors to the team, due to injury, ineffectiveness, or both. The Indians also have a tremendous proportion of their players between the ages of 23 and 26, which gives them an opportunity to significantly improve in a very short period of time. The Indians are one of very few clubs with virtually no systemic Alvin Davis Aging Syndrome, where players mysteriously fall of a cliff in terms of their production. The Indians have truly embraced portfolio theory; some of the young guys will fall by the wayside, but some won't, and a couple will take big steps forward.

Los Angeles Dodgers

  • The Wire: So here we are, 10 days away from the end of the regular season, and still the National League Wild Card race is up in the air. Only two-and-a-half games seperate the Dodgers, Cubs, Phillies, and surging Marlins, yet--according to Nate Silver's Postseson Odds Report--the likelihood of each team making the playoffs varies greatly, from a coin flip (44.7%, for both the Phillies and Marlins), to the chance that the world will end in March (38.4%, for the Cubs), to the chance that a BP member could get through a weekday without using the phrase "TINSTAAPP" (3.9%, for the Dodgers).

    2003 National League Wild Card Standings

    
    National    W  L  Pct  GB  Home  Road  RS  RA  Strk L10
    -------------------------------------------------------
    Marlins    84 68 .553  -- 48-27 36-41 709 650 Lst 1 7-3
    Phillies   84 69 .549 0.5 47-28 37-41 758 652 Won 1 5-5
    Cubs       82 70 .539 2.0 42-36 40-34 669 639 Won 3 7-3
    Dodgers    81 70 .536 2.5 45-33 36-37 541 494 Won 1 6-4
    
    
    Why is that the case, however? Could two-and-a-half games really mean that much down the stretch, even with the Phillies and Marlins locking horns for a three-game set next Tuesday in perhaps the most exciting series of the year? Could three notches in the win column really be so meaningful as to put the Dodgers' chances of making the playoffs only slightly higher than Gallagher's chance of becoming governor?

    The short answer, of course, would be yes. As you've probably already guessed, each team left in the Wild Card race has a differing degree of difficulty left in its remaining schedule--a fact that highly influences each team's chance of making the playoffs. The Cubs, for example, have the easiest schedule going forward, as they're slated for three games against the cellar-dwelling Reds and seven games against the Pirates. Weighted, the aggregate third-order winning percentage of their opponents, down the stretch--which accounts for luck and prior strength of schedule, and ought to have the most predictive value--checks in at .449. Here are the others:

    
    Marlins (G)     Dodgers  (G)	Phillies (G)     Cubs     (G)
    -----------	------------	------------     ------------
    Braves  (4)	Giants   (4)	Reds     (3)     Pirates  (4)
    Phils   (3)	Padres   (3)	Marlins  (3)     Reds     (3)
    Mets    (3)	Giants   (3)	Braves   (3)     Pirates  (3)
    -----------	------------	------------     ------------
    AdjW%  .525	AdjW%  .516	AdjW%   .503     AdjW%   .449
    
    
    As you can see, the average opponent for the Dodgers coming down the stretch is the second-toughest in the group. Where the Cubs get to face bona fide mediocrity for the next week-and-a-half, and the Marlins get to face an aggregate clone of themselves, the Boys in Blue fall somewhere in between, right along with the General MacArthur- Larry Bowa-led Phillies.

    Of course, a cursory look at the standings might show that this .516 figure for the Dodgers seems a little low. After all, the Giants have already claimed the division, and have won more than 61% of their games this season. Shouldn't seven out of the next 10 games against a team like that render a higher Adjusted Opponents' Winning Percentage?

    That fact of the matter is, however, that according to our calculations, the Giants have been exceptionally lucky this season--exceeding their expected wins total by more than 10 games. Check it out:

    
    Team                AEQR AEQRA   W3    L3      D1    D2    D3
    -------------------------------------------------------------
    Braves               838  691  90.7  62.3     4.9   2.0   4.3
    Phillies             734  644  85.4  66.6    -3.8  -2.8  -2.4
    Marlins              691  638  81.1  69.9     2.2   2.6   2.9
    Expos                654  669  74.9  78.1     1.3   4.2   2.1
    Mets                 581  725  60.2  90.8    -1.6   6.5   2.8
    
    Team                AEQR AEQRA   W3    L3      D1    D2    D3
    -------------------------------------------------------------
    Cubs                 646  591  82.1  69.9     2.9  -1.5  -0.1
    Astros               680  624  81.0  69.0    -6.2  -1.3   1.0
    Cardinals            801  779  78.6  74.4    -4.1  -2.1  -0.6
    Pirates              687  720  72.1  78.9    -0.1  -2.4  -2.1
    Brewers              689  810  64.2  87.8     2.3   0.3   0.8
    Reds                 639  831  57.2  94.8     5.4   8.9   7.8
    
    Team                AEQR AEQRA   W3    L3      D1    D2    D3
    -------------------------------------------------------------
    Giants               697  626  82.5  67.5     8.3   8.7  10.5 *
    Diamondbacks         664  612  81.6  70.4    -1.3  -4.4  -2.6
    Dodgers              522  506  76.9  73.1    -0.6   1.8   3.1
    Rockies              766  842  68.9  83.1    -3.3  -0.5   0.1
    Padres               656  759  65.1  85.9     0.1  -4.2  -6.1
    
    
    D3, for the uninitiated, is the difference between a team's "real" wins and their "third-order" wins, which are adjusted for park, prior strength of schedule, etc. The Giants, as you can see, have the highest D3 score in the National League, meaning that they've been extremely lucky.

    All that being said, the Dodgers aren't totally out of the Wild Card hunt. Their pitching has been predictably awesome lately, and their offense has even managed to come to life a bit, scoring more than four (!) runs per game in the month of September. The only problem is, their destiny lies the hands another.

Seattle Mariners

  • No Need to Get Down, I'm Already Low: Jeff Cirillo hasn't played a game since August 30th in a 13-1 blowout at home against Baltimore. His last start was August 21st in Toronto, for a total of three starts since he was activated from the DL August 19th. Some of this has come from the August 23rd return of "Glass" Carlos Guillen, whose latest nagging injury is an inflamed pelvis, and the team's moved him to third to get him in the lineup while protecting his injury as much as possible, and at the same time keep defensive-specialist-with-a-flukey-.306/.342/.333 line Rey Sanchez picking the ball at shortstop.

    There's some speculation in Seattle the team is hoping Cirillo, who will be paid $6.725 million in 2004 and $7.025 million in 2005 (with a team option for 2006 at the bargain price of $7.625 million), might accept a buyout of his remaining years if he'd otherwise sit on the bench. Cirillo went on the DL for a vague injury to his right shoulder on July 25, and spent quality time in the Arizona Rookie League, working on his hitting during the rehab (for his shoulder), and then strained his ribcage in Triple-A, and ended up not returning until late in August.

    July 25th through August 18th: WWLLWWWWLWWWLLLWWLWWLWLW or 15-9, almost a month of over-.600 ball (warning: includes 3 games against Detroit)

    Backstop or Field General?: Pat Borders should star as himself in a TV movie of this season.

    "Pat, we've got a job for you."
    "Gillick, I'm already retired."
    "We want you to come up in August, catch for this Garcia kid."
    "No way man, no way."

    Catcher Dan Wilson complained about Freddy's approach following a shelling by Tampa Bay. Wilson used in gentle terms, but it marks the first time Wilson has ever openly criticized a teammate, and since then Borders has been Garcia's personal catcher.

    Borders has caught three games now as half a battery with the reputed head case and indisputably wildly erratic starter, during which Borders has been seen yelling at Garcia before the game even starts, and having mound conferences that are more confrontations than a meeting of the mind, and might--and we're speculating here, because he unfortunately is not miked--involve some choice bilingual curse words.

    Garcia's lines for those three games:

    
    Date    Opp.    IP      R       H       BB      K
    -------------------------------------------------
    9/07    Bal.    7       2       4       2       7
    9/13    Ana.    8       0       6       3       5
    9/18    Tex.    4       0       1       0       1
    
    
    (Garcia didn't return Wednesday after a rain delay)

    A typical Freddy start this year would look more or less like.

    
    IP      R       H       BB      K
    ---------------------------------
    6.1     3.5     6       2       4
    
    
    On a related note: An interesting way to look at his erratic nature would be this, using Bill James' junk metric Game Scores charted against his season of starts:

    A 50 is an average start and you can see Freddy's...spent a lot of time on top and on bottom. If Borders can consistently keep Garcia from disaster starts, it might well be the difference between the M's missing the playoffs by a slim margin or a large one.

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