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April 7, 2004

Can Of Corn

Bullets Over Baseball

by Dayn Perry

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It's been uttered in many quarters by many different voices, but it bears repeating: Opening Day is better than a chocolate-covered nap. I hope everyone enjoyed it as much as I did. In honor of this blessed corner of the calendar, I'll regale you today with enough bullet points to snuff out Jason Voorhees--only to see him rise again. Forthwith...

  • The Angels, Reds, Tigers and Twins all broke camp with three catchers on the active roster (the Cards were poised to do so before the trade that sent Chris Widger and Wilson Delgado to the Mets for Roger Cedeno). Of these teams, only the Angels' and Reds' decisions are truly indefensible.

    The Angels, besides having the Fightin' Molinas in tow, will also grace opposing managers with the presence of Josh Paul on the roster. What Paul provides--other than ethnically diversifying the Halo catcher corps--is beyond my ken. He can't hit and is defensively inferior to the Brothers Molina. Surely once Bengie's sore hammies are feeling better, they'll dispatch Paul to the government cheese line.

    The Reds, in addition to starter Jason LaRue, will carry Corky Miller and Javier Valentin. Miller has a reasonable stick for a backup catcher, so he actually has an element of pinch-hitting utility in addition to caddying for LaRue. Valentin, meanwhile, despite a reasonably promising minor league dossier, just hasn't hit at the highest level and really has no place on this roster. Besides, with Ken Griffey Jr. gamboling around in center, they could really use an outfielder on the roster with defensive chops a bit north of Wily Mo Pena's.

    The Tigers' third catcher is Chris Shelton, the first overall selection of last December's Rule 5 cattle call. And I'm relieved they're apparently going to stick with him. He's also a first baseman, so my pigeonholing him as nothing more than a third catcher is a bit unfair. He's almost certainly not ready to tread water at the highest level, but the Tigers may wind up with a nifty prospect on their hands.

    As for the Twins, Matt LeCroy is listed as the third catcher on the roster, but he'll see more time at first base and DH (though Joe Mauer's injury last night could change that, depending on its severity). LeCroy also torches lefties, so he'll be a valuable pinch-hitter when opposing managers myopically call for the lefty specialist to face "Deadly Doug" or Jacque Jones.

  • Want a lesson in what's wrong with bullpen usage in most quarters these days? In Monday's Cards-Brewers tilt, here was the setup: fourth inning, Matt Morris' unlikely double had just plated two, tied the score and chased starter Ben Sheets from the game. So with one out and the go-ahead run in scoring position, the Brewers call on...Dave Burba? It was unassailably a high-leverage situation, and Ned Yost called on arguably the worst pitcher on the staff. It worked, but it crystallizes the kind of "inside the hermetically sealed box" thinking that pollutes bullpen decision-making--actually, decision-making of almost every stripe--these days. Dave Burba?

  • While parting with Aaron Looper and Ryan Ketchner (the latter is particularly impressive) for Jolbert Cabrera is most certainly ill-advised, there is one modestly appealing upshot for Mariners fans: no Ramon Santiago on the roster. The M's already have a woefully paltry bench, but booting Santiago to Tacoma will help somewhat. Don't expect great things from Cabrera; PECOTA calls for a weighted-mean forecast of .254/.317/.370/.247 EqA. But that would be slightly better than what Santiago would've proffered (.248/.317/.339/.240 EqA according to PECOTA). Still, such marginal improvement doesn't approach justification for parting with a promising arm like Ketchner.

  • My most recent Tigers lament: I wish they'd work harder to find out how useful Craig Monroe is. The likely answer is "probably not very," but it would behoove this team to find out for sure. Monroe was unimpressive on balance last season (.240/.287/.449), but he performed Satanic rituals on lefties to the tune of .293/.337/.631 in 157 ABs. Monroe has some reasonably strong power numbers in the high minors, and it'd be swell if the Tigers would see if he's a genuine lefty violator by platooning him regularly with Bobby Higginson.

  • What to make of David Ross? I certainly don't think he could approach his outstanding spot-duty numbers of 2003 (.254/.340/.560) over a full season, but he did show somewhat promising raw power and patience in the minors (.176 Isolated Slugging and 183 unintentional walks in 1,449 minor league ABs). PECOTA, on the weighted-mean tip, says Ross will hit .239/.330/.459/.276 EqA, while Dodgers starter Paul Lo Duca will hit .271/.331/.400/.262 EqA. While I think that's overestimating what Ross would do in full-time duty, I do believe he could provide comparable, and perhaps superior production to Lo Duca for far less money. Trading someone like Lo Duca--whose lofty reputation was forged from a sparkling rookie season not sniffed since--would be something we've come to expect from an exec like Paul DePodesta, Mediterranean loyalties aside. Ross' profile might give DePo the impetus, if not the political cover, to do just that.

  • Is Michael Tucker really going to bat third for the Giants on a permanent basis? The Giants chapter in BP '04 (you have your copy, right?) homed in on the indecent degree to which the Giants depended upon Barry Bonds for their offensive production last season. Well, a rewrite may be in order. Not since Liam Neeson defiled his career by appearing in Satisfaction has an elite performer been surrounded by such drek (yes, Julia, you're drek).

  • Random gut feeling: I think Sean Burroughs is going to best most of his projections for 2004.

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