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May 5, 2004

Prospectus Today

Stroll Through the Stats: AL Edition

by Joe Sheehan

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I think I've said this before, but right now, the National League is much more interesting than its junior counterpart. It's not quite 1955 or anything, but in doing two columns like this back-to-back, you realize just how much more is going on in the NL.

Nevertheless, we'll stroll...

  • Darin Erstad is hitting .267/.288/.333, with three walks in 120 at-bats. This fits in with--is actually even a bit worse than--his 2000-02 performance, and makes him the worst first baseman in the AL. Big shock.

    The Angels were right about one thing, though: moving him to first base has kept him healthy. He's played in every game.

  • It would appear that my offseason concern over Troy Glaus' right shoulder was misplaced. He's off to a monster start at .284/.364/.705, on pace to have his best season ever.

  • It's weird...for all the power the Orioles supposedly added over the winter, they're just 12th in the AL in home runs. Larry Bigbie leads the team with four. They're fifth in runs, though, as the top five guys in the lineup are all putting up at least a .320 BA and a .380 OBP.

    If you were thinking about climbing on the bandwagon, don't: the rotation's composite strikeout-to-walk ratio is 79/75.

  • With Nomar Garciaparra's return getting closer, the Red Sox are going to have an interesting decision to make. Mark Bellhorn is third on the team in OBP and out-hitting Pokey Reese by what would be about 50 runs over a full season. I think Reese has to be in the lineup behind Derek Lowe, but none of the other Red Sox starters gets enough ground balls to justify playing him over Bellhorn.

    How Terry Francona handles this is the first real test for him as Red Sox manager.

  • Nobody asked me, but I wouldn't sign Pedro Martinez to a three-year contract at gunpoint, and I wouldn't commit to more than $20MM over the life of a two-year deal. The Sox have better uses--Edgar Renteria, to name one--for that money.

    And no, Lowe isn't one of them. Why people are lumping him in with Martinez, Garciaparra and Jason Varitek is beyond me. He's a No. 3 starter heavily dependent on his defense. Although I suppose if Sidney Ponson can turn one good half into $22 million, Lowe will do all right for himself.

  • Kenny Williams has taken a lot of valid criticism over the years, but too much for the Chad Bradford trade. At the time, Bradford was an effective minor-league reliever, and the prospect he brought in return had considerable upside. After a few years, Miguel Olivo has established himself as a two-way catcher, hitting .300/.375/.520 so far this year and throwing out 33% of basestealers in his career.

    Maybe Olivo never gets a chapter in a book, but he's a very good player, and more than worth the price paid.

  • American League K/BB fun: Rafael Betancourt, 18/1. Really, that's about it.

  • It doesn't get as much play as the Erstad contract, but the Twins' commitment to Torii Hunter off of one good year--one good half, really--has been a huge burden on them. Outside of the first half of the '02 season, when he hit .306/.347/.564, Hunter's career line is .259/.305/.438. Even with his defense, that's not an $8MM/year player. The financial commitment to him keeps him in the middle of the lineup, where his current .273 OBP is killing the team.

    As was written in Baseball Prospectus 2004, the Twins have had a nasty habit of makiing contract commitments to players who were coming off their best season. The money committed to Hunter, Jacque Jones, Brad Radke, Shannon Stewart and Doug Mientkiewicz has kept the team from sliding in cheaper, sometimes better, replacements and sucked up cash that could have been put to better use.

  • One reason I don't like arguments that assign a player value for playing a particular style is that they tend to not be heard when that player's average drops 40 points. Erstad comes to mind, but the big one for me is Ichiro Suzuki, who no one seems to talk about any more now that 1) he's hitting .277 and 2) the team around him is old and mediocre.

    Ichiro won't hit .277 all season, but even hitting .320, he's not nearly as a good a player as he's perceived to be. His value is in his batting average, not in his style.

    Juan Pierre falls into the same category, although it should be noted that Pierre has been improving his walk rate the last two years.

  • Speaking of fast players, Carl Crawford is off to a good start (.320/.364/.456). He's just 22, and while he's not the type of player I usually endorse, his youth, his improvement over the past three years and his excellent defense have me intrigued. He could be anything from Doug Glanville on the low side to Devon White or Kenny Lofton on the high side.

    I've said it before and I'll say it again: I'd rather have him than Rocco Baldelli, and it's not close.

  • Hey, the Practically Perfect Backup Catcher is back! Gregg Zaun was the Jays' response to Greg Myers' injury, and he's stepped in and gone 8-for-14 with a double and a homer since his call-up.

    As a fan and as a writer, I've probably doled out a hundred nicknames to players over the years. It never really caught on, but Zaun's "PPBC" designation remains my favorite. Here's hoping he gets to hang around after Myers' heals up. Heck, the Jays could use him to platoon in left field and be no worse off--Dave Berg?!?!-than they are now.

  • More about the Jays:
    
                                           AB   AVG   OBP   SLG
    Eric Hinske and Josh Phelps 2002      831  .288  .364  .507
    Eric Hinske and Josh Phelps 2003      845  .254  .342  .452
    Eric Hinske and Josh Phelps 2004      203  .251  .323  .355
    
    
    That's gotta stop.

Joe Sheehan is an author of Baseball Prospectus. 
Click here to see Joe's other articles. You can contact Joe by clicking here

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