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May 21, 2004

Prospectus Triple Play

Los Angeles Dodgers, Minnesota Twins, San Francisco Giants

by Baseball Prospectus

Los Angeles Dodgers

  • Swing, Batter: The Dodgers currently have the best record in the National League at 22-16, one and a half games ahead of the Padres in the NL West and a half-game ahead of the Astros overall. However, they are a .500 team in games decided by more than one run, and their run scoring (10th in the league) looks more like a .500 team than a contender:

    They were batting .282/.339/.443 as a team in April--but have slipped to .255/.310/.414 in May. Let's look at a few of these hitters.

    Last time around, we suggested that Paul LoDuca would cool off eventually.

    
           G   AB   AVG   OBP   SLG   OPS
    April  20  77  .416  .447  .545  .993
    May    12  49  .265  .321  .306  .627
    2004           .357  .399  .452  .851
    
    
    ...yup, looks like a hot start cooling off. Those May numbers look closer to his 50th percentile projection of .270/.332/.401.

    How about Adrian "Walk Year" Beltre?

    
            G  AB   AVG   OBP   SLG    OPS
    April  22  85  .353  .367  .647  1.014
    May    14  59  .356  .356  .576   .932
    2004           .354  .362  .618   .980
    
    
    Almost no drop-off here. This may be for real and greatly exceeds his projections.

    But for a quick reminder of the dangers of small sample size: ladies and gentlemen, Mr. Alex Cora and the month of May 2004...

    
            G  AB  AVG  OBP  SLG   OPS
    April  18  61 .213 .284 .344  .628
    May    12  38 .421 .511 .579 1.090
    2004          .293 .375 .434  .809
    
    
    Not enough here yet to suggest 2002 wasn't a fluke year...
    
            G  AB  AVG  OBP  SLG  OPS
    2000  109 353 .238 .302 .357 .658
    2001  134 405 .217 .285 .306 .591
    2002  115 258 .291 .371 .434 .805
    2003  148 477 .249 .287 .338 .625
    2004   30  99 .293 .375 .434 .809
    
    

  • Lima Time?: We called out Hideo Nomo's projected slump at the beginning of the season. So far he has borne that out:
    
    Date    Opp.  IP   H  R ER HR BB  K
    Apr 5   SDG   5.0  7  7  7  2  2  1
    Apr 10  COL   6.0  4  2  2  1  3  7
    Apr 15  @SDG  5.0  6  3  3  2  2  0
    Apr 21  @COL  6.0  9  4  4  1  2  2
    Apr 27  NYM   6.0  5  4  4  3  2  3
    May 2   MON   5.0  7  3  3  1  3  2
    May 8   @PIT  6.0  7  3  3  2  0  3
    May 13  CHN   1.1  3  6  6  0  3  1
    TOTAL        40.1 48 32 32 12 17 19
    
    
    A look at our pitching report shows that his overall statistics put him towards the bottom of the stack of major league pitchers: 10.7 H/9, 2.7 HR/9, 4.2 K/9, 1.1 K/BB… this is almost Josh Fogg territory, and bad enough that manager Jim Tracy has publicly considered benching him if there isn't quick improvement.

    How bad is it? Here's the fateful second inning in that May 13 start against the Cubs: leadoff single to Aramis Ramirez; Todd Hollandsworth walks; Derrek Lee walks; Ramon Martinez walks (!), scoring A-Ram; Paul Bako singles, scoring Hollandsworth; Carlos Zambrano grounds into a fielder's choice, scoring Lee; and, coming around to the top of the order, Tom Goodwin singles, scoring Martinez. Now it's 4-0, Cubbies; Nomo is yanked, and Jose Lima comes in, cruelly allowing Nomo's 5th and 6th earned runs to score on a double to Moises Alou but allowing no earned runs of his own in 5.2 innings of relief.

    Lima presumably would be the beneficiary of a Nomo benching, particularly since Edwin Jackson's strikeout and walk rates have come back to reality in Las Vegas (AAA); so far Joel Hanrahan looks about equally ready. And of course at this point the notion that Darren Dreifort would make it back into the Dodger rotation cannot be entertained with much sobriety.

    But would Lima really be that much of an improvement over Nomo?

    
           H/9    BB/9  SO/9  HR/9  BAA  ERA
    Nomo   10.7   3.8   4.2   2.7  .277  7.14
    Lima   11.4   4.2   5.2   1.0  .300  5.88
    
    
    Mediocre option though he may be, perhaps it wasn't such a great idea to trade Tanyon Sturtze for magic beans after all. But this way we can all look forward to Joe Sheehan's comments after he gets to watch him start for the Yankees.

Minnesota Twins

    "You Can't Lose With Lohse": The Twins have a 23-15 record, good enough for a two-game lead over the White Sox in the AL Central and the second best record in the American League overall, trailing only the hot-hitting Angels. However, their run differential is a mere +4, suggesting they may be playing over their heads. Their team ERA of 4.40 puts them behind the clear league leaders--Boston: 3.48; Oakland: 3.92; White Sox: 4.19--but roughly even with the Angels and (the surprising) Rangers.

    The rotation has been a mixed bag so far.

    
    Player      GS  IP     H  HR  BB   K    ERA   WHIP   BAA
    Radke        9  55.0  68   5   5  35   4.09   1.33  .306
    Silva        8  49.1  61   4   9  22   4.01   1.42  .302
    Santana      8  46.1  48   8  13  40   4.47   1.32  .271
    Lohse        8  44.0  56   7  25  20   5.93   1.84  .313
    Greisinger   4  25.1  30   5   7  20   5.33   1.46  .286
    
    

    • Brad Radke is ahead of his midline projection. He has always had good control but his strikeout to walk rate is gaudy.
    • Carlos Silva has been playing in the ballpark of his 75th percentile projection.
    • BP favorite Johan Santana has had some early struggles, notably in two three-homer outings against Kansas City and Oakland. Still, nice strikeout rate.
    • Kyle Lohse's generosity with first base resembles a county fair kissing booth.
    • Finally, comeback kid Seth Greisinger is pitching eerily close to his 50th percentile projection:
    • 
                H/9   BB/9  K/9   HR/9  ERA
      Actual   10.7   2.5   7.1   1.8   5.33
      50%ile   10.4   2.6   4.5   1.4   5.32
      
      

  • Helling vs. Greisinger: Rick Helling has recovered from his broken leg and has been playing well in AA ball. The question facing Ron Gardenhire in the immediate future is whether Greisinger is the long term solution for the five-spot in his rotation; Helling wants out if he won't start. This decision is somewhere between "Aaron Sele vs. Ramon Ortiz" and "Boca Burger vs. Morningstar patty"; yes, you get to make a choice, but neither option is very satisfying. Going into the season, of course, your answer to the question "Helling or Greisinger" was probably "Grant Balfour." Who does PECOTA like? Sorting by peripheral ERA, it's a no-brainer.
    
                        H/9   BB/9  K/9   HR/9  PERA   VORP
    Balfour    50%ile   7.5   3.3   8.6   0.9   3.60   18.8
    Helling    50%ile   9.2   2.4   5.5   1.4   4.91    9.3
    Greisinger 50%ile  10.4   2.6   4.5   1.4   5.31    3.4
    
    Balfour    90%ile   6.0   2.6   9.6   0.4   2.12   41.1
    Helling    90%ile   8.1   2.0   6.0   0.8   3.55   41.2
    Greisinger 90%ile   9.0   2.3   5.1   0.9   4.04   20.4
    
    
    Helling comes close in the upside table due to a huge advantage in expected innings. And Greisinger--well, his comps have a lot of downwards-pointing red arrows

  • Paging John Fogerty: Center fielder (and career-year cash-in poster boy) Torii "Hamstring" Hunter missed most of April but has an 1008 OPS in May. In his absence Lew Ford got a lot of playing time and has been one of the great stories so far this year, hitting .333/.392/.524. The Twins continue to have a lot of depth in the outfield but Shannon Stewart's latest injury probably cements Ford's place in the lineup for a while. Michael Cuddyer has been batting .210/.264/.370 as opposed to Michael Ryan's .326/.367/.413 line; Cuddyer, once a highly regarded prospect, hasn't made much of a splash in several opportunities with the Twins.

    Back in the lineup: nominal catcher Matthew LeCroy, who returned on May 11 and since then is 7-for-21 with a double and a home run. Rookie catcher Joe Mauer is rehabbing from his knee injury and is expected to return later this month or in early June. This is good news for the Twins; Henry Blanco was on fire in April but has a painful .125/.167/.175 line in May (and declining OPSes of .634, .602, and .523 over the three years preceding).

San Francisco Giants

    Dustyball: Let's make sure we've got this right: Jason Schmidt, the Giants' ace and most valuable pitcher, but who was the tenth-most-abused pitcher last year, had surgery in the off-season and started this year on the DL; this is the same Jason Schmidt that Felipe Alou left out there for 144 pitches over the course of a one-hit complete game start on Monday, right? Just checking. It's not like he was trying to out-gun Randy Johnson, either; three Cubs had gotten on base by the fifth. Giants fans hope this doesn't come back to haunt them later in the year.

    That's assuming there is a meaningful "later in the year, of course" - not a safe assumption for a team with a losing record, the second-fewest runs scored in the NL and the second-worst NL team ERA. The 2004 Giants, even more than in previous years, ride on the back on Barry Bonds - a shame he doesn't have a first name like "Irritable," "Inhuman," "Ignatz," or perhaps "Intentional" to give him even more appropriate initials - and Bonds's latest injury / pending DL stint makes hopes of a turnaround even less likely. There's only so far the well-traveled, ever-fragile Jeffrey Hammonds can take you.

  • On The Mound: If there's any good news for Giants fans so far this season, it's that Jerome Williams is for real (unlike 2003 trade dumpee Kurt Ainsworth). Apart from some gopheritis, he has proven himself to be a solid member of the rotation.

    The bad news on the starting pitching front is that Kirk Reuter and Brett Tomko have been lousy and Dustin Hermanson...er...has a favorable K/BB ratio after five starts and, unlike Reuter and Tomko, a positive VORP.

    
              GS  IP     H    HR   BB   K    ERA    WHIP    BAA
    Tomko      8  45.0   58    6   18   24   6.00   1.69   .302
    Rueter     8  44.0   56    5   16   14   5.52   1.64   .308
    Hermanson  5  27.0   29    4    7   21   4.67   1.27   .284
    
    
    Alou doesn't have a lot of choices, unfortunately. Jim Brower seems like the first option: he is already on the active roster, started a few games last year and has 28 career starts. However, over the last three years he has an ERA of 5.38 as a starter--not noticeably better than the starters of today--as opposed to 3.66 as a reliever. A better option may be Kevin Correia, currently cooling his heels in Fresno, who had some success with the big club last year.

  • Infield Changes: After trying out third base, first base, and, yes, right field, Pedro Feliz is starting at short this week. For those keeping track of Giants' light-hitting infielders, that's one down (OPS .508), one to go (OPS .658). (Unfortunately, for all that Feliz has those seven home runs, he has been somewhat of a rally-killer, three-for-21 with runners in scoring position and two outs.)

    Meanwhile, Ray Durham is back and Edgardo Alfonzo's bat has heated up:

    
            AVG  OBP  SLG  OPS
    April  .219 .296 .288 .584
    May    .386 .426 .500 .926
    
    
    Now if A.J. Pierzynski could live up to expectations, they might have something going in the infield.

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<< Previous Article
Premium Article Can Of Corn: Cards Arm... (05/21)
<< Previous Column
Prospectus Triple Play... (05/19)
Next Column >>
Prospectus Triple Play... (05/25)
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Premium Article Transaction Analysis: ... (05/21)

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