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July 6, 2004

Prospectus Triple Play

Cleveland Indians, Montreal Expos, Seattle Mariners

by Baseball Prospectus

Cleveland Indians

  • All-Stars: Cleveland will send four of their Indians (possibly Travis Hafner as well) to the All-Star game. What's surprising, however, is not the selection themselves--because, as you can see, each appears deserving, if you're a what-have-you-done-for-me-lately type of voter.
    
    Player     Position  2004 VORP  AL Position Rank
    Sabathia   P         33.4       5th
    Martinez   C         29.6       2nd
    Belliard   2B        31.4       1st
    Lawton     LF        27.3       2nd
    
    
    No, the surprise is that the Indians are third in AL All-Star representatives behind the Yankees (six) and the Rangers (five). Cleveland, though two games below .500, has twice as many reps as the two Central leaders, the White Sox (one) and Twins (one), do combined. Continuing the nearly unthinkable, they outdistance the Red Sox (three), A's (two) and Angels (two) as well.

  • Coors Light: GM Mark Shapiro apparently doesn't think much of Mile High, er...Coors Field, and continues to try to buy low when it comes to Rockies pitchers. After getting Jose Jimenez in the offseason and signing Scott Elarton, Shapiro and Rockies GM Dan O'Dowd apparently got to speaking again, but this time about Shawn Estes. Considering that according to Michael Wolverton's Adjusted Runs Prevented, Cleveland has no relievers in the top 30 and two in the bottom 10 (only Cincinnati comes close to making the same claim, but Todd Jones is 29th), perhaps Shapiro's top priority shouldn't be his starting pitching--but even if it is, it's hard to see how a HACKING MASSter of Estes' ilk is the solution. As a whole, Cleveland's pen is last in the bigs (-47.9 ARP) by a large margin over the second worst pen, Cincinnati (-35.8).

    If Cleveland is going to make a run at the winnable Central, fixing the bullpen is the place to start. Granted, the pen should be better than the rest of the way since half the ARP damage has been done by two huge offenders, the demoted Scott Stewart (-10.7) and the just-replaced closer Jimenez (-13.3).

    Despite those additions by subtraction, the pen's still not good. Relievers are largely fungible commodities, and Shapiro, with his style of taking calculated risks with undervalued players, has an opportunity to make a large impact cheaply. With a record of 68-94 last year and many reasonable expectations this year, an ahead-of-schedule postseason run, and possible appearance, would be a pleasant surprise for Indians fans.

  • Recruiting: For the possible September (and 2005) run, Shapiro and Wedge went recruiting last month, picking up erstwhile Yankee 3B Aaron Boone. According to Boone, the Indians sales pitch--which included touting an organizational plan and much young talent--sold him on wanting to be part of the club. That plan has been in place for a number of years and the talent is starting to show up. If Cleveland hangs on a couple of more months, and Boone recovers this year, all could be rewarded.

Montreal Expos

  • Road Rage: In the last Expos PTP, we mentioned the team's sadistic travel schedule between May 16th and July 11th. At the time, they were 5-13 during that stretch. Since, they have gone 10-14 for a combined record of 15-27, with seven more games in Puerto Rico against the Braves and streaking Pirates.

  • Paces: The Expos record currently stands at 28-52, for a .350 winning percentage, which keeps them safely out of a "worst team of all-time" discussion. They have scored only 276 runs in 80 games: 3.45 runs per game. That would make the Expos the most anemic offense since the 1981 Blue Jays scored 3.10 per.

  • Not this year, again: As the calendar flipped to July, GM Omar Minaya announced "No one is untouchable." Among the top candidates to be dealt is free-agent-to-be Orlando Cabrera, but hitting .239/.299/.328--well below his 10th percentile PECOTA--isn't likely to fetch the Expos much in return. Other position player-disappointments, likely to be dealt or not, include...well, that list is quite expansive. Only two Expos are at double-digits in VORP, with Nick Johnson a good bet to join that group as more playing time comes his way.

  • Some good news: Some of the Expos' pitchers, on the other hand, have been somewhat more valuable than the hitters:
    
    Player       2004 VORP
    Hernandez      37.6
    Day            25.2
    Ohka           15.9
    Cordero        12.9
    
    

Seattle Mariners

  • Double Digit VORP, Rounding Up: Ichiro Suzuki (20.4), Raul Ibanez (10.2), Edgar Martinez (9.8) and John Olerud (9.3).

    That's it?!

  • Rhyme, reason, none of the above? After hauling in decent talent for Freddy Garcia, essentially confounding those watching him this year, GM Bill Bavasi has reverted to his seemingly intentional destruction of the Mariners. He recently declared his intentions to keep such Mariner luminaries as Jamie Moyer and Dan Wilson because of their famed veteran leadership.

    That said, Bavasi's decision is particularly unfortunate given that Moyer is the type of pitcher who's perceived value--largely because he's left-handed, crafty, and has an ERA significantly assisted by his park--rests above his true value. Like he did with Garcia, it would greatly behoove Bavasi to get some young, cheap talent in exchange for the usable parts still left on the M's roster, with Moyer arugably sitting atop the heap. And sure, we could advocate getting rid of Wilson, but who's willing to pay $3.5 million for a catcher who can't hit? Even the Astros only pay Brad Ausmus $1 million.

  • What to Improve?:
    
    METRIC                   MLB RANK
    Offense (AEQR)           21 of 30
    Rotation (SNVA)           7 of 30
    Bullpen (ARP)            15 of 30
    Defensive Efficiency      9 of 30
    
    

  • Haul Update: Speaking of the Garcia haul, catcher Miguel Olivo has had a chance to hit in only one game since being acquired, going 0 for 3, before heading to the DL due to kidney stones. Top prospect Jeremy Reed is five-for-15 with a double, triple, homer, and two walks.

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