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August 14, 2004
Now, I know it's going to be hard to get away from having three catchers, but this is obviously a better roster now that DaVanon is back in action. It only enriches the range of selections that Mike Scioscia has at his disposal, with the possible loser being Tim Salmon. With Robb Quinlan earning his keep at third base, Chone Figgins is more of a consideration in the outfield rotation. Because you've got Garret Anderson back too, essentially you have DaVanon and Salmon and Quinlan all in direct competition with each other for playing time.
The multiplicity of options suggests that the Angels could help themselves by broadening the menu even further. As long as Figgins is being lauded for his rover's role, and given the multitude of outfielders, maybe it would be a good idea to widen the range of choices just that much more by including second base amongst the options. Adam Kennedy hasn't done that well this year, and if Figgins can handle starts at second, third and center at any time during the week, there should be enough playing time to go around so that everyone stays sharp. Perhaps letting Figgins or Kennedy spot for David Eckstein on days he needs rest would add even more, keeping at-bats going to the players most likely to put runs on the board.
I'm glad to see Gibbons back, but he's not in a great spot. With David Newhan getting the at-bats at DH, B.J. Surhoff and Larry Bigbie are getting the ones in the outfield corners. Bigbie is finally hitting of late, and Surhoff is being allowed to slowly turn into the sort of institution the pigeon's make dates to sit upon. Considering that the Orioles are hot and locked in a desperate battle for the high stakes of third place, letting Gibbons get back into the swing of things might not be as much of a priority as it would normally be.
Recalled RHP Felix Diaz from Charlotte. [8/9]
You might think that Diaz is here to replace Schoeneweis in the rotation, but he's basically been bouncing back and forth on the Chi-Cha Jon Rauch Tough Love Bungee Shuttle all year. This call-up isn't a straight replacement as much as it is another bit of dabbling in the wacky world of desperate experiments. See, the Sox have had so much misfortune with the fifth slot of the rotation that they're actually going to take the plunge and try a four-man for a bit. I'm a bit of a cynic, in that I don't really see this working out quite like that. Sure, they'll give it the old college try, but I'm willing to bet that all it's going to take to quash this particular initiative is a bad series in Boston this weekend.
Regardless, this ought to be the last time that Diaz gets yo-yo'd. With a Charlotte ERA under three, a 90-20 strikeout-to-walk ratio, and a mere baserunner allowed per inning, he doesn't need to spend any more time at Triple-A. The season is already slipping away, between the mounting casualties and the slide into third place, so their responsibility to the fiction that they're still contending this year will be dispensed with soon enough. I guess you can consider Diaz's future return to the rotation as the symbolic point at which the Sox officially turn their thoughts towards 2005.
Recalled OF-R Nook Logan from Toledo; returned CF-L Alex Sanchez to the 15-day DL (strained quad). [8/9]
This is tough news, because Sanchez has been in a position to mount a compelling challenge to the Tigers' all-time single-season record for times caught stealing. He has 13 outs made in steal situations (more through his addiction to general mayhem, of course), a brisk pace that will force him to redouble his efforts when he returns. With a tip of the cap to our own incomparable James Click and Rany Jazayerli, consider the club's recent single season leaders:
Player Season CS Ron LeFlore 1977 20 Ron LeFlore 1978 20 Ron LeFlore 1979 19 Speedy Hunter 1997 18 Alex Sanchez 2003 18
(Those addicted to straight historical number-to-number, era-to-era comparisons will rightly squawk about the absence of the Georgia Peach, but frankly, it wouldn't be fair to compare Sanchez to Ty Cobb, a basepaths terror in the major leagues when they could only boast most of the white talent, and none of the rest.)
Keep in mind, this is just with the Tigers, so Sanchez's six times caught while with the Brewers last season doesn't count. Clearly, last season had to have been a bitter disappointment, and this latest setback will seriously affect his attempt to scale higher up this list. But fear not, Alex's unique combination of skills is adding him to another bit of trivia: people who recorded more times caught stealing in a season than they drew a base on balls. Consider the last five regulars to achieve this feat:
Player Season CS BB Garry Templeton 1977 24 15 Mike Edwards 1978 21 16 Damaso Garcia 1980 13 12 Ozzie Guillen 1989 17 15 Ozzie Guillen 1991 15 11
Ah, how I do love these little reminders of the real nature of the Ozzeroo's greatness. Anyway, Sanchez flirted with being on this list last year, but he was unselfish enough to draw 25 walks combined between Milwaukee and the Motor City, against "only" 24 times caught. I suppose if we wanted to invent an Impaired Judgment stat akin to Bill James' Power/Speed number, clearly Señor Sanchez would be an unparalleled talent. This year, Sanchez is a virtual lock to repeat here, with 13 times caught stealing and seven walks drawn. Anyway, I'm sure we're all eagerly anticipating his return, to see how this works out.
What? Send down one of the locked-in stars of the future? Well, yes, when he's played as badly as Berroa has. I guess a lot of this has to do with expectations created by Berroa's 2003, when he hit .287/.342/.451, making some think we had another Edgar Renteria non-trinity star shortstop in the making. But that's the problem with season totals, you end up missing the in-season trends that might create a bit of concern. As BP intern Adam Katz found when he broke it down (damnation, another bright mind coming up through the system?), consider these Berroa breakdowns:
Before August 1st, 2003: .292/.346/.483
Now, sure, it's easy to say this is parsing for fun and idle speculation, but I think it's reasonable to suggest that two of these things are not like the others. Nate Silver notes that Berroa's projection, although generally positive (weighted mean PECOTA for 2004: .275/.331/.432), he had a lot of risk for a guy supposed to be in he middle of his career peak. That's reflected in some of his comparables: some people might get happy over eliciting comparisons to Greg Gagne or Carlos Garcia, but I'd lump the three of them into a nebulous "ambiguously useful" category, well short of stardom. In his newsletter, John Sickels reports Berroa took his demotion well, and that's something. Perhaps he'll get ironed out at Double-A, but I think it's more likely that he's never going to live up to the expectations that gifted him with a nifty compensation package for years to come.
This is only a temporary adaptation in the wake of the 18-inning marathon against the A's. Fultz has been a moderately effective second lefty this season, so hadn't earned a demotion. Barring a plan to move Terry Mulholland back into the bullpen, he'll be back. The question is whether the Twins need to replace Mulholland and Kyle Lohse, or just one of them. I suppose they could turn to Guerrier if that were the case, but it's a little more promising that Scott Baker and J.D. Durbin have worked their way up to Rochester and aren't struggling. I suppose Carlos Silva is no Les Straker, but Brad Radke isn't Bert Blyleven, either. The Twins better hope that the AL playoffs degenerate into a duel of seal clubbings, because they don't look all that likely to win a bunch of October pitching duels.
Recalled RHP Jairo Garcia from Sacramento; placed RHP Chad Bradford on the 15-day DL (strained lower back). [8/9]
Okay, not to be a killjoy, but Jairo Garcia is going to have to do an awful lot to live up to the pre-fab expectations that seem to have arrived with him. That's sort of the curse of all things Athletic these days: anything they do is going to be dissected by the twin standards of of "was that brilliant?" or "there they go again, damned know-it-alls."
So let's skip Tracy Ringolsby's dudgeon and consider that the A's desperately need the help in the pen. When you look at Garcia, there is plenty to like: a 91-19 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 53 innings isn't something you can overlook, any more than his obvious heat. The 28 hits allowed and the failure to allow a home run all year, those you can take as supporting evidence. But again, most of this was in the Midwest League, and the five hit batsmen and five wild pitches should tell us he's a bit wilder or harder to handle than the walks alone hint at.
So he's here for an audition, and we'll see. If he flops, it won't end his career, and if he thrives, well, that's handy. Bradford is not really expected to be out for more than two weeks, so in a sense, this is Garcia's chance to win a spot on the postseason roster at the expense of Jim Mecir or, more likely, "Panzer" Lehr.
Optioned RHP Cha Seung Baek to Tacoma; purchased the contract of OF-R Hiram Bocachica from Tacoma. [8/10]
As the Mariners find some measure of confidence in--or at least familiarity with--their new pitching staff, the need for an actual fourth outfielder started to exceed that for a 12th pitcher. Beyond the question of whether or not Bocachica can recover some thread of his former prospectdom, this particularly makes sense in the way in which it will encourage (or force) Bob Melvin to use the kids he has, see what they can do, and avoid getting too fancy with tactical deliberations. The Mariners need to see what guys like Scott Atchison, J.J. Putz and George Sherrill can do; carping over the marginal gains generated by pursuing a platoon advantage here or there will only show people that Bob Melvin hasn't switched to decaf.
Activated RHP Doug Brocail from the 15-day DL; optioned RHP Rosman Garcia to Oklahoma. [8/9]
"Hello, I must be going" takes on a whole new meaning if you're a Ranger. Do guys like Rosman Garcia just wind up sleeping on cots at the park? Or have the Rangers built an organizational trailer park in the parking lot? I only wonder because it seems like it would take longer to set up a hotel reservation for these guys than they're actually on the roster.
At any rate, this may not actually be good news. You will not find Doug Brocail among the small horde of good and semi-effective relievers that the Rangers have replied upon this year. Given that the Rangers need to be taken seriously, now might not be the time to keep the open casting call warm bodies lying around.
Acquired OF-R Javon Moran, LHP Joe Wilson and a PTBNL (RHP Elizardo Ramirez) from the Phillies for RHP Cory Lidle. [8/9]
Activated RHP John Riedling from the bereavement list. [8/10]
Give credit to the Reds for again executing a classic sign-and-dump maneuver to add minor-league talent. It might not be quite as exciting as some would have you think, but considering Lidle has been close to worthless in terms of performance this year, and is a free agent-to-be, getting anything for him is an achievement.
Wilson has a heater, but people with heat at A-ball provide possibilities, not guarantees. He's only allowed four bombs in 94 innings, which along with 89 strikeouts bodes well, although giving up 4.4 runs per nine doesn't. Moran is a speed guy doing reasonably well in the Sally League (.284/.340/.386 at Lakewood). It's just that for a college hitter in his first full professional season out of Auburn, that's not good. He can run, and he can play center field, and maybe that adds up to something; it's worth looking. Ramirez has been an effective minor-league starter, relying on command to make up for a merely adequate repertoire; sometimes a guy like this gets a break (think Joe Roa), but often, they're knocking around Triple-A, on and off the various 40-man rosters.
I know, none of them sound that hot, but none of them are non-prospects, they're just not blue chippers. At worst, the Reds get organizational depth and possibilities, which is fine, because Lidle was merely providing certain suckitude.
Designated RHP Travis Driskill for assignment; placed C-R Todd Greene on the 15-day DL (strained hamstring); activated LHP Joe Kennedy from the 15-day DL; recalled C-B J.D. Closser from Colorado Springs. [8/10]
A nice set of circumstances for the Rox, because not only do they get their best starter back, they finally have an alternative to Charles Johnson's disappointingly modest exploits behind the plate. Getting Kennedy back is key after having lost both Aaron Cook and Jason Young. I mean, nobody wants Adam Bernero or Jeff Fassero as regular parts of your local sports programming, beyond the other four markets in the division, I suppose.
As for Closser, the Rockies claim they're going to give him real playing time, and that would be great, but remember that they made similarly bold proclamations about Garrett Atkins only to wuss out of the commitment. Closser hasn't an excellent season at Colorado Springs (.295/.381/.436 doesn't go far in one of minor-league baseball's versions of Monopoly money), but he's patient, and an improved backstop. Since Johnson has managed to honk off management by rejecting a trade to the Dodgers, he's gearing up for an offseason where Dan O'Dowd will be trying to find somebody he can pay to take Johnson off of his hands, but $10 million is a lot of ducats to shell out for a basic discard. It would make sense to settle down and cope with the final season of CJ's contract. Although Johnson is expensive and disappointing, Closser's going to have hit significantly better than he has this season to really merit everyday work.
There are probably a few Astros fans who are with me when I say that I'm glad that we've got this Oliver nonsense out of the way. Last year's dive into the Kevin Ritz one-year Rockie wonder zone aside, it's Darren Oliver, solution to problems so terrible you double-check your heritage to make sure you're not another Scandinavian suicide statistic in the making. Swapping him out to see if Hernandez is ready to take the next step in his comeback is the closest thing to a happy development as the Astros are going to get this year. Okay, maybe things would be even better if Jeff Bagwell decided he needed to seek out the transcendent bliss of a life spent imprisoned in some bhagwan's Rolls-Royce Museum, polishing hood ornaments, instead of being reduced Jeff Bagwell, the guy who plays the former Jeff Bagwell on TV.
But I digress. Down at the Big Easy, and pitching his surgically repaired shoulder back into shape, Hernandez had gotten enough of his velocity back that it's not like he's going to be Jim Parque or something. In 124 2/3 innings, he'd allowed just 113 hits. Although he's striking out almost two batters fewer per nine now than in his heyday--5.7 as a Zephyr this year vs. 7.5 with the 'Stros in 2002--he has been effective, giving up only 3.8 runs per nine. If he can at least turn into a useful starter at the bottom of the rotation, it'll be a major improvement on Redding's repeated struggles this season.
Of course, now that he's been pushed down to New Orleans, Redding becomes an instant fave as a comeback candidate, because he's just 26, still has good stuff, and he hasn't hurt his arm. If the Astros are disgusted enough to throw him into a deal this winter (and they have plenty of needs, so ideally, they will be shopping), I like his chances of becoming a useful something for somebody else.
Acquired RHP Cory Lidle from the Reds for OF-R Javon Moran, LHP Joe Wilson, and a PTBNL (RHP Elizardo Ramirez). [8/9]
Isn't make-believe great? That's what Mr. Rogers always told us, and all it took for him was taking off his shoes and he'd start seeing purple pandas. The Phillies are just woozy enough to keep at it, and I'm sure that if the baseball season had packaged video montages like the Olympics do, we'd see a scene of Ed Wade, desperately trying to wring a starting pitcher out of his cell phone, the little engine that couldn't quite… I don't know, I tear up just thinking about it. Don't we all? Well, perhaps not the justifiably angry mob of Pennsylvanians over in the corner, belying the Quaker State's heritage, but can you blame them? They're the ones being charged admission to the house that they built for a promised contender that had to rely on Paul Abbott, then traded for Cory Lidle and called it progress. A peek at the old Support-Neutral report we have up shows that Lidle has performed worse than anybody in the worst rotation still in contention, including Abbott.
Admittedly, with Millwood shelved, you can sympathize with the instinct to do something. Maybe Joe Kerrigan has some theory about Lidle that will simultaneously re-gild Kerrigan's former rep as one of the game's great pitching coaches, and Lidle's as a useful fourth starter. They are only just a bit behind the Cubs and the three-way standoff in the NL West, after all. But I don't buy it, and Lidle's miserable performance this year and last shouldn't support any expectation of better things to come. At best, it could be a pickup like Andy Benes for the Mariners in 1995, where he sucks, but the lineup scores so many runs when he pitches that it might impress the superficial about what a good move Wade just made.
There is one source of optimism, however, and that's getting Padilla back, since he actually resembles a pitcher who you want in the front of your rotation. While he's not 100%, the Phillies seemed to handle slowly ramping Randy Wolf back up to speed well, so they might do the same with Padilla. The problem is that, as they run out of season, they might understandably run out of patience. That wouldn't be fair of them--the players didn't notice the starting pitching problem and trade for Cory Lidle to fix it, after all--but this team was supposed to win and win big, and instead it's angrily milling around .500.