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May 19, 2005

Prospectus Triple Play

Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, Chicago Cubs, Milwaukee Brewers

by Baseball Prospectus

Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim

  • The Void At Thoyd: Probably the most painful decision the Angels faced this off-season was letting Troy Glaus leave as a free agent. Signed by the Diamondbacks, Glaus has returned to his 2000-2001 form, hitting for a .321 EqA and pickin' it at the hot corner to the tune of a 106 Rate2. Those acronyms (for those of you not ready to click on our statistics glossary) mean that per 100 games fielded, Glaus is six runs better than the average third baseman, and that as a batter he's been roughly on par with David Ortiz's performance from last year.

    So when considering where the Angels' offense has gone wrong this season, a good place to start is with the fill-ins at third. Dallas McPherson, who's gotten the majority of the Halos' playing time there, has been awful. His .214/.267/.382 line is good for a .217 EqA, and factoring in McPherson's defense--an ugly 84 Rate2--places his overall performance below replacement level. While we like McPherson--he was our #4 prospect for 2005--the Angels' patience is wearing thin at the moment. McPherson has only started five of the Angels' last 10 games.

    Getting the majority of the hot corner time in McPherson's stead has been Robb Quinlan. Fortunately for McPherson, Quinlan's performance has been roughly equal to the rookie's--just a .177 EqA and an 89 Rate2 at third.

    Overall, despite the Halos being 11th in the American League in runs scored, they still lead the AL West. Their offense's dependence on batting average--the Angels are the only team in the junior circuit which has yet to break 100 walks drawn--is both a curse and a promise of redemption. One doubts that the team will continue to bat .242 on the season. Still, for the Angels to rise far above that mark, they will need better production from their third basemen.

  • Welcome To The Show, Kid: Kelvim Escobar's bout with bone spurs allowed 22-year-old flamethrower Ervin Santana to make his major league debut Tuesday in Cleveland. The wreckage:
    
    IP  H  R  ER BB  K  HR  Pitches/Strikes
    4.0 8  6  6   3  1  2   92/53
    
    
    The first inning was especially jarring. Grady Sizemore led off with a triple. Coco Crisp, trying to turn his double into another triple, was gunned down by Vladimir Guerrero. A Travis Hafner single and Ben Broussard longball later, and Santana had surrendered the cycle to his first four major league opponents.

    It was actually Santana's first game above Double-A ball, skipping from Arkansas to L.A. in a matter of days. In seven Texas League starts he'd posted a 2.31 ERA in 39 innings, striking out 32, allowing 15 walks, 34 hits and just two home runs.

    "I believe guys should make each step along the way [through the minors], but sometimes circumstances dictate what happens," Bill Stoneman told MLB.com. Bartolo Colon's normal schedule has been derailed by rain and the flu. Kevin Gregg, who had previously filled in for Escobar with poor results, is needed more in the pen, where Francisco Rodriguez's tired arm creates a big hole for the time being. With all other parts of the Angels rotation pitching reasonably well, Santana's cup of coffee will likely run dry whenever Escobar is ready to return. Granted, that may not happen soon, depending on how the veteran's treatment goes.

    Santana, who ranked as BP's #38 prospect in 2004, is still regarded as the Halos' top pitching prospect despite missing most of last season with elbow and shoulder tendinitis. His fastball and slider wowed the Angels in spring training. If he keeps developing the change-up, and if his right arm can stay fresh, his outlook as a starter looks rosier. Either way, he's still a youngster and risky by definition. No one has any right to be comparing him to the greatest Santana in baseball, or the greatest E(a)rvin to ever grace southern California.

Chicago Cubs

  • Dubois Doubts: There has been a lot of talk about how the Cubs are now missing the power supplied by Sammy Sosa and Moises Alou last year. This is true, but only to a certain extent. Let's take a look at how the Cubs corner OFs came out of the gate both this year and last:
    
    2005                 AB    AVG    OBP    SLG     OPS
    Jason Dubois         50   .280   .321   .620    .941
    Todd Hollandsworth   50   .240   .345   .380    .725
    Jeromy Burnitz       53   .283   .316   .547    .863
    
    2004                 AB    AVG    OBP    SLG     OPS
    Sammy Sosa           51   .314   .426   .706   1.132
    Moises Alou          53   .340   .386   .811   1.197
    
    
    While Todd Hollandsworth and Jeromy Burnitz have not been setting the world on fire, much of the supposed drop in production can be traced to the fact that Sosa and Alou got off to incredible starts last year. As evidenced below, Sosa and Alou did not exactly finish the way they started:
    
    2004                 AB    AVG    OBP    SLG     OPS
    Sammy Sosa          478   .253   .332   .517    .849
    Moises Alou         601   .293   .361   .557    .918
    
    
    Each player saw his OPS fall at least 275 points by the end of 2004. Taking this into account and looking at the body of work put forth by Jason Dubois, both to start 2005 and in previous years, it appears that he Dubois a decent shot at matching Sosa and Alou's overall level of production. If played regularly, PECOTA thinks it likely that Dubois will see some drop-off in his SLG% and a boost in his OBP%. This will give Dubois a good chance to keep his OPS around .900, and be the third big stick behind Derrek Lee and Aramis Ramirez. Dusty Baker seems to be coming around on this point, starting Dubois over Hollandsworth in the last six games.

    B is for Bad: There are a lot of ways to kill a team, at least one for every letter of the alphabet. For the Cubs, the most lethal letter has been B, as in bullpen. Let's take a look at the Cubs' WXRL tallies so far this season:

    
    Pitcher          GR      IP    WXRL
    Mike Remlinger   15    11.7    .534
    Todd Wellemeyer   7     9.0    .346
    Glendon Rusch    11    15.3    .293
    Chad Fox         11     8.0    .252
    Michael Wuertz   20    19.3    .231
    Will Ohman        9     6.0    .220
    Cliff Bartosh    10    12.7   -.115
    Roberto Novoa     5     4.3   -.173
    Ryan Dempster     2     3.0   -.191
    Jon Leicester     5     6.0   -.216
    LaTroy Hawkins   16    15.0   -.633
    Total           111   110.3    .548
    
    
    This is bad--Al Bundy credit card bill bad. Forty-one pitchers have better WXRL numbers than the entire Cubs bullpen. Chief among them is MLB leaderDustin Hermanson whose 2.131 WXRL makes him almost four times as valuable as the entire Cubs bullpen.

    Using WXRL, there are only seven pitchers this year worse than LaTroy Hawkins. Of those seven, three have already been sent back to the minors. The point made in BP2005 is still valid: Nine of Hawkins' 16 appearances came either in tie games or one-run game situations. He lost the lead or left the Cubs behind in five of these nine appearances. While it seems that Hawkins' performance is harder to get a read on due to the Cubs' high number of one-run contests, it is necessary for relievers to convert when given the opportunity. Right now, Hawkins simply is not getting the job done.

    To make matters worse, a definitive ripple effect was created on May 8. Not trusting his bullpen to help rid the Cubs of their seven-game losing streak, Dusty Baker left Carlos Zambrano on the mound to log the first Category V start of the season. Zambrano was subsequently shelled in his next start, and now may miss his upcoming start, which would put even greater strain on the bullpen, especially if the injury lingers.

    It will be imperative for Dusty Baker to maximize his pitching staff's usefulness throughout the remainder of this season. According to our latest Playoff Odds Report, the Cubs only have an 11% chance of making the playoffs, which ranks them 11th in the NL. In order to make good on that 11%, the Cubs players and brain trust will need to be at the top of their games.

  • Nooo, I Meant the Other One: In Sunday's Chicago Sun-Times, it was reported that Ronny Cedeno could see more playing time this week to help the team assess its middle-infield options, as Todd Walker will soon return to the lineup. Cedeno then went 2-for-4 Sunday, only to get unceremoniously demoted to Triple-A on Tuesday. His replacement was none other than Futility Infielder Enrique Wilson. While we are definitely not advocating the continued use of Ronny Cedeno, bringing Wilson on board makes little, if any sense. A quick comparison shows why:
    
    Player             Career      G    EqA*   FRAR*
    Enrique Wilson    97-Pres    540   .222      33
    Neifi Perez       96-Pres   1142   .218     284
    * Adjusted for all-time
    
    
    Enrique Wilson is essentially Neifi Perez without the defense, and that is not something that the Cubs need.

Milwaukee Brewers

  • Can They Keep This Up?: It's kind of odd to see people getting excited about a team that's a game under .500. The excitement is a combination of low expectations for a team picked by many experts as one of the very worst in baseball, and the overall weakness in the division which finds the Brewers in second place in the NL Central.

    Is the excitement justified? A big part of the Milwaukee buzz is that the starting rotation has held together in the absence of Ben Sheets. But the Brew Crew's starters, with a group ERA of 4.30, haven't been spectacular in Sheets' absence either, their total contribution ranking 8th in the league. While Doug Davis is struggling, fellow lefty Chris Capuano has held the fort at the top of the rotation, despite suffering from uncharacteristic gopheritis (seven homers in 50.7 innings for Capuano, a whopping 10 in 55.3 innings pitched for Davis). Meanwhile Victor Santos and Wes Obermueller may be playing a bit over their heads-each is currently outpacing their 90th-percentile PECOTA projections.

    The biggest surprise on the Brewers' pitching staff comes from the out-of-the-blue bullpen performances of Matt Wise and Derrick Turnbow. Turnbow, whose previous claim to fame was being the first baseball player to publicly test positive for steroids, as a 2004 Olympic hopeful, is currently 8th in the majors in reliever wins added, keeping company with established bullpen studs (Trevor Hoffman, Jason Isringhausen) and a few more obscure types (such as the Diamondbacks' Brandon Lyon and Lance Cormier). Like Turnbow, Wise is currently vaporizing his PECOTA projection, following a decent showing as a swingman last year.

    Turnbow and Wise, two players the Brewers plucked for free off the Angels' roster, are a big reason the Milwaukee bullpen paces the league with a 2.56 ERA, and a valuable lesson on how major league teams can find relief talent.

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<< Previous Article
Premium Article Lies, Damned Lies: Can... (05/18)
<< Previous Column
Prospectus Triple Play... (05/17)
Next Column >>
Prospectus Triple Play... (05/23)
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Premium Article Crooked Numbers: Getti... (05/19)

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