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May 31, 2005

Prospectus Matchups

Dude, Where's My .500 Record?

by Jim Baker

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WORST MATCHUP (opponents with worst combined Prospectus Hit List rankings, provided both are in the lower half): Tampa Bay Devil Rays (26th) @ Oakland A's (28th)

So you're at a party, right? And, like, this one dude, he's been partying too much but he's a joker, right? So, like, he lies down on the floor and stops moving and for a while nobody notices and then someone starts laughing because that's just the kind of stunt he'd pull because he's done it at like four of the last five parties. But, then, you realize it's been a while and he's not really moving so you stand over him and say, "Hey, c'mon dude, this isn't funny anymore. C'mon, get up! Breathe or something, would you?" And the dude doesn't move a muscle and you're getting pissed off because this is longer than he's ever gone without cracking a smile. So, everybody starts saying, "Whoa, this time he's really gone and done it. This time he's really dead."

Then there are the Devil Rays.

Here's a list:

1998: 19
1999: 22
2000: 1
2001: 1
2002: 6
2003: 1
2004: 12
2005: 1 and counting (but not really)

Total: 63

Those are the number of days in each season the Rays spent over .500--including 1-0 starts. I think we've all forgotten that their best start ever came at the very beginning. They got all the way up to 10-6 that first year and haven't seen its like since.

That's 63 days out of about 1,339, by the way. That's pretty depressing, but there have been worse. In their first seven seasons, the Mets spent exactly two days over .500. On April 17, 1966, they defeated the Braves 5-4 to improve their record to 2-1. There was no game the next day, so they went to bed as a .500-plus team two nights in a row. They lost on the 19th and that was the end of that. It wasn't until three years later that they got over .500 again and we know what happened that time. This is the Rays' eighth season, the same year lightning struck for the Mets.

After some amazing defensive adventures during his first few big league games, Damon Hollins has inserted himself into early consideration for the American League Rookie of the Year award. Here's the AL Rookie VORP situation through Sunday:

15.3: Chris Young, Texas
14.9: Gustavo Chacin, Toronto
14.1: Joe Mauer, Minnesota
12.6: Hollins

A couple of things: Hollins hasn't come to the plate 100 times, so we shouldn't get too hot and bothered just yet. Also, he turns 31 in two weeks. That doesn't eliminate him from consideration by any means, but it does take him out of the running for the Most-Likely-to-Succeed award. Hollins first came to the bigs in 1998 with the Braves. If he could somehow pull off the ROY, would that give him the longest gap ever between his first big league appearance and winning the award? I don't know. I'm asking.

Getting back to Young for a second, I covered his Princeton affiliation last time out and wondered aloud what the winning percentage was for college pitchers as opposed to the non-collegiate crowd. Reader Brian Van Dorn had this to say on the subject:

Thanks to Sean Lahman's Baseball Archive, which lists player's alma maters where applicable, it's rather easy to find winning percentages of book learners versus those who skipped the experience of higher education.

I put all of the seasonal won-lost totals of players in the database with a listed college in one group, and put the players with no college listed in the other. Then I added the won/loss records for each group of seasons. The result? Collegians had (through 2004) 36,066 wins and 36,274 losses for a .4986 winning percentage. The non-collegians had 126,993 wins and 126,785 losses for a .5004 winning percentage. (You'd expect one percentage to be the inverse of the other, but then you realize that doesn't happen when one 'team,' the non-collegians, has an identical differential from .500 in absolute games, but plays a lot more games.) As you guessed, the values are close to .500. Not an earth-shattering revelation, but like you said it was interesting to find out.

I also forgot to qualify that those who attended Ivy League schools--like Young--had to have played baseball there. Reader Murray Markowitz pointed out that Brad Ausmus went to Dartmouth but didn't play ball there. Ditto for famed 19th Century player and retailer John Montgomery Ward. He entered Columbia in the midst of his playing career, so wasn't eligible. His lawyer-learnin' there came in handy during the player's rebellion of 1890, though. (He went to Penn State as an undergrad.)

BEST MATCHUP (opponents with best combined Prospectus Hit List rankings): Baltimore Orioles (1st) @ Boston Red Sox (8th)

It's only Memorial Day and I am already regretting a number of my preseason picks. Heck, who am I kidding? I was already regretting a lot of them by Passover. It's only right to stick with one's picks, though. A person just can't go changing them in midseason just because they aren't working out so well. I am, therefore, bound to my pick that the Red Sox will repeat as World Champions.

American League second basemen, as a group, are ripping up the runways. Using the position designations in the positional VORP counts, the AL second sackers are making like Joe Morgan as a group. Chone Figgins of the Angels and Brian Roberts have 17 and 13 stolen bases respectively, while only getting caught three times each. Alfonso Soriano is perfect on eight tries. Players like Mark Bellhorn, Willie Harris and Mark Ellis aren't adding much to the total, but they aren't getting caught, either. The only player not with the program is Ruben Gotay of the Royals, who is one-for-three.

Here are the success rates by league/position:


League Position        SB        CS        Success %
AL Second Basemen      72        15        0.828
NL Rightfielders       51        19        0.729
AL Shortstops          53        20        0.726
NL Leftfielders        39        15        0.722
AL First Basemen       20         8        0.714
NL First Basemen       20         8        0.714
AL Leftfielders        86        35        0.711
AL Centerfielders      75        31        0.708
NL Second Basemen      81        36        0.692
NL Shortstops          86        40        0.683
AL Rightfielders       50        27        0.649
NL Centerfielders      71        40        0.640
NL Third Basemen       27        16        0.628
AL Catchers            10         8        0.556
AL Third Basemen       23        19        0.548
AL Designated Hitters  19        18        0.514
NL Catchers             7         8        0.467

Here's a betting proposition: Roberts VORP is currently around 40 while Soriano's is around 17. What are the chances that Soriano climbs to his usual hunting grounds while Roberts stabilizes to the point that Soriano can catch him?

BIGGEST MISMATCHUP (opponents with greatest difference in Prospectus Hit List rankings): St. Louis Cardinals (2nd) @ Colorado Rockies (29th)

Memo to Cardinals announcer Wayne Hagin: Todd Helton's drug of choice is called Altitudinol. It's only available in Denver.

CLOSEST MATCHUP (opponents closest to one another in the Prospectus Hit List rankings): Cincinnati Reds (27th) @ Houston Astros (25th)

Is the triple heading for extinction? Will it soon go the way of the nickel cigar and the 72-hour work week? (I don't even pretend to understand that reference.) While there will probably always be somebody ambitious around to bust it all the way to third by way of just one struck baseball, there is some definite downward creep in the group participation portion of this particular stat. Last time out, I tried to light a fire under the Reds to go for the all-time team doubles record. One way to go about this--and set another record in the process, would be to pull up at second on every possible triple. The Reds are in a unique position: they can set one extra base hit high record and another low in the very same year.

With just three triples so far, they are on their way to hitting fewer than any team ever. They've got a lot of company in 2005, though, as no fewer than six teams are projecting to land themselves in the lowest 15 triple totals ever:

2005 Reds, 9.5 (projected)
2005 White Sox, 9.5 (projected)
2005 Brewers, 9.7 (projected)
1998 Orioles, 11
2002 Yankees, 12
1988 Yankees, 12
2005 Yankees, 13 (projected)
1998 A's, 13
1986 Orioles, 13
1999 Mets, 14
1999 Blue Jays, 14
1986 Dodgers, 14
2003 Yankees, 14
2004 A's, 15
2005 Phillies, 15.8 (projected)
1992 Tigers, 16
2005 A's, 16.2 (projected)

If the Astros could play all their games at home, they'd have a shot at the wildcard. Other teams would eventually grow tired of that bit of scheduling--although if there were a team in Hawaii and they went all-home, there might not be too many grievances filed. There are some extraordinarily bad road records around the bigs these days. The Astros aren't even the worst (through Sunday):

Devil Rays: 3-18, .143
Rockies: 4-23, .148
Astros: 5-22, .185
Royals: 6-20, .231
Reds: 6-16, .272

Four of those five records are worse than the 2003 Tigers mark of .247 away from Detroit. None of them will hold, of course. They'll all creep up as the season goes on.

Related Content:  The Who

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