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June 14, 2005

Prospectus Matchups

Return of the Transients

by Jim Baker

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Best Matchup (opponents with best combined Prospectus Hit List rankings): Florida Marlins (7th) @ Chicago Cubs (6th)

Back in February, I did a bit on the Transient All-Star teams, the best players at each position in each league who had moved to new clubs either via trade or free agency. Let's take a look-see at how the National League new-teamers are faring:

Catcher: Damian Miller, Milwaukee. He's justifying the selection with a VORP of 10.2, good for fifth among NL catchers. Jason Phillips of the Dodgers is right behind him among players with new teams in 2005, but he was still with his old team (the Mets) back in February when the Transient All-Star team was drafted.

First Baseman: Carlos Delgado, Florida. Delgado is holding his own; not to the extent that his counterpart in this series, Derrek "Triple Crown" Lee might be, but enough to make him look like a good signing so far. You might recall that the rap against the Phillies signing Jim Thome before the 2003 season was that they would begin to regret it later on in the life of the contract. When the Marlins signed Delgado, he was a year older than Thome was when he signed. It's hard to think about the long-term picture when Delgado has about the same VORP as Albert Pujols does.

Second Baseman: Jeff Kent, Los Angeles. So far, so good. Kent has the best VORP in the league and looked like an MVP possibility when the Dodgers got off to their torrid start. It's a good thing they wait until after the season is over to vote on those things.

Third Baseman: Troy Glaus, Arizona. Glaus is cooling, as are the Diamondbacks, but I still think this was worth it to help get the team out of the gutter.

Shortstop: Omar Vizquel, San Francisco. Along with Vizquel, these are the players he beat out to make this team, along with their 2005 VORP figures:

18.4: David Eckstein, St. Louis
9.6: Vizquel
-3.5: Royce Clayton, Arizona
-13.5: Cristian Guzman, Washington

At least I didn't pick Guzman!

Left Fielder: Carlos Lee, Milwaukee. Lee is currently fourth among league left fielders with a VORP of 26.8. What's more, he is light-years ahead of the man for whom he was traded, Scott Podsednik (5.8). Why does a general manager who makes a deal this bad get to have a team that's in first place by five games on June 14? Where's the cosmic fairness in that?

Center Fielder: Carlos Beltran, New York. Currently tenth in the league in VORP. What is especially troubling is the lack of steals. Beltran is the single-greatest base swiper in the history of the game and he's one-for-three since coming to the Mets. He is doing slightly better than Jeromy Burnitz of the Cubs--his main competition for this slot back in February. (Burnitz has since moved out of center.)

Right Fielder: J.D. Drew, Los Angeles. Currently third in VORP at his position, justifying his selection.

Starting Pitcher: Pedro Martinez, New York. Earning his keep as the number-one starter on the Transient All-Star team with a VORP of 32.2.

Starting Pitcher: Tim Hudson, Atlanta. Hudson has been OK but he looks like a good bet to experience the first double-figure loss total of his career.

Starting Pitcher: Mark Mulder, St. Louis. Mulder's pitching has not been up to his run support (6.24 per start) to this point.

Starting Pitcher: Al Leiter, Florida. Easily my worst choice among the five. He's got one of the five worst VORP figures among National League starters. I overlooked Mark Redman and he's at 26.9 for the Pirates. Even Derek Lowe of the Dodgers is at 12.3. Redman is making do with some awful run support, by the way.

Starting Pitcher: Javier Vazquez, Arizona. Check out that strikeout to walk ratio: 72/11 heading into tonight's start against the White Sox.

Biggest Mismatchup (opponents with greatest difference in Prospectus Hit List rankings): San Francisco Giants (27th) @ Minnesota Twins (3rd)

Back when fifties nostalgia was in its infancy, there was this really bad television commercial for a music collection from that period that featured a greaser and a girl in a poodle skirt sitting on the hood of a convertible bemoaning the loss of all the wonderful trappings of their era. When they were done, the greaser looked at the camera and asked plaintively, "Where did it all go?"

That phrase was burned into my mind because I probably saw that commercial 200 times in my youth. Maybe more, I am sad to report. I find myself echoing it all the time, like when looking at the Giants run total compared to last year. The G'ints have slipped from second in the league to 13th. "Where did it all go?", to quote that be-oiled television record pitchman of my youth. A run per game, gone.

Well, we know where a good chunk of it is. It's rehabbing its knee. San Francisco isn't quite down at every position, as one might expect. Shortstop and third base are about a wash and right field is a big improvement over 2004. Moises Alou has been a step up from Michael Tucker, although he's only played in three-quarters of the team's games.

The loss of Bonds could have been made more tolerable if the pitching had shown up for duty this year. As it is, they've tacked on two-thirds of a run per game and compensating for that is just too much to ask of an offense--even one with Barry Bonds. There is a temptation to paint the broad stroke and say that even if they had Bonds, a pitching staff surrendering nearly 5.5 runs per game would have doomed the season anyway.

Closest Matchup (opponents closest to one another in the Prospectus Hit List rankings): Pittsburgh Pirates (15th) @ New York Yankees (17th)

What we have here is a matchup between the two most consistent teams of the past three seasons. Win spread, 2002-04:

2: Yankees, 101-103
3: Pirates, 72-75
4: Twins, 90-94
5: Red Sox, 93-98
5: Braves, 96-101

The Yankees can't hang with this list and the Pirates don't want to.

The Pirates arrived at .500 on Saturday for the first time and one has to begin to wonder if this isn't their year. By "their year" I don't mean the year they go all the way...I mean the year they go all the way to .500. They've outscored their opponents so far, something they've only come close to doing once (1999) since their last .500 season in 1992. No Craig Wilson; Jack Wilson having a serious reality check season; everyone's pick-to-light-the-wick Oliver Perez having a devilishly bad time of it...these would seem like great impediments to making a decent showing, but the Pirates are hanging with it.

This is said without irony: a .500 season would be a success. A .500 season with the roadblocks listed above would be a joy ride. Let's make a proposition: if the Pirates can split their upcoming six games with the Yankees and Red Sox, they'll go on to win at least 81 games. Sound reasonable?

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