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September 2, 2005

Prospectus Matchups

Matchups Revisited

by Jim Baker

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Sometimes it's fun to look back at what you wrote earlier in the season and see what has come to pass since then. Other times, it's humiliating. It's an exercise that can cause smugness and embarrassment in equal measure. Looking for just that sort of duality of emotions, I have decided to take a stroll down Recent-Memory Lane and revisit some of the things I've written this season and see how they look in the colder light of the September day.

Besides, we must all stand naked before our predictions.

April 12
"Colorado @ Arizona: Early indications are that these two clubs are ready to swap their 2004 positions."

Yup. The Diamondbacks have a pretty secure eight-game lead on Colorado. All that stands in the way of making the prediction perfect is for the Giants to move into third place. That sounds reasonable.

And, from the same piece:

"The Rockies have got to be praying that Preston Wilson is putting up locally-inflated numbers come the All-Star break so that they can off-load him onto a team with outfield needs and a blind spot to what it is…"

Which is just what they did--almost to the day. Wilson's unadjusted OPS is nearly the same for Washington as it was for Colorado at the time he left. Obviously this means he's been playing slightly better since he departed Denver and it shows in his EqA. It's at .267 for the Nats while it was .262 for the Rox.

April 19
"If the White Sox finish with 250 walks or fewer and a winning record I'll eat a popsicle covered in fire ants."

No exoskeletal cuisine for me. The White Sox got out of the walking blocks slowly--not that you have to haul ass when you when you walk--but have long since recovered. They're still next-to-last in the American League, but they're nowhere near setting any records. In fact, they won't even finish in the bottom ten in team walks since 1972. It's probably foolish to even discuss such matters as early as April 19, but, as I said at the time, "I swore I would never do as early as Tax Day…"

April 19
"Colorado Rockies pitchers went into play last night having walked more batters than they struck out…it makes one wonder: What happens if they go the whole season and keep this up?"

We won't know because they are quite far removed from that situation now, sporting a K:BB ratio of 816:502. That's still the most walks allowed in the National League, but the ratio problem is solved. In fact, apart from a few short-terms like Matt Anderson (4 Ks, 11 BBs), the Rockies starters and most-used relievers are well above the 1:1 point.

April 26
In discussing the Orioles propensity for jumping out over .500 and sinking below it, I wrote: "Almost makes one want to get a pool going to peg when the 2005 O's are going to sink below the horizon line for the last time," and then asked:

"Is this Baltimore team any different from the 2000-04 editions? Just because it's happened five years in a row doesn't mean it will happen again. One red flag is the number of runs they've allowed so far. As of Sunday, they had surrendered nearly five runs per game, the worst record among first-place teams. If that keeps up, how far are they going to get surrendering 784 runs this year?"

As we have seen, not very far at all. They're going to end up having allowed somewhere around 785 to 800 and we see where it's gotten them: a trip back to their old butt groove on the fourth-place couch.

May 3
I talked about how the A's were doing something rare: bringing up the rear in both team home runs and stolen bases. I pontificated: "The 2005 A's appear to be a lock for last in steals…The homer race is not a done deal, though. That has all the makings of a temporary outage. The team poled 189 last year, good for a middle-of-the-pack placement, and most of those fellows have returned."

And that's basically what has happened. The A's are 11 steals behind Boston and have moved up to ninth in the league in home runs.

May 10
Regarding the White Sox and their lack of a strong lineup: "…their pitching staff is going to have to keep blowing the lights out for the rest of the year if they are going to hold onto their guaranteed playoff spot. Because of this, the Twins are still the team to beat in their division."

Well said, man! Good show. Nicely done.

May 10
"…can the Giants keep this up until Barry Bonds returns sometime in July? …the Giants should still be able to stay close enough to the top that the addition of Bonds and a deadline deal player might make the difference--especially in a division of questionable solidity like the National League West."

In the alternate universe where Bonds didn't get all those knee infections, I would stand behind this prediction.

May 13
"The Devil Rays' rise out of last place in 2004 may well be followed up by an overly reflexive payback. With Baltimore and Toronto getting out of the gate well and the Yankees slowly climbing back over .500, Tampa Bay could end up as the only team in the division below the break-even point. If this occurs, they will likely end up deeper in last place than at any time in their history. In 1998, they finished 16 games behind Baltimore. If they finish in the 61-65-win area and everyone else is over .500, that '98 margin will be topped."

This isn't going to happen. The Rays could win as few as 10 of their remaining 27 games, yes, but the Orioles won't cooperate on their end. Instead, they'll probably end up 10 to 12 games apart.

May 27
"Chris Young goes for the Rangers tonight and he's in a position to log one of the more impressive rookie starting pitcher campaigns of the last quarter-century. He hasn't had a bad outing since his second start of the season. If things continue at this pace, he (along with Toronto's Gustavo Chacin) could end up with a VORP in the 40s."

Young is currently at 21.6, a number that is not going to land him in the 40s nor among the best rookie pitching seasons of the last 25 years. Chacin, on the other hand, has continued to climb, although he will need a big finish to even crack the 20-best rookie campaigns since 1979.

May 31
"Is the triple heading for extinction?... no fewer than six teams are projecting to land themselves in the lowest 15 triple totals ever." There was a chart at that point, showing that the Reds, White Sox and Brewers were projecting to finish with fewer than 10 triples each, setting the single-season low: Reds, White Sox, Brewers.

If the Brewers can get through the last month without hitting another triple, they will have set the team low with 10. If they hit one more, they'll tie the '98 Orioles with 11. The White Sox and Yankees are currently at 11 and would also tie those O's if they didn't hit another one the rest of the way. The Reds have surged to 14.

June 10
"Do the Rangers have what it takes to withstand a 13-percent league-wide downturn in homers and post one of the better team home run totals of all-time? Playing where they do, yes."

The Rangers have actually increased their home run output since then. At the time, they were pacing for about 250 homers. Now, they'll be good for around 265 if they keep hitting the way they have since then. If they can do it, this will put them beyond even the Maulin' Mariners of 1997 who smacked 264.

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