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September 20, 2005

Prospectus Matchups

Out on One Bounce

by Jim Baker

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BEST MATCHUP (opponents with best combined Prospectus Hit List rankings): Cleveland Indians (2nd) @ Chicago White Sox (6th)

You'd like to think the universe is an orderly place, but it isn't. If it were, the White Sox would not have coughed up the lead they fought back to get last night. Down 4-0, they stormed back to go up 5-4, only to have Damaso Marte walk them into trouble in the eighth inning. It got worse from there, and now their lead is down to 2 games. Sometimes, we try to place order on things when there is no order. Perhaps because we've seen so many movies and television shows (and, in some cases, read so many books), we assume a dramatic thing like that will be some sort of turning point.

In the end, real life rarely follows a script. Indians fans might assume the reversed comeback by their team represents a part of some grand scheme as well, but it's also very likely that it represents nothing more than the end result of a particular game played on September 19, 2005. It is quite possible the White Sox will turn them away the next two nights and that will be the end of their wild ride.

It looked at one time that the White Sox would breeze to 100 wins. Now, they'd have to go 10-3 the rest of the way to get there, so it looks as though only one team will crack 100 wins this year. The Cardinals are at 95 wins with 11 games to go. The Royals, sitting on 99 losses, will--barring a miracle defying the laws of the physical universe--lose 100 games. If we have learned nothing else from the past decade it is this: it is easier to win 100 games than it is to lose 100:

Year: +100/-100
2005: 1-1
2004: 2-1
2003: 3-1
2002: 3-4
2001: 2-2
2000: 0-0
1999: 2-0
1998: 3-1
1997: 1-0
1996: 0-1
Total: 17-11

"Easier" is a relative term. The correct phrase here is "more common." With the lowest total of century teams since 2000 guaranteed, will we hear the same moaning about parity that we did at the end of that season, or will it be understood this time around that these things are cyclical?

WORST MATCHUP (opponents with worst combined Prospectus Hit List rankings, provided both are in the lower half): Los Angeles Dodgers (24th) @ Arizona Diamondbacks (28th)

I was looking at this website and got an idea: how about a train tour featuring stops at various baseball destinations? The train could spend a week taking riders from stadium to stadium. A trip across the southwest wouldn't be half bad. It would include stops at both of these stadiums, of course. It could then proceed up the coast to San Francisco. Perhaps, for the purposes of nostalgia, such a trip should be limited to the northeast, including the cities that had major-league teams when clubs still traveled by train. In any event, it would be cool. Expensive, but cool.

Speaking of nostalgia, I attended one of those 1860 baseball recreation things this past Saturday in Conroe, Texas. It was a lot of fun. I can't imagine it was that hot in 1860, what with there being no global warming back then. There were four teams and they dressed in varying degrees of authenticity. One club was dressed like farmers and townsfolk and they looked great. One team was in shorts and t-shirts and they did not put one in the nostalgic frame of mind. In fact, their centerfielder had a tat sleeve on one arm and both calves nearly covered in ink. Perhaps that's too hasty a dismissal. Who is to say that one of P.T. Barnum's employees didn't show up at the grounds for a bit of sport? Someone like this gent.

1860 rules look like a lot more fun to play than slow-pitch softball. I especially like the out-on-one-bounce rule, although it's a pretty depressing at bat when you tip one into the dirt behind home plate only to have the catcher scoop it on a single bounce to put you out. That's one rule I'm glad was changed.

BIGGEST MISMATCHUP (opponents with greatest difference in Prospectus Hit List rankings): Boston Red Sox (5th) @ Tampa Bay Devil Rays (27th)

Look at the Evil Ways messing up everybody's cool. They're trying to go over .500 at home for the second year in a row and they don't care who they hurt to get there.

Carl Crawford and Julio Lugo are having two of the better years in franchise history:

The 10 best Rays seasons by VORP:

65.1: Aubrey Huff, 2003
64.2: Fred McGriff, 1999
50.5: Aubrey Huff, 2004
50.5: Aubrey Huff, 2002
45.9: Julio Lugo, 2005
45.5: Carl Crawford, 2005
42.8: Randy Winn, 2002
42.8: Jose Canseco, 1999
37.4: Jorge Cantu, 2005
37.3: Fred McGriff, 2001

Jonny Gomes is at 33.5, making this second consecutive year the Rays have had four positions players over 30--last year being the first time it happened.

At the outset of the game last night, the Red Sox announcers pointed out that Hanley Ramirez and Craig Hansen had joined the team in St. Petersburg but probably wouldn't see any action. Four innings later, Hansen was in the game. His debut featured three batters faced with two of them going down on strikes and he looked good doing it. With this perfect appearance, he becomes the third Class of '05 player to get into a major-league game.

Joey Devine of the Braves was the first man in with a disastrous outing on August 20 against the Padres. He followed it up with an even worse appearance three days later against the Cubs. Next up was Ryan Zimmerman of the Nationals. He's come to the plate just 16 times and has a pretty nice VORP of 2.5. The Nats are currently the kings of the productive short stint.

Best VORP, 25 Plate Appearances or fewer:

3.8: Rick Short, Nationals (12 PA)
3.7: Chris Denorfia, Reds (23 PA)
3.3: Barry Bonds, Giants (20 PA)
2.5: Ryan Zimmerman, Nationals (16 PA)
2.1: Brendan Harris, Nationals (10 PA)

CLOSEST MATCHUP (opponents closest to one another in the Prospectus Hit List rankings): Philadelphia Phillies (10th) @ Atlanta Braves (8th)

How do I put this diplomatically?

Andruw Jones might be having the worst season ever for a player with 50 or more home runs. Using EqA adjusted for historical context, these are the lowest figures ever for 50-homer guys:

.305: Andruw Jones, 2005
.309: Sammy Sosa, 1999
.317: Greg Vaughn, 1998
.320: Sammy Sosa, 1998
.325: Roger Maris, 1961

Yes, that is Roger Maris on there. You shouldn't be too surprised. Most people long ago realized that Mickey Mantle had a better year than did Maris (Mantle's EqA that year was .369).

Of course, being the worst is a relative term. It's still a good season, it just pales in comparison to most of those who achieved the same milestone.

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