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June 8, 2007

Prospectus Matchups

The Army You Have

by Jim Baker

Best Matchup (Best combined chances of making the playoffs according to BP's Postseason Odds Report): New York Mets @ Detroit Tigers

…featuring a post-game lecture by Professor of Sociology, Dr. Gary A. Sheffield.

How would you like to have a job where your views were repeated on every news source and website, regardless of how unsubstantiated they were? Not only that, the nature of this job precludes you from censure because your services are so valuable. Oh well, maybe we'll get our shot at a gig like that next time around, right? Sheffield can pretty much say what he pleases because he continues to deliver on the ballfield. At 38, his .317 EqA is approximating his career average.

It's time to look at the Rumsfeld Number for the National League. I call it that because of the famous Donald Rumsfeld quote from December of 2004: "As you know, you have to go to war with the army you have, not the army you want." Baseball teams are no different, and because of this a certain amount of plate appearances are offered to players who are not at replacement level, represented by the Rumsfeld Number. The Mets happen to have the lowest Rumsfeld Number of any team in the league. (This does not include pitchers.)

NL Rumsfeld Numbers

Mets       7.8
Phillies  12.2
Padres    13.9
Brewers   14.8
Cubs      18.9
Reds      20.1
Braves    20.7
Giants    24.6
Marlins   25.3
Cardinals 26.0
Nationals 28.9
Dodgers   32.4
Astros    34.8
D'Backs   35.7
Rockies   39.0
Pirates   47.6

The Mets have five players below replacement level, but, as you can see, they have played very little. They are: David Newhan, 2.5 percent; Carlos Gomez, 2.1 percent; Julio Franco, 2.0 percent; Ben Johnson, 1.1 percent; and Lastings Milledge, 0.1 percent. Had Shawn Green and Moises Alou not gotten injured, the Mets' number would be even lower, but then, that's the nature of the Rumsfeld Number--you go to war with what you have. The Phillies for instance, have only two players below replacement level. Unfortunately, they are Wes Helms and Abraham Nunez, both of whom play the same position: third base, so the alternative is not ideal in either case.

Of course, sometimes the army you have is the army you want, and that's not necessarily a good thing, either. Look at the Astros: giving a third of their plate appearances to players who are below replacement level not because they have to, but because they want to. Well, maybe they think they sort of have to with Craig Biggio (10.3 percent), but they've been sold on Brad Ausmus (7.7 percent) and Adam Everett (9.2 percent) for some time. Which puts them in a position where they appear in the…

Worst Matchup (Worst combined chances of making the playoffs according to BP's Postseason Odds Report)): Houston Astros @ Chicago White Sox

Good gravy--weren't these two opponents in a World Series recently? Last year? The year before? Am I remembering this right?

For the second year in a row, Orlando Palmeiro of the Astros is the most-active pinch-hitter in the game; it's neck-and-neck between Palmeiro and David Newhan of the Mets at this point. Palmeiro is at .214/.353/.214 as a pinch-hitter. While we understand that pinch-hitting never produces the kind of results that non-pinch-hitting does, it appears to be especially weak this year. The 20 most active pinch-hitters have produced a line of .226/.322/.347 so far in 2007 in about 500 plate appearances. Remember, that's not even all pinch-hitters; it just represents the men who get to do it the most. Seems kind of low, doesn't it? Last year, the top 20 most active went .253/.322/.407 in well over 1,100 chances, so 2007 has been a down year for the specialists so far. They do walk at a good clip, though, producing the same OBP as last season in spite of 27 fewer points of batting average. All those walks aren't intentional, either. That was my first thought--I figured a lot of pinch-hitters come up in situations with men on late in the game, the kind of scenario that often leads opposing managers to order up a free pass. Daryle Ward of the Cubs has four intentionals, but no other pinch-hitter in baseball has more than one.

I'm sure the 2007 line will improve, but if they're to match last year's slugging average, they better get to popping.

Second-Best Matchup (Second-Best combined chances of making the playoffs according to BP'sPostseason Odds Report): Boston Red Sox @ Arizona Diamondbacks

"Truly, for some men nothing is written unless they write it." That's Sherif Ali, as portrayed by Omar Sharif in Lawrence of Arabia.

One month ago, the D'Backs' chances of making the playoffs was at 11 percent. Now, it's up to almost one in three. Truly, they have rewritten the future!

Had Curt Schilling not lost his no-hitter to the last Oakland hitter yesterday, what would Julio Lugo have had in common with the following players: Charlie Hayes, Bill Russell, Ferris Fain, and Bucky Harris? That's right--he would have been guilty of ruining a perfect game with an error. Lugo's seventh-inning error yesterday ended Schilling's bid for perfection, just as Hayes did for Terry Mulholland in 1990, Russell for Jerry Reuss in 1980, Fain for Bill McCahan in 1947, and Harris for Walter Johnson in 1920. Would it be wrong to presume that Lugo was just the tiniest bit relieved when Shannon Stewart ended the no-hit bid? Probably.

There is also a pitcher who undid his own perfect game with a miscue. In the fourth inning of an otherwise perfect game in 1974, Dick Bosman of the Indians misplayed a ball hit back to the mound. In 1908, Hooks Wiltse of the Giants lost his perfect game bid on the 27th batter by hitting the opposing pitcher, who was still in the game because the score was tied 0-0. The most dramatic self-inflicted lost perfect game belongs to Milt Pappas of the Cubs in 1972--and he would tell you that it was Bruce Froemming-inflicted. With an 8-0 lead on the Padres, he walked the 27th batter, pinch-hitter Larry Stahl, on a 3-2 pitch to derail his bid for perfection. Instead of going to pieces over having the close call go the wrong way, though, he retired Garry Jestadt to preserve the no-hitter.

Speaking of Lugo, he remains the most effective base stealer in the game, for the time being at least. Here are the players who've stolen the most bases without getting caught yet:


Player                   SB
Julio Lugo, Red Sox      17
David Wright, Mets       12
Johnny Damon, Yankees    10
Corey Hart, Brewers      10
Ian Kinsler, Rangers     10
Michael Bourn, Phillies  10

Bourn is as close to a latter-day Herb Washington as a 25-man roster with 12 pitchers will allow. He's been in 66 games in his career, but has 52 plate appearances. If the Phillies keep using him the way have and as often as they have, he's going to appear in over 150 games and come to the plate barely over 100 times.

So Terry Francona thinks it's unfair that American League teams can't use the DH in National League parks, hey? He's probably not too thrilled with these constraints, either:

  • AL teams denied use of shortfielder
  • Mound not raised for AL defensive half-innings and then lowered again for their turn at bat
  • Batters' eye not removed when National League teams at the plate
  • National League pitcher's resin bag not filled with itching powder
  • National League batters get to use professionally manufactured bats, not ones made by local lads in woodshop
  • The no-good bastards continue to keep score while National League teams are at-bat
  • Way to speak out, Terry!

    Related Content:  The Who,  Managers Of The Year

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