April 9, 2001
The Daily Prospectus
Up With People
It's Monday, everyone's probably a bit grumpy and there are no baseball games being televised in my area today. So to counter that, let's look at some of the positive things I saw in the season's first week.
The one that jumps out at me is Larry Rothschild's use of Steve Cox in the #2 slot. Cox doesn't fit the mold of the "typical" #2 hitter, being a tall guy with some power and not much speed. But he hits for a good average and walks a bunch, giving him a solid OBP (.379 in 2000, projected .369 in 2001).
Having Cox in the two hole is especially important given that Gerald Williams bats leadoff, and Williams just doesn't get on base at an acceptable rate. At least with Cox second, the D-Rays may be able to have a few baserunners on for the middle of their lineup, such as it is. It's certainly going to be an improvement over last season:
#2 slot Year OBP 2000 .316 1999 .368 1998 .346
Having Wade Boggs around for a few years kept the top of the D-Rays' lineup respectable, but upon his retirement, the team filled the slot with a succession of OBP sinks in 2000, helping them finish last in the league in runs scored. If Cox performs as expected, and Rothschild sticks with him batting second, that will be a significant boost for the offense.
I'm also pretty excited about the way Matt Clement started his season. Clement, who was traded to the Marlins a week before Opening Day, had a decent start against the Phillies (five innings, three runs) followed by a beauty against the Braves (eight innings, one run). Most importantly, he's walked just four men in 13 innings over two starts, and for someone who led the league in free passes last season, that's a good sign. Clement is someone I've pegged as a breakout candidate, and I firmly believe the Fish made a great deal in bringing him in for Mark Kotsay.
As positive as I'd like to be today, there is some sad news. As you probably know, Pirates Hall of Famer Willie Stargell passed away at age 61. My memories of Stargell are primarily limited to the 1979 Pirates--"We Are Family"--so I remember him as an aging slugger in garish outfits, always smiling and happy.
I've come to learn over the years that he was, at one time, a good outfielder, someone who was a complete ballplayer. What didn't change with the deeper knowledge was my image of him as always smiling and happy. The world of baseball is a little bit less today for our loss.
To the family and friends of Stargell, and to Pirate fans everywhere, the BP staff offers its condolences.
Joe Sheehan is an author of Baseball Prospectus. Contact him by clicking here.