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Pat Burrell


The recent injury to Rico Brogna highlights a baseball development that,
until now, has been only surmised: Terry Francona and the Phillies front
office are hopped up on goofballs. Are they waiting for Ron Gant to
break his leg before announcing that Kevin Sefcik will now be the
full-time starter because he can save eight runs a game purely by virtue of
his glove?

Has anyone told Francona that Pat Burrell is not hitting .200 in
Triple-A anymore?

--Brian

Brian,

While I have no intentions of denying the fact that the
operations of the Phillies’ front office are often strange, mysterious
and somewhat disconnected from petty matters like reality, evidence
and logic, there may be some method to this particular madness.

The current party line is that Burrell was not called up
because he hadn’t played first base at all this year. At the time the
roster move was made, the Phillies were still thinking that Brogna
could be back fairly quickly, possibly as soon as a month from now.
What they did not want was to bring Burrell up, have him struggle
defensively due to unfamiliarity with the position (since he’s only
played about a year’s worth of first base and none since September) and
then send him down again after a few weeks, leaving him discouraged.

Personally I think they’re overstating the risk, since a player with
the talent and work ethic that Burrell exhibits tends to sort himself
out in short order, even if he has initial struggles. And of course the
assumption that Brogna would be a more valuable player to the team
than Burrell is, to put it politely, somewhat dubious to begin with.

There’s also a second, less obvious, factor at work here,
namely some financial issues. Most players are not arbitration-eligible
until after their third full season, but every year a small group
of players with between two and three years of service time (the top 17% in
terms of time on the major-league roster) are eligible
as "Super Two" players.

If Burrell were to come up now and play well
enough to stick around for good (the opposite extreme from the
official concern) then there’s a very good chance he could sneak into
that classification after the 2002 season when the contract he signed
after being drafted runs out. The Phillies are already making noises
about being concerned about finances at that point since Scott Rolen
will be eligible for free agency after that season and Bobby Abreu
will be coming off his current contract and will likely be looking for a
big raise over the $6 million he’ll make in 2002. Given that recent developments have
probably doomed them to playing at the Vet through at least 2003, they
probably expect to be extremely pinched for cash at that point
(although they really need to talk to Detroit about the blind
assumption that a new mallpark means buckets of cash even if the team
is lousy). Avoiding arbitration with Burrell would be a desirable
result from a financial standpoint.

All that said, I fully expect to see Burrell called
up in about a month. The telling factor is that he is, as of yesterday,
Scranton’s regular first baseman. If the Phillies had no intention of
playing him at first base in the majors then Gene Schall would
likely have
taken over. By keeping Burrell at Triple-A for a little while longer they
deal with the official concern of getting him reacclimated to first
base outside the spotlight of the major leagues, and they also
substantially reduce the risk of him being a "Super 2." It’s not
entirely fair to Burrell, but it really is business as usual for the
majors.

Thanks for dropping us the note. We always appreciate hearing
from our readers.

–Jeff Hildebrand

Park Effects


I was perusing my BP 2000 again last night and noticed something I
think is kind of peculiar. I read the article and stats regarding
relievers with great interest. Your system of determining the worth
of a reliever seems to be the fairest yet. However, in the
statistical analysis of each team, you have Wrigley Field as having
a -1.8% effect. In the organizational analysis you state that
Wrigley is a good hitters' park increasing runs 13% (or close to
that). Further, today I read your Support-Neutral information on
Starters
and, again, for Wrigley you have -1.8%. What is the
difference here? Now, I should go through all the parks and see if
there is a difference that I should have already figured out, but it
did not really dawn on me as surprising until today as I enjoyed
your Web site. Please let me know why those numbers do not jibe.

Keep up the good work. Your new methods of analyzing stats assures
me that I will always have new and interesting baseball material to
read.

--Dale

Dale,

Thanks very much for the interest and the kind words. Wrigley
ended up as a slight pitchers’ park in the SNWL and reliever
numbers only after taking the presence or absence of the DH
rule into account. The DH is something that’s usually treated
separately from other influences of the park, but I combine the
two. The full story:

         R/IP Home     R/IP Road    Ratio
1999      .6148          .5770      1.066
1998      .5565          .5438      1.023
------------------------------------------
2-YEAR AVERAGE                      1.044

Adjusting the numbers so that league park-adjusted runs add up
to actual league runs, the Wrigley factor is reduced from +4.4%
to +1.3%. Incorporating the effect of the nine-on-nine baseball rules
played at Wrigley, it gets further reduced to -1.85%.

I hope that’s clear, and thanks again for writing.

–Michael Wolverton

Dustin Hermanson


I'm a big Dustin Hermanson fan but I'm a little concerned about his
strikeout numbers this year. Through 35 innings he only has 13 strikeouts.
All of his other stats are fine but should I be worried about an injury or
something, or is it still too soon to tell?

--Paul

Paul,

Offhand, I’d say you need to worry most about injury. Injury to Ugueth
Urbina
, that is.

Seriously, you never can tell with pitchers, but as you know, Hermanson has
been excellent since being traded to Montreal. It is still so early in the
season that I don’t think this is anything for you to worry about.

–Dave Pease


Any comments or analysis on Felipe Alou using his "ace"
Dustin Hermanson as the closer while Urbina is out? Is Hermanson more
valuable as a starter or closer? The Expos comments that they have Tony
Armas
and other minor-league pitchers available to take Hermanson's rotation spot
strikes me as putting the cart before the horse. It is harder for a young pitcher to
be immediately successful as a starter than a reliever when he gets the call.
Whereas, Hermanson is an established major-league starter and his prowess as a
closer is unkown.

--Jeff P.

Jeff,

As you can probably guess, we think it’s a borderline insane idea.

At this point, I think it’s likely that Hermanson will be successful in any role
his team puts him in. Remember, the last time he was pitching relief with
regularity was when he was in San Diego, where he walked 22 in 31 2/3 innings
of work in 1995. Obviously, he isn’t the same pitcher; he still has the great
stuff, but he’s sharpened his control since then. So if he’s used in the
closer spot, I don’t see why he wouldn’t be successful.

That being said… the Expos need their most consistent starter to be their
closer like the world needs another Elian Gonzalez story. Where’s
Steve Kline when you need him? Heck, didn’t the Cubbies just cut
Bobby Ayala?

We buy into the closer role as much as we buy into a guy who can’t reliably
be counted on to pitch five or six innings deep into a game with any quality.
Pitchers like this probably exist, and it is to their teams’ advantage to use
them in a more limited scope. But Hermanson has already proven he’s a
major-league starter. Let him keep starting, push Kline into the closer
role if you must have a rigidly defined fireman, and have Armas pitch long
relief. That plan makes a lot more sense to us.

–Dave Pease

Rohypnol


I understand that he was trying to be funny, but that's the reason
why Jeff Bower's comment that "It's only a matter of time until
Oakland's heavy lumber breaks loose and starts scoring as often as a
male escort armed with Rohypnol" was very offensive. Just consider
this statement from the perspective of someone who has been raped by someone
using this drug. I don't think that they feel "scored" upon.

--Rob

Rob,

It’s one thing to push the envelope, and another to step over the
line–which a few of you have let me know loud and clear was the case here.

The jab was directed at escort services and the folks that support that very
shady industry, and was not intended to make light of date rape. My
sincerest apologies to you and anyone else who found the remarks offensive.

–Jeff Bower

Statistics


I was curious if there was an electronic version of statistics books out
there, with complete career numbers, etc. I'm looking for a way to do my
own analyses and playing with the numbers and wonder where I get the
data for it.

--Dave

Dave,

Two good places for finding statistics on the web are

  • Doug’s NBA & MLB Stats Home Page

    Doug Steele has been updating his stats daily since 1994, and has them freely
    available for download here. We don’t really know who he is or why he does
    this, but he’s a machine, and we’ve used these numbers on countless occasions.

  • The Baseball Archive

    The folks at the Baseball Archive have something that’s right down your alley:
    stats matrixes that go back over a century. You can download these (again,
    for free), plug them in to your favorite spreadsheet, and go to town.

Thanks for reading,

–Dave Pease

Daily Updates


I enjoy your website, but its not updated on a daily basis! Why? I'll
check back in a few days, hopefully it will be updated.

--JGPRIMEX

JGPRIMEX,

Ever since the advent of Mighty Joe Sheehan’s Daily Prospectus,
we’ve had daily updates from Monday through Friday.

We’re doing our best to get content up in a timely and consistent fashion.
When we started baseballprospectus.com in 1996, we were lucky to get four
pieces up every two weeks; now, we post that on a good day.

A note to everyone: thanks for reading, and for your feedback. We can’t
answer every note, but we read and appreciate them all.

–Dave Pease

We’d love to hear your thoughts on anything baseball-related at
info@baseballprospectus.com.
We’ll publish the best of what we get periodically at
www.baseballprospectus.com.