How would Barry Bonds' absence affect the Giants? Who will fill out the Dodgers' rotation? And will Joe Mauer ever be an everyday catcher? This and more in today's Prospectus Triple Play.
Penny's absence looks to push lefty swingman Wilson Alvarez into the rotation, at least temporarily. Alvarez enjoyed a solid 2004, making 15 starts and relieving 25 times for a 4.03 ERA and 102 strikeouts in 120.2 innings pitched, good for a VORP of 21.0 runs. He's no stranger to injury himself, having missed all of the 2000 and 2001 seasons due to rotator cuff surgery, and his swingman role reflects the team's willingness to place only so many eggs in his oversized basket.
The Giants have made a number of moves heavily criticized by analysts. Is there an overarching strategy driving the decisions, and can they be defended?
And he keeps on winning.
Since Sabean took over in 1997, the Giants have gone 738-557. That .570 mark is the second-best in the NL in that span (behind the Braves), and fourth best in all of MLB. Since '97, the Giants have never finished worse than second in their division. Of the 1295 games they've played in that time, no more than a dozen have failed to have playoff implications. By any accounting it's a sterling record of success.
The Orioles re-sign Rafael Palmeiro for some odd reason. Mike Lowell's staying with the Marlins. The Expos toss Rocky Biddle overboard a year too late, thanks to new GM Jim Bowden. The Yankees exercise fiscal restraint. These and other happenings in today's Transaction Analysis.
The Red Sox get Trot Nixon back. The Astros misfire on the Richard Hidalgo deal. With all hands now on deck, the Expos should excise Endy Chavez. The Phillies demote Chase Utley. The Giants quietly have one of the best offenses in baseball. These and other happenings in today's Transactions Analysis.
Having employed both Mark Huismann and Rick Huisman, you might suspect that the Royals have a thing for Huismenschen now that they have Justin in the organization. The hope here is that Justin survives what I call the Butthole Surfers Leap of Faith: Skip past the name, and enjoy what you get. Just because the previous pair of guys might make the Royals or their fans a bit squeamish, Justin Huisman can pitch in this man's league. Believe me, I have the same feeling about the name 'Codiroli,' and I'm sure if there's ever a non-Chris named Codiroli who winds up pitching for the A's, I'll have to make the same leap. In the meantime, I get to spout off.
One of the other cool things about having a knuckleballer--because, let's face it, we all think knuckleball pitchers are cool--is that you can slate them for relief between turns, and then can usually roll with it when you do what the Sox just did in activating Kim and re-shuffling their rotation. It covered them through the doubleheader against Tampa, and their rotation is prepped to run in turn from Saturday on, after getting Arroyo one last start before he heads back to the pen. Add in that Kim's a pretty good pitcher, and you've got the first of what ought to be a trio of important reactivations in the weeks to come that ought to help the Red Sox make tracks in the AL East. Plus, Kim gets his first two turns against the D-Rays and the Tribe, and past transgressions might even be forgotten. Well, you can always hope. I don't think New Englanders have learned to turn the other cheek since Cotton Mather started wondering whether that whole innocence-guilt thing was crimping the justice of good ol'fashioned witch-burnings. Not that that stopped people where Dan Duquette was concerned.
The Braves' bench looks ugly. The Dodgers make some nifty deals. The Mets inexplicably hand starting jobs to Tyler Yates and Scott Erickson. The Rangers unload Einar Diaz on the Expos. These and other happenings in today's Transaction Analysis.
The Angels spent lots of money on their rotation this offseason, but was it worth it? Kerry Wood is having a fantastic spring, with improved control. The Tigers have spent the past few weeks upgrading their bullpen in a search for 65 wins. A number of Expos are taking trips to ''club med.'' The Giants have failed to upgrade their offense, while the Dodgers have made small strides. And the Blue Jays traded Jayson Werth, but perhaps for good reason.
But they spent so much money (Part II)... Last time, we looked how Arte Moreno's money isn't going to buy a whole lot of runs. Apparently, Moreno's money won't save a lot of runs either. The Angels spent $66.75 millio to sign Bartolo Colon and Kelvim Escobar, who are projected to post EQERAs in the 4.00s and be worth just a few wins above replacement, apiece. The Halos' starting staff needs to beat PECOTA's projection if the club is to be playoff bound.
The Expos need to find a replacement for Tony Armas. The Giants' rotation may be in trouble. The Blue Jays should expect improvement from Josh Phelps and Eric Hinske. These and other news and notes in today's Prospectus Triple Play.
Call to Arm(a)s: One of the major questions at camp is whether the Expos' pitching staff can recapture the form and productivity it displayed in 2003. Right-hander Tony Armas Jr. was recently thought to be on the mend, and the Expos were optimistic that he'll begin the 2004 campaign in the rotation. But that was before word came in just before press time that Armas was suffering from tightness in his right deltoid, and is now back on le shelf. This after missing most of 2003 with a shoulder injury and sustaining a biceps injury early in camp.
Brian Sabean has brought a fair amount of criticism on himself with his low-key approach to this off-season, creating the world's largest chapter of the lunatic fringe in the process. So it's no surprise that he faced his share of skeptical questions from Giants fans during his live chat on mlb.com earlier this week. But it was his answer to a fairly innocuous question that raised the most eyebrows among the "fringers":
Q: Did you ever make an offer for Vladimir Guerrero?
Sabean: In a word: No. If we had signed Guerrero or [Gary] Sheffield, we would have been without [Jim] Brower, [Scott] Eyre, [Matt] Herges, [Dustin] Hermanson, [Brett] Tomko, [A.J.] Pierzynski, [Pedro] Feliz, [J.T.] Snow, [Jeffrey] Hammonds, [Dustan] Mohr and [Michael] Tucker--obviously not being able to field a competitive team, especially from an experience standpoint, given our level of spending.