We’ve collectively fallen prey to a common mistake. As we’ve been fortunate enough to reach a large number of new people, we’ve not done a particularly great job of talking about why we do what we do. Or, put another way, how come we don’t like to talk about RBI when evaluating hitters? I forget about this because of the kind of cloistered atmosphere we tend to run in, but a lot of stuff that we take as stone cold gospel is completely foreign and brand new for the vast majority of baseball fans.
So, as a service to the people who may be exploring serious baseball analysis for the first time, or who may be new to Baseball Prospectus, here’s a brief rundown of some basics of performance assessment. It’s spotty, but it’s a start. For you longtime readers, please consider this a cheat sheet you can use when discussing baseball in bars, or with Bob Feller.
Wednesday, the Yankees and Mariners swapped right-handed relievers, Armando Benitez for Jeff Nelson. At first glance, the trade seems like an exchange of headaches, given that Benitez had been erratic for the Yankees and Nelson had recently complained–not without reason–about the Mariners front office and its inability to make a deal at the trade deadline.
At first glance, the Mariners look like the big winners.
The Diamondbacks will surely plummet to last place with Mark Grace’s veteran leadership on the DL. Jack Cust gets his shot with the Orioles. Jeff Nelson’s return signals a Yankees A-Team reunion. Ray Durham opens the door for some unattractive options for the Giants. These and other tidbits in this edition of Transaction Analysis.
Grady Sizemore has usurped Victor Martinez as Impressive Indian of the Future; Hideo Nomo likes his time away from home; and Jeff Nelson gets dealt just days after criticizing the M’s front office. All this and much more news from Cleveland, Los Angeles, and Seattle in your Friday edition of Prospectus Triple Play.
I woke up yesterday morning to hear NPR’s Frank Deford complain about how ineffective Bud Selig was in controlling the Yankees this year, that every fan of other teams had learned that the trading deadline was the effective end of the season. He went on to complain for a while about this year’s moves and I got up to go shave, depressed about the continued domination of New York and my home town team’s fortunes. I was then shocked–shocked!–to find out that not only did the Yankees not win last year’s World Series, they didn’t even win the year before. Why, if this keeps up, it’ll be hard to come up with, “What kind of a world is it where a man can’t whine about Yankee dominance as a back-up topic for their column, or radio bit, or appearance on whatever show Jim Rome’s hosting that week?” Deford was right–the Yankees did acquire an All-Star third baseman. But Robin Ventura’s an All Star third baseman, too, and no one’s talking about that. Aaron Boone’s really no plum, either–at press time, he was hitting .245/.304/.401 away from (as Dave Cameron called it) the Great American Bandbox. If these are the acquisitions the Yankees are going to make to take on salary, so be it.
Main Entry: sav·ior
1 : one that saves from danger or destruction
2 : one who brings salvation
If you live in Tampa (or root for the Devil Rays from some far away land), odds are that you have appealed to Merriam-Webster to add a third definition to the book: B.J. Upton. Few organizations have seen more danger and destruction than Tampa Bay over the past six seasons. No team could justify their need of salvation more. Indeed, at the ripe age of 18, the hopes of an entire retirement community have been pinned upon the shoulders of Melvin Emanuel Upton. (Yes, his middle name is Emanuel. Irony is great).
Upton was chosen second overall in the 2002 June draft after the Pirates went conservative with college pitcher Bryan Bullington. Everyone agreed that Upton was the best player available, and he received accolades along the lines of Derek Jeter, Barry Larkin, and Alex Rodriguez. Upton acknowledged the Jeter comparison himself, explaining that he would like to “eventually be even better.” After a summer-long session of negotiations, Upton signed with the Devil Rays for $4.6 million, but did not make his professional debut until this spring.
Thanks for letting me take a day off; I needed it. I recharged my batteries by heading out to the ballpark with my dad, who’s in town for the week. It was a pretty bad game (17-1 loss for the home team), but a good time. As we head down the stretch with about 50 games left for teams, I’ll begin focusing more on the injuries that are affecting the divisional races. I won’t ignore the rest of baseball, but my focus will change slightly. Especially when rosters expand, it’s harder to track down information–the DL is used less frequently and teams begin to more actively hide injuries. It takes more time digging, calling, and analyzing, so the volume has to come down to make sure that I get you the information you need.
With slacker Barry Bonds having an off year, we don’t have the daily suspense of watching one player chase a variety of single-season records all at once. We do, however, have a fair chance that one of the game’s marks will be broken: Bobby Thigpen’s saves record of 57, set with the White Sox in 1990.
Through 113 games, the Braves’ John Smoltz has 42 saves, leaving him 15 short of tying the mark and 16 from setting a new one. In last year’s 55-save campaign, Smoltz had 59 opportunities, and 39 saves through 113 team games. He has had 45 save opportunities so far in 2003, on pace for 64.5 on the season. If that were to hold, Smoltz would have to save 16 of his last 19 opportunities to set the record, which seems well within his grasp.
Two summers ago, I wrote about the save record and what it would take for it to be broken. The primary barrier isn’t ability or performance, but opportunity…
The Diamondbacks hope Raul Mondesi can help their slumping offense. Angel Berroa deserves the Rookie of the Year award. Jose Mesa v. Pat Burrell, Phillies duel to the death. These and other news and notes out of Arizona, Kansas City, and Philadelphia in today’s Prospectus Triple Play.
LAKE HAVASU CITY, Ariz.–It’s hot. I don’t even want to hear that it’s a dry heat. You know what I do in this kind of dry heat? Cook things. I have an appliance in my house that creates plenty of dry heat and works very well for chicken, beef, pork…people shouldn’t be exposed to it. I’m on the annual trip to Lake Havasu, which is more or less the L.A. version of the Jersey shore. There are two types up here: “river people” (referring to the Colorado River, which flows into the lake) and others. I am most definitely others, but come up here every summer with Sophia and a dozen river people and fake it as best I can. I even got a fun column out of it once. Mostly, though, I watch my flesh burn and miss my DSL. And answer e-mail.
Up until this season, my clearest memory of Jose Guillen is as the object of some very unflattering jeering in the right field bleachers at Wrigley Field. The bleacher bums are never kind to opposing outfielders, but Guillen, being young, bad, and foreign, was a particularly vulnerable target. Guillen reacted to the taunts by alternately appearing hopelessly dejected and demonstratively angry, only making matters worse. Though he got his revenge that day–hitting a home run off crowd-favorite/headcase Turk Wendell–I’ve always had trouble watching him play without the phrase Jo-se-do-you-suck! running warbled, drunken, Francis Scott Off-Key through my head.
However cruel, the taunting had proved prescient. Back in 1997, Guillen had time and an abundance of raw talent on his side. Bouncing between four organizations and failing to demonstrate any development, Guillen had regressed to the level of benchwarmer; his career .239 EqA entering the season was below replacement level for a corner outfielder. If not for his powerful right arm (an impressive tool, but overrated in its importance) and his much-tarnished Topps All-Rookie Team trophy, Guillen might have been riding shuttles between Louisville and Chattanooga or selling real estate instead of holding down a fourth outfielder job in the bigs.
This season, of course, Guillen has had the last laugh. Easily the most productive hitter on the Reds this year, Guillen filled in admirably for Ken Griffey Jr. Now traded to the A’s, he’s been charged with the Herculean task of trying to make up for an entire outfield’s worth of mediocrity, salvaging Billy Beane’s reputation as a deadline dealer nonpareil in the process.
But what if Guillen turns back into a pumpkin?
Mark Prior returns as the Cubs hang on the fringes of the pennant race. Garrett Atkins gets his shot with the Rockies. The Tigers’ love affair with Matt Walbeck and Alex Sanchez continues. Jack Clark gets the blame for the Dodgers’ offensive incompetence. Corey Koskie returns just when the Twins need him most. These and other happenings in today’s Transaction Analysis.