The Diamondbacks’ Brandon Webb offers another data point in the case for home run-preventing minor league pitchers succeeding in the majors. Royals staff ace Darrell May continues the success he had in Japan. The Phillies’ Rheal Cormier was the best reliever in the National League in the first half…for rheal. These and other news and notes out of Arizona, Kansas City, and Philadelphia in today’s Prospectus Triple Play.
You’ve heard it all before: “We’re comfortable with our team,” “We’re going to go to battle with what we have,” or the best one of ’em all, “We don’t want to tamper with success.”
No matter how you slice it, though, each one of those phrases translates into the same thing: “Yes, we know we’ve got some gaping holes, but we don’t want to make a trade because we’re cheap, or we don’t think we’ll make it to the playoffs anyway.”
Dave Van Horne broadcasted baseball games for the Montreal Expos for 32 years, from the club’s inception in 1969 through to the Jeffrey Loria era. Since then he’s moved on to become play-by-play man for the Florida Marlins, where a new generation of fans have heard him use his trademark “Up, Up, and Away” home run call. In Part I of BP’s chat with Van Horne, we discussed breaking into baseball, calling the game, and a few pages of Expos history.
In the last two weeks, I divided up some current (or semi-current) major league pitchers with the idea of examining their minor league statistics and how those reflected on their major league performances. Group A was the “good” group. Peopled with active luminaries like Roger Clemens, Pedro Martinez, and Randy Johnson, Group A comprised all current pitchers who’ve spent the majority of their careers as starters and thrown, as of the end of 2002, at last 1,000 innings in the majors, all while posting a career park-adjusted ERA+ (the pitcher’s ERA relative to the league average) of at least 110 (meaning an ERA at least 10% better than the league average). Also in the mix are a handful of quality young arms who have pitched at least 500 innings and maintained a park-adjusted ERA+ of at least 120. Group B included all active pitchers who have, as of the end of the 2002 season, pitched at least 500 innings and posted a park-adjusted ERA+ of 95 or less (at least 5% worse than the league average). In both instances, I attempted to isolate those minor league innings that are developmental in nature–i.e., not an injury rehab assignment or late-career retread work. The results were quite surprising. Group B, those pitchers manifestly inferior at the highest level, outperformed the denizens of Group A in the minors in several key indicators (K/BB ratio, K/9, BB/9). Group A fared better in HR/9 and ERA. This led me to wonder two things: is home run rate an undervalued augury of success, and does Group A show a clear advantage in hit rate?
Lots of questions about J.D. Drew coming in the Inbox with his name coming up in trade rumors. Drew is well into his career and the idea that he’s suddenly going to become a player that is healthy for a full season is not impossible, but certainly not something any team should rely on. Instead of Mickey Mantle, I think Rondell White is a more likely comparable–when healthy, quite productive. In the right situation, handled properly, not saddled with the weight of expectations, and with the proper rest and backup, Drew could help a team.
Kazuhiro Sasaki had another bullpen session, this time with two main differences–more pitches and a crouching catcher. Sasaki is making sudden, rapid progress in his return from fractured ribs and the time off can do nothing but help his balky shoulder. With Arthur Rhodes and Jeff Nelson struggling some and no trade on the horizon, the M’s would welcome back Sasaki as soon as he can be effective.
As Edgar Martinez is slowed (if that’s possible) by a calf strain, the Mariners will rest him some and remind him that running really isn’t something they expect him to do. He hasn’t been the type that could run out an infield single at any point in his career. The M’s smart usage of Martinez gives us an interesting look into what might be the perfect situation for none other than Ken Griffey Jr.. With Martinez in the twilight of his career, Griffey could slot right into the DH that doesn’t run slot. While he’s a different type of hitter than Martinez, I think many could see him excelling in that slot and in that ballpark. I have no idea how that could work financially, but as we’ve seen, no deal is impossible if it works for everyone. Maybe, for Junior, he can go home again.
The Braves are a bunch of class clowns. The Twins are still in the race, despite being thoroughly mediocre. And the Devil Rays are looking ahead to the future because they don’t really have a choice. All this and many more tid-bits from Atlanta, Minnesota, and Tampa Bay in your Wednesday edition of Prospectus Triple Play.
Esteban Loaiza’s had a Cy Young-caliber first half for the White Sox. Channeling the golf gods, the Cardinals rate as sub-par–in a good way. The Rangers continue to acquire young talent to put on the field with young stars Rodriguez, Blalock, and Teixeira. These and other news and notes out of Chicago, St. Louis, and Texas in today’s Prospectus Triple Play.
There are a few things that came out after Randy Johnson’s first start back. First, Johnson had only minimal swelling in his knee after the start. That’s a very good sign. Second, he had exceptional command, getting more than 70% of his pitches through the strike zone. Next, a good Tivo-enabled look at his delivery showed that his soft landing took some of his velocity. According to Tom House’s book, The Pitching Edge, a stable front base is a must for transferring energy and thereby velocity.
As Junior Spivey and Danny Bautista return from the DL after significant time out, some of the younger players that have kept the Diamondbacks in the divisional race will get squeezed out of the roster, and sent back to Tucson. There’s no team in recent memory that went so far from the intended roster construction only to return to it later in the season, so I don’t have a good point of comparison.
Larry Walker and the Rockies are debating a trip to the DL after tests on his hip were inconclusive. A hernia still hasn’t been ruled out, and he was certainly moving gingerly last week in Pac Bell (Granted, so was Barry Bonds). There’s confusing noise coming from Colorado on this one, so it seems like the trip to the DL would solve Clint Hurdle’s roster challenges and give Walker a chance to heal himself up from whatever it is that’s ailing him.
It is always better to try and evaluate performance than to do nothing. This is true in almost everything. If you work for a huge telecom company (for instance) and there’s no tracking of any kind of project success or failure, that’s a major problem–ideas are floated off, no one knows whether they fail or succeed, and when they go over budget and don’t work, no one learns a valuable lesson from that failure. Instead of remaining ignorant and believing that things are going well, spend the money and see what’s up.
Along these lines, all we’ve had to evaluate umpiring are raw stats. If an umpire tends to yield fewer walks and more strikeouts, it’s a good bet that he’s being generous with his personal strike zone. When that happens, players are forced to swing at bad pitches or get rung up on called third strikes. There are obvious issues with looking at umpires this way: if one ump happens to work a lot of good starters by luck, he’ll look like more of a pitcher’s umpire.
Computerized ball and strike calling even in its most primitive forms is potentially a great tool for evaluation and a step toward finally getting the strike zone settled.
The National League is beginning to sort itself out, after looking like it was
going to be a wild, 13-teams-for-three-spots free-for-all. The Mets, Brewers
and Padres have been done for a while, and the Reds, Rockies, Expos and
Pirates are going to have a hard time selling the idea they’re contending for
much longer. That still leaves nine teams within six games of a playoff spot,
however, which will make for a great second half of baseball.
The Astros bullpen has propelled an otherwise mediocre team to first place. Matt Ford has made an impact for the Brewers. The A’s continue to shop for a bat. These and other news and notes out of Houston, Milwaukee, and Oakland in today’s Prospectus Triple Play.
Hank Blalock makes his home run count. Barry Bonds sounds off on wiping out Babe Ruth and small sample size. Bret Boone calls out an obvious conflict of interest. Bud Selig waxes poetic on baseball and the hotel industry. These and other tasty morsels in The Week In Quotes.