Randall Simon pleads his case; Phil Nevin sounds off against the All-Star Game finally “counting” for something; Barry Bonds tells why he’s not competing in the Home Run Derby this year; and Dontrelle Willis is just happy to be invited. All this and many more quips in the newest edition of The Week In Quotes.
Randy Johnson will have one more rehab start–this time at Class-A (oh, those poor kids)–before returning to Arizona. His knee has been problematic, but not so much that he’s been behind. The plan is to use him normally, but to spot him some extra rest when possible. The D’backs have found that they had more pitching depth than anyone expected, so some creative roster moves will help. Keeping Johnson balanced between useage and health will be a big test for Bob Brenly, Paul Lessard, and Chuck Kniffin. (And no, Curt Schilling’s first start performance has nothing to do with either his injury or Questec. As with Barry Zito, some pitchers just have bad days, weeks, and even years.)
The Brewers have problems all over the diamond as well as up and down the organization, but one of the brighter spots is Ben Sheets. Sheets has been effective, but he’s always had a tender back. Taking a swing in his last start appears to have aggravated his back. He’s in the Miller Park training room getting treatment twice a day and might not make his scheduled Thursday start. It’s not serious yet, but it bears watching for a team with no other options.
Kazuhiro Sasaki is finally off the stairs, has his luggage (or whatever) put away, and he’s back on the mound. While a mini-session in the pen is a long way from a return to closer duties in Seattle, it’s a good first step. Sasaki is still a minimum of three weeks from returning to games and Bob Melvin will continue to drive Derek Zumsteg nuts for the full three weeks.
Over the next two weeks, Prospectus Triple Play will cover the first halves of all 30 teams and look ahead to see what we can expect for the second half. Today, PTP examines the Marlins, Yankees, and Pirates.
The Angels are back to their old tricks. They scored eight runs on seven singles, two doubles, one home run and two walks. For the second day in a row, they bunched their hits, putting together a four-run inning late in the game. It looked a lot like last year’s team, actually: runners in motion, guys scoring on hard-hit singles, no double plays. The Angels are just eighth in the AL in run scoring (and seventh in EqA) after finishing fourth in runs (and fifth in EqA) last year. Just as they did last year, they’re scoring more runs than you would expect given what they’ve done at the plate, with 450 as opposed to a “projected” total of 437. One of the big differences between last year’s team and this one has been their propensity for hitting into double plays. Using (1B+BB+HBP-SBA-SAC) as an estimate of runners on first base, the Angels hit into a double play every 13.7 opportunities in 2002; in 2003, that figure is one every 10.0 opportunities. A team dependent on putting the ball in play has to avoid making two outs when it does. The other key element for the Angels is their defense. They have a flyball staff that needs good outfield defense to succeed, and for almost two months, they played without center fielder Darin Erstad. Erstad is largely overrated for his good batting averages and “intangibles,” but he may be the best defensive center fielder around. The Angels’ run prevention works because of him, and they missed him badly while he was out. In his absence from April 20 through June 8, they allowed 189 runs in 42 games, an average of 4.5 runs per game. The rest of the season, they’ve allowed 198 runs in 50 games, or just 4.0 runs per game. That’s the difference between being disappointing and being a contender, and a big part of that improvement is directly attributable to Erstad’s range in center field.