This column isn’t about Bud. It’s about Tuesday’s USA Today feature, What’s the Problem with Baseball?” and its companion, “Ten Ways to Improve Baseball.” In the same week that USA Today won praise from Time for its journalism, it published a pair of articles which would embarrass a small-town weekly. These articles were built around the results of a Gallup Poll conducted from June 27-29. The complete results of this survey, with historical data for context, are available from the Gallup Web site. Comparing USA Today’s breathless hyping of baseball’s “problems” to the actual data shows how authors Peter Barzilai and John Follaco selectively reported the results that supported their conclusion.
The health of the American League has been, well, average. Teams near the top of their divisions have dealt with injuries more than they’ve avoided or overcome them. As baseball heads into the second half, teams will watch for signs of fatigue, and the interplay between team medical staffs and the field staff becomes key. A trainer spotting bad mechanics, keeping a player from turning a tweak into a tear, or returning a guy ahead of schedule, can be worth a win or two. I grade the teams based on a number of factors: overall health compared to both league and team averages, ability to get players back ahead of schedule, lost time to DL, and effect of injuries on team results. These are not terribly scientific and should not be used for wagering. In no instance am I assigning blame; instead, I merely hope to allow comparison and quantify effect. They’re not worth arguing over.
As you’ll recall, last week we took a gander at the minor-league careers of today’s elite pitchers. This time around, it’s the less-than-stellar crowd that gets the once-over.
It’s a group I like to call Group B: 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 five percent worse than the league average). Just like last time, I’ve 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 Cleveland Indians farm system received a large amount of recognition during the past year. Cleveland’s pool of developing talent went from barren to overflowing with a few wise trades, compensation draft picks for free agent losses, and emerging prospects all coinciding last summer. Their major league roster contains 11 rookies, and an influx of talent like that will almost certainly result in a depleted minor league stable. The Indians’ young talent base doesn’t end in Cleveland, however…
The Angels’ bullpen has been lights out beyond belief; Sammy Sosa has really turned it around; and Dmitri Young was a legitimate All-Star pick, no matter what your friends try to tell you. All this and much more news from Anaheim, Chicago, and Detroit in your Thursday edition of Prospectus Triple Play.