You’ve probably read Joe Sheehan’s nifty explanations of his AL and NL All-Star ballots. In summary, Joe’s theory is that you don’t fritter away an All-Star spot on a player who’s had a hot two months preceded by season upon season of mediocrity. Instead, you give the spot to a proven, top-tier performer who, ideally, is also enjoying a strong first half. I couldn’t agree more with that philosophy.
Today, I’m going to begin extending Joe’s balloting hermeneutics to the minor leagues. By that I mean I’m going to name my personal level-by-level minor league All-Stars. In the very low minors, where I’m beginning this series, it’s difficult to distinguish fluke performance from genuine skills growth–the track record either isn’t substantial or isn’t there at all. It’s when I get to the upper levels of the minors that I’ll get to wield my variant of Joe’s philosophy. By way of example, I’m not going to hand out any spots to the Hiram Bocachicas of the world. Irrespective of his merits, he’s not a highly valuable prospect by any standard. What I’m going to do is give spots to those who are not only performing well in the early months of the 2004 season, but also are doing so in tandem with legitimate prospect status.
Baseball exists in two parallel universes. It serves two masters. It has a foot in two worlds. It straddles a fence. It balances on two horses like a rider at an old west show…and so on and so forth.
On the one hand, it must entertain its paying customers and viewers. On the other, it is the prime directive of its participants to succeed. Often, these two missions are at odds (although you would never get most of the men inside the game to admit to that).
While some plays are completely frustrating on a strategic level, they serve to entertain the paying customer and home viewer. These are, for the most part, the plays that have long been called into question by the analytical sector of the baseball community. Even those of us in that community cannot deny that when they occur, they can be visually dynamic and bring a jolt to the heart while they’re happening. It is only afterward, when the dust has settled and the nitro pills we so desperately require have done their good work that we call into question the logic of such moves–no matter how much they may have thrilled the eye while they were underway.
There’s been a swell of interest in injuries, pitcher workloads, and sports medicine that’s been making me very happy lately. Slate, for instance, has a very interesting piece up on sports injuries. At the same time, I’ve heard that you’ll want to check out ESPN Magazine next week for something by yours truly. Add in the growing influence of the legions of fantasy players who want to know why so many of their players are on the DL, and injury analysis is hot. I’ll also tip my cap to folks like PBATS, ASMI, Rick Wilton, and RotoWire. Now, it’s time we try and make a difference. Because if continue to work, flip answers like “Players aren’t as tough as they were back in my day” or “It must be steroids” will disappear into the mist, like they very well should.
Powered by wheatgrass juice, on to the injuries…
Brad Sullivan, RHP, Age 22; A’s 1st round pick in 2003 out of the University of Houston
2004 Stats: 64 IP, 39 SO, 23 BB, 4.92 RA
Sullivan was a strikeout machine in college, but he’s been anything but in his brief pro career. His velocity is reportedly down from his days in Houston–he topped out at 91 the night I saw him–and he’s striking out a mere 14% of California League batters this season, an abysmal percentage for any pitcher, let alone a power guy.
The Matt Cain/Sullivan matchup I saw was an interesting contrast in pitching motions. As I wrote Wednesday, Cain’s motion was smooth and easy, with lots of leg drive. Sullivan’s delivery seemed much more effortful, with a lower arm slot and a very heavy whip of the arm as he throws. It’s a similar delivery to fellow ex-Cougar Ryan Wagner (although not at Wagner’s level on the painful-just-to-watch scale). It’s too early to give up on Sullivan–he’s in the perfect organization for developing minor league pitchers–but at the moment he looks like the latest casualty of college overuse.
Just as it did last year, trade season kicked off well before the July 31
deadline, with three teams making acquisitions designed to get them into
October, while another made perhaps the biggest gain of the day by trading
away a player.
The Mets and Astros started the day by swapping veterans. Houston traded right
fielder Richard Hidalgo to New York for right-handers
David Weathers and Jeremy Griffiths. The
‘stros have been trying to deal Hidalgo almost since the day they signed him
to a four-year, $32-million contract after his monster 2000 season. For their
money, they got one comparable season (2003), one mediocre one (2001) and one
disaster (2002). This year, Hidalgo had a big April (.341/.364/.622) and then
fell apart, dropping to .256/.309/.412 at the time of the deal.